by Sweta Patel
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that, in 2019, two million students dropped out of high school. There are a number of reasons why students choose to drop out, but at the end of the day, as an educator, I want to focus on effecting change for the reasons that are in my control.
At our alternative school, students often report low motivation because they’re already so behind in credits. At a certain point, many assume a ‘why should I even bother’ mentality. To help create hope, while also maintaining the integrity of our academic standards, we are currently experimenting with an in-school, non-computer-based credit recovery system.
This year, we squeezed in an extra period into our school day (a 7th hour). During this time, we are offering “credit recovery labs” in the four core areas—English, math, science, and social studies. Students who had failed a previous English class, for example, can enroll in the English Lab.
When they first enter a lab:
Once the plan is fulfilled, students can move into another needed lab. Students do not have to remain in the lab the entire quarter: they only have to remain long enough to accomplish mutually agreed upon goals.
This process is very different from what we typically see in the educational system. Students who have failed a course are usually required to retake the entire course (despite having completed some work and meeting some standards during the first attempt). With this system, we are acknowledging the learning that was accomplished and are only trying to fill in the gaps. Within this system, students are able to meaningfully and efficiently recover credit in failed classes with a classroom teacher.
When speaking with students in my English Lab this year, they feel the labs have given them hope again. Looking around my classroom, you might see one student reading a self-selected book and working on close reading strategies. Another student might be working on creating a Google Slides presentation around toxic relationships, preparing to deliver it to the health class. And yet another might have a Chromebook in hand, drafting a short story for feedback.
My role is to identify students’ interests, learning gaps, and help create a personalized learning plan. When students complete the plan, I ask the counselor to identify the next lab or class the student can go to—and this might be three weeks into the quarter or six—there is no one start/end time for every student because every student’s plan is different; it’s a fluid and flexible system. Many of our lab students are able to recover a half credit in one quarter… And that is hope.
As we move forward with this experiment, we’re hoping to develop a more efficient system to identify missed standards. This will require that all content area teachers come together and identify prioritized learning standards for each class, quarter by quarter. If a student were to fail a course during a certain quarter, with established learning standards, lab teachers would be able to more quickly work with the original classroom teacher to identify the gaps.
Our math department is already very strong in this area. Here is an example of the Math Lab teacher’s personalized plan for a student to recover Geometry credit:
We hope to continue to shape our in-person, teacher-led credit recovery system at our school through collaboration among the lab teachers, content area classroom teachers, students, and our counselor. We will refine the processes for identifying students who need a lab, tracking students who move from lab to lab, and the communication between lab teachers and the original classroom teachers.
This is our shared mission: to help students recover credit in a meaningful, purposeful way (with academic integrity) that creates hope and lowers our dropout rate.
Third Eye Education posts weekly articles focusing on education and innovation.