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Volume 28, Number 2
March/April 2012

Course Credits on the Quick

Controversial online recovery programs speed the path to graduation


The lessons in John Rice’s English III class at Anacostia High School in Washington, D.C., are as varied as the music wafting from his students’ headphones. They veer from Death of a Salesman to Beowulf, from the meaning of “pathos” to how to write a resume.

While the delivery is high-tech—online, via laptop—the students are engaged in a practice as old as summer school. They’ve all taken English III before and failed. Now, a relatively new and controversial process called online credit recovery is allowing them to advance toward graduation in a fraction of the time they would typically have to spend retaking a class.

Credit recovery is a burgeoning part of the estimated $2 billion online education industry, accounting for half of all online instruction in the country, according to a 2010 survey by market research firm Simba Information. A November 2011 study by the National Center for Education Statistics suggests that one-third of the nation’s school districts use some form of online credit recovery, among them some of the largest: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


Also by this Author

    For Further Information

    For Further Information

    J. Bathon. Model Legislation Related to Online Learning Opportunities for Students in Public Elementary and Secondary Education Schools. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center, 2011.

    G. V. Glass, K. G. Welner, and J. Bathon. Online K–12 Schooling in the U.S. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center, 2011.

    NCAA Initial-Eligibility Core-Course Requirements