Credit Recovery: Exploring Inequities, Impacts, and Solutions

Credit Recovery: Exploring Inequities, Impacts, and Solutions

Blair Payne
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8860-4.ch019
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Credit recovery programs are a form of alternative learning in which students have an additional opportunity to gain credit, or pass, a previously failed class by retaking the course, either in full or with key standards. Although little scientific research exists regarding the effectiveness of credit recovery, in addition to the short- and long-term impacts that it has on students, research has determined that students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionally represented within credit recovery programs. As a result, some of a school's most vulnerable students end up in credit recovery programs and directly experience the inequitable implications of the programming. This chapter examines the history of credit recovery, the studies that have sought to address its effectiveness as an intervention, the inequalities that the system has inadvertently created, and future recommendations for consideration.
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Introduction: A School’S Responsibility

In the 2018-2019 school year, national graduation rates in the United States were at their all-time highest of 86% (Irwin et al., 2021). Although this rate represents a 3% increase since the 2014-2015 school year, it continues to imply that about one in five students do not earn a high school diploma (The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 2016). Across the United States, high school graduation rates are highly variable across neighborhoods, counties, and states. For example, graduation rates in 2019 ranged from the lowest state-level graduation rate of 75% in New Mexico to the highest of 92% in Iowa and Alabama (Irwin et al., 2021). Graduation rates not only indicate graduation statistics for high school seniors, but national and regional economic forecasts (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2011).

There are vast personal and national economic impacts when a student does not complete high school. It is estimated that a student who does not complete high school loses, on average, $133,700 in potential earnings during their lifetime (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2011). Beyond the opportunity to personally earn, research indicates that students who do not complete high school risk placing additional economic burdens on public health, criminal justice, and public assistance funds (Levin et al., 2007). These additional burdens could cost the collective economy about $750,000 per person (Levin & Belfield, 2007) over that person’s lifetime. Systems of education have the potential to support students to graduation, thus, alleviating possible economic burden and boosting a student’s economic likelihood. With the potential for schools to be responsible for economic liability, it makes sense to invest in education, as schools can serve as the gatekeepers to economic support based on these statistics.

Despite the economic rationale to support high school students to and through graduation, education budgets are limited, and historic inequities exist in school funding (Morgan & Amerikaner, 2018). Based on 2018 analysis of district funding, there were differences in per pupil funding upwards of $1,800 between districts serving high percentages of students of color compared to districts serving fewer students of color. Jackson and colleagues (2015) found that investing in per pupil funding can directly impact how long students stay in school, how much students may earn in the future, and the likelihood that a student will live in poverty. Such differences compound overtime to impact long-term results for students’ economic outcomes (Jackson et al., 2015). By investing in schools, the schools can in-turn better support students. Without funds to bolster student success, though, schools must turn to alternatives to maintain and increase graduation rates.

Although the economic stakes for students to graduate from high school are high, reaching graduation is not simple for all students, especially for students with additional risk factors that could impact a timely graduation (Hollands et al., 2013). The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) defined risk factors as characteristics that would increase a student’s chances of dropping out of high school (Horn & Carroll, 1997), including, but not limited to having a sibling who dropped out, living in a single parent home, moving frequently, living in a low socio-economic status household, receiving C’s or lower in middle school, or repeating a grade. In addition to risk factors that students have which would impact graduation, students’ racial or ethnic background can also impact their graduation pathway (Irwin et al., 2021). For example, although American Indian or Alaskan Native students made up 0.97% of high school enrollment in the 2018-2019 school year, they made up 9.60% of the national dropout average. Hispanic, Black, Pacific Islander, and students who identified as two or more races were also overrepresented in national high school dropout rates for the 2018-2019 school year. These enrollment and graduation discrepancies outline that students of color are more at-risk for not graduating from high school. Such a likelihood in unacceptable and our schools must do more to set students of color up for success in and beyond high school.

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