Although online education and the online credit recovery program are considered to be very beneficial across the United States, there have been very few studies measuring the actual outcomes of these programs. Online credit recovery programs are supposed to help students who have dropped out pursue the required credits for a college degree, but the efficacy of these programs is questionable. Different statistics suggest that the dropout rate of American students, especially white students, is higher than students from other countries. It is logical to assert that the higher the dropout rate, the higher the rate of socioeconomic inequality, which is considered a significant problem for the economic stability of any country. The U.S. government has made an effort to solve this problem by introducing the online credit recovery program, which aims to persuade students who have dropped out of school for academic reasons to recover their lost credits and fulfill the requirements for graduation. Thus, the successful implementation of this alternative learning system should reduce the college dropout rate in the United States. However, research has revealed that the institutions that offer these alternative education programs are not ensuring their expected outcomes; as a result, the government imposed new rules and regulations for the institutions that offer such alternative education programs (Figlio & Loebs, 2011; Balfanz, Bridgeland, Bruce, & Fox, 2012). Researchers have also claimed that the traditional education system is ineffective, which is causing significant college dropout rates nationwide (Smith & Thompson, 2014); to reduce the ineffectiveness of the traditional education system, the online credit recovery program was initiated. The credit recovery program has been designed in such a way to help students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out recover their college credits and eventually earn their degree. However, the lack of appropriate studies on the effectiveness of these online credit recovery programs could explain the fluctuations in the results of the different studies. Hence, this paper attempts to examine the historical data of different institutions that offer alternative education programs to determine the efficacy of online credit recovery programs. The study also examines the impact of different demographic variables on the improvement of college graduation rates with the help of credit recovery programs.
To examine the historical data, a sample of 168 students was asked to respond to different questions; among the sample, 50% of the students were from the traditional education system and 50% were those who participated in an online credit recovery program. It is also important to note that the sample students were mutually exclusive. Apart from the sample data analysis, a multiple linear regression model was developed systematically to quantify the impact of different social variables on student grade point averages (GPA). The results show that other than gender, socioeconomic variables have an insignificant impact on the GPA of a high school student. The multiple linear regression model incorporates different independent variables including social status, gender, age, and method of curriculum delivery. Descriptive statistics suggest that high school students, who are 19 years old on average, have a mean GPA of 1.86, with the highest GPA at 3.36 and the lowest at.73. The study finds no significant difference between the effectiveness of the traditional education system and the online credit recovery system.
Major Evidence from Literature and Research
The study implies that there is a significant dropout rate in the United States, which contributes to the country’s relatively low graduation rate. Different researchers have shown that the strong psychological determination of a student enhances self-motivation, which helps him or her achieve college graduation. In adult learning theory, the idea of self-learning is explained very clearly, and the theory also suggests how a teacher teaches his students (Knowles, 1984). When the teacher follows a purely academic and traditional process of teaching, students tend to become disengaged (Samaroo, Cooper, & Green, 2013). Knowles (1975, 1980) mentions that the academic process—which includes routine lectures, quizzes, assignments, examinations, and rote memorization—is insufficient in meeting the expectations of adult students, which may cause them to drop out of school. Reviewing both the self-motivation and adult learning theories, it can be rationally argued that students should possess strong self-motivation to graduate from college but that the pedagogical education system in the United States diminishes the interest and confidence of college students in the country. The results of this study’s analysis of 168 students suggests a similar reason for dropping out of college. The average GPA of high school students evidently suggests that these students are not comfortable with the pedagogical learning process, which implies that regular examinations, quizzes, and lectures do not match the students’ expectations and, as a result, the students lose interest and self-confidence. The definitive outcome, then, is a significant number of disinterested and academically unsuccessful students failing to achieve the required credits for graduation and eventually dropping out of the education system altogether.
Past studies reveal different scenarios of dropout in the United States. Blount (2012) reports that students between the ages of 16 and 24 have higher dropout rates, with that of male students (7.3%) exceeding that of female students (5.9%). He also reports that among these students, Hispanics (18.3%) have the highest dropout rates, followed by Native Americans (14.6%), African Americans (9.9%), and Caucasians (4.8%). However, Stark & Noel (2015) present a different scenario regarding the ethnicity of students who drop out; in their report, they found Native Americans to have the highest rates (14.6%), followed by Hispanics (12.7%), African Americans (7.5%), and Caucasians. The current research study also focused on the contribution of different ethnic groups to the total dropout rate of the country; the results represent a similar pattern as the one reported by Stark and Noel (2015), with the highest dropout rates for Native Americans, followed by Hispanics, African Americans, Caucasians, and Asians—with no substantial changes in the percentages as compared to the 2015 report. Different studies suggest that each ethnic group’s contribution to the country’s overall dropout rate can be taken into consideration to examine the impact of ethnicity on dropout rates and the credit recovery program.
Another finding from several different research studies is that urban students have a higher school dropout rate compared to rural students. Family backgrounds, parental influence, and family assets all have an effect on a student’s decision to drop out (Jordan, Kostandini, & Mykerezi, 2012). To reduce the high school dropout rate due to these socioeconomic factors, the credit recovery program was introduced to help the students recover their lost credits and eventually graduate. Thus, it becomes essential to measure the actual impact of these socioeconomic variables on the credit recovery program, as well as the impact of the credit recovery program on U.S. high school dropout rates. The assumptions of the study suggest that the positive impact of the socioeconomic variables on the credit recovery program should motivate a substantial number of dropped-out students to graduate by taking advantage of the online credit recovery program and that this positive impact on the credit recovery program should lower the dropout rate in the country. In addition, researchers have concluded that student disengagement is one of the major reasons for dropping out. Several factors may influence a student to drop out, including poor academic performance, medical issues, substance abuse, a dysfunctional home life, failure in core academic subjects, social and financial barriers, and the need to earn money (Hulfled, 2007; Rumburger, 2011; Kennelly & Monrad, 2007; Marshall et al., 2014). Paying attention to geographical location, socioeconomic variables, and student disengagement, it would be logical to assert that the calculation of a student’s GPA and the measurement of the impact of different socioeconomic variables on GPA should determine the impact of demographic variables on dropout rates as well as the impact of credit recovery programs on dropout rates. However, the sample study suggests that demographic variables have very little effect on GPA; indeed, the model suggests that the independent variables captured only 6% of the deviation in GPA. The results of the analysis show that the impact of socioeconomic status (t=.73, p=.47), age (t=-.93, p=.35), and curriculum delivery method (t=-1.35, p=.18) are very insignificant. However, gender seems to have a significant effect (t=2.47) on GPA, which implies that certain demographic variables do have a considerable impact on the GPA of students. In their study on African American students, Lockett and Cornelius (2015) find that an inability to cope academically forces students to drop out of school. In examining the impact of minority status, these researchers proved that demographic characteristics significantly predict student graduation rates.
Alternative education programs are designed to help reduce the effect of ineffective teachers, behavioral challenges, and other issues raised by the traditional education system. Different qualitative and quantitative studies show that the level of efficacy of alternative education programs is higher than the traditional setting, and, in some cases, alternative programs prove to be better than the traditional education system because they offer more personalized attention and tailored solutions to students (Lagana-Riordan et al.,2011; Smith & Thomson, 2014; Izumi, Shen, & Xia, 2013). These studies point to the conclusion that alternative education programs should be effective in reducing the country’s dropout rates.
As an alternative education system, credit recovery programs allow students to earn lost credits by attending online classes and exams based on their schedules and needs. Due to this greater flexibility, the credit recovery program is supposed to reduce the number of students who drop out across the country. Credit recovery programs are provided in classrooms during or after school hours, in summer school, or at some other time as required by the students enrolled (John, Chengfu, & Yaacov, 2015). The credit recovery program has had a significant impact in assisting dropped-out or at-risk students pursue their college graduation, and it has proved successful on many occasions. Despite the considerable positive outcomes, however, there are concerns about the impact of the credit recovery program in reducing the country’s dropout rate. The study suggests that credit recovery programs are not successful in alleviating national dropout rates because the programs are missing some considerable aspects required to ensure their success. For example, the credit recovery program does not have any formal or standardized requirements for completion, whereas the traditional education system has implemented a remarkable number of requirements that all students must meet. In other words, the flexibility of the credit recovery program is a major reason for its ineffectiveness. The next significant issue considered to contribute to the program’s failure is the lack of a system for graduating by means of the credit recovery program. Indeed, the program has no official pathway to direct enrolled students about how they can complete their graduation through the program. In short, a proper curriculum for the credit recovery program could improve its effectiveness to a great extent. In the same way, a lack of proper grading requirements is another major reason for the ineffectiveness of the credit recovery program. The program does not have a guided set of requirements for assigning proper grades to students in different courses; moreover, the program doesn’t have a policy to incorporate students’ grades from their traditional classes into the credit recovery program, which is clearly an issue in terms of the ultimate effectiveness of the program. The study further reveals that there is a lack of academic preparation in the credit recovery program and that the institutions that offer online credit recovery programs often do not have adequate technology to provide the necessary academic support to enrolled students. Another important aspect that the credit recovery program has failed to consider is the expectations of the enrolled students; indeed, the study reveals that failing to understand the expectations of the target student group is a significant reason for the ineffectiveness of the credit recovery program. It is clear from the study that students who enroll in the credit recovery program are those who have a poor academic record in the traditional education system; in other words, these students are unable to cope with the traditional education system. Hence, these students enroll in the credit recovery program with different expectations, and to meet their expectations, a standard policy should be articulated for the credit recovery program—either by the institutions that offer the program or by governmental authorities.
The study suggests that the credit recovery program has great potential to reduce the national dropout rate, but it also points to some major evidence that needs to be addressed by the authorities to create the expected outcomes from this alternative education program. It is quite clear that the credit recovery program can reduce the dropout rate of the country, and it is also evident from the study that socioeconomic variables have little to no impact on student GPA, which is considered to be the most significant reason for U.S. students to drop out of school. As GPA is not dependent on socioeconomic variables, the credit recovery program should be attractive to students who have dropped out because the program offers greater flexibility; however, there are certain issues related to the credit recovery program that should be fixed. The study recommends that governmental authorities solve the identified problems of the existing credit recovery program by creating a comprehensive strategic plan to enhance the effectiveness of the program in order to reduce student dropout rates across the country.
The strategic plan should strive to solve the identified problems by suggesting proper course completion requirements for the students who enroll in the credit recovery program. For instance, if students register themselves in an online credit recovery program, then they must attend all the required classes for a given period of time in order to complete the course.
The next step would be to design a more effective system for the credit recovery program. This system could define the program’s enrollment procedures, mandatory class attendance policies, registration processes for examinations, guidelines for participating in examinations, and a clear pathway to graduation.
As the study suggests that the GPA of students has a great impact on the decision to discontinue their education, the credit recovery program must incorporate a grading policy that aids the enrolled students in recovering their lost confidence and becoming motivated to achieve graduation.
At the same time, the institutions that offer the credit recovery program, as well as different alternative educational programs, must have the required technology and infrastructure to provide a quality learning program that ensures the improvement of all students who enroll in the program. In particular, to offer an online credit recovery program, the institution must have access to a dedicated server, a high-speed internet connection, a digital board, high-quality video conferencing technology, appropriate computer equipment, and other such required technology. Moreover, the institutions must design a student-friendly academic curriculum and teaching system to encourage student to engage with the program.
The most important point is that the teachers or trainers who teach the students enrolled in the credit recovery program must follow a set of behavioral norms that favor the students. The study suggests that students who enroll in the credit recovery program have a certain set of expectations; thus, the institutions and their teachers should make sure that all the expectations of the students are met in order to achieve the best outcomes from the credit recovery program. Because this program deals with students who dropped out, had a low GPA, had to stop studying to earn money, or otherwise failed at the traditional schooling system, the expectations of these students would be to have a flexible but rewarding school system where they could feel safe in terms of earning their required credits for graduation.
With attention to the recommendations made for the implementation of the project, the proposed project has four distinct goals:
- To provide an appropriate structure for the credit recovery program;
- To ensure the academic and technological soundness of both the institutions and the students of the credit recovery program;
- To implement a tracking system of the enrolled students; and
- To improve the high school graduation rate.
Achieving these goals should help reduce dropout rates as well as determine the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the credit recovery program.
Rationale of the Study
The successful completion of this study would add valuable knowledge to the existing literature on the subject. Most of the existing literature is focused on the problems or the impact of alternative learning systems, while some of the recent research studies have systematically identified different reasons for the alarming dropout rate in the United States. Similarly, the proposed study will focus on quantifying the impact of credit recovery programs on improving the dropout rate of high school students in the United States; aside from that, the proposed study will identify the problems that exist in the current credit recovery program and suggest a set of possible solutions for better outcomes, subsequently measuring the impact of the program overall. In addition, the study will add new aspects of analyzing how demographic variables impact the effectiveness of credit recovery programs, definitely changing the pattern of research on the subject.
Review of Literature
The high school dropout rate in the United States is alarming, with one in every three students dropping out of school before graduation (Smith & Thomson, 2014). Different works of research have identified some important factors that cause high school students to drop out. Among these many factors, a loss of motivation due to poor grades, failure in different courses, and a lack of self-confidence are the most important ones. According to the theory of motivation, when people become motivated, they tend to achieve higher goals by their own pleasure and enthusiasm (Sha, Looi, Chen, Zhang, 2012; Schunk & Zimmerma, 2008; Ryan & Deci, 2000; Deci & Ryan, 2008). Self-motivated students have a precise academic goal to achieve, which stimulates their self-confidence in and ability to achieve the required credits for graduation (Dwyer, McCloud, & Hodson, 2012; Kronholz, 2011). Unfortunately, however, the current pedagogical system of education has proven to be rather ineffective in encouraging students to earn the required credits for high school graduation. Different researchers have argued that the pedagogical system of teaching does not improve students’ learning but rather diminishes the motivation of school-going students (Ozuah, 2005; Bedi, 2004; Knowles,1984; Samaroo, Cooper, & Green, 2013). The result of this ineffective pedagogical education system is an alarming dropout rate (Joo & Kim, 2014; Stark & Noel, 2015; Blount, 2012; McFarland, 2015). In order to determine the actual reasons for dropout, the impact of different socioeconomic variables was examined. Among these socioeconomic variables, several were frequently analyzed in the literature, including students’ geographical locations, ages, family backgrounds, financial situations, maternal characteristics, ethnicities, language barriers, and levels of disengagement (Jordan, Kostandini, & Mykerezi, 2012; Joo & Kim, 2014; Blount, 2012; Hupfeld, 2007; Rumberger, 2011). On the contrary, however, Marshall et al. (2014) identified different academic variables as having a significant impact on student dropout rates such as academic rules, teacher-student relationships, institutional practices, and grading policies. In their review article, Bowers, Sproutt, and Taff (2013) identified 110 predictors of dropout; among these predictors, behavioral problems, low grades, and poor attendance seemed to be the strongest.
To reduce the serious dropout problem in the United States, the online credit recovery program was designed, a program that was supposed to attract students who had dropped out. However, there has been very little research focused on measuring the impact of the online credit recovery program. One study on the effect of the credit recovery program revealed that improper strategies of the institutions offering the program and an unstructured program are common reasons for its failure (Iachini, Buettner, Anderson-Butcher, & Reno, 2013; Lagana-Riordan et al., 2012). While the credit recovery program has proved to be a potential solution to the dropout problem, the traditional education system is negatively affecting the rate of graduation (Izuma, Shen, & Xia, 2013; Genao, 2014; Cullen, Levitt, Robertson, & Sadoff, 2013; Smith & Thomson, 2014). Although different literature suggests that alternative education has a positive impact on reducing the national dropout rate, these studies do not show how alternative education programs meet the socioeconomic, academic, and emotional needs of the students; in addressing this issue, Smith and Thomson (2014) state that alternative education programs provide educational services tailored to dropped-out students that the traditional education setting cannot. The credit recovery program thus effectively helps students who are especially weak in the traditional system, and the program has proved to be very effective in helping students earn the required credits for graduation (Gurung & Rutledge, 2014; Heppen 2015).
Researchers suggest that apart from academic and behavioral failure, physical aggression, substance abuse, and possession of firearms also could be important reasons for dropping out of school (Simonsen & Sugai, 2013). Simonsen and Sugai further advise that programs like the credit recovery program should focus on mitigating the many challenges faced by its students. Because the credit recovery program—and most alternative education programs—are offered online, the study should assess the effectiveness of an online program. Findings from different studies reveal that online courses are perceived to be easy, less time-consuming, and more engaging—all of which help attract students who have left the traditional education system (Lewis & Dikkers, 2014; Pettyjohn, Southern, & LaFrance, 2014; John, Chengfu, & Yacov, 2015). Di and Smith (2013) assert that the goal of online learning programs is to provide an alternative to the traditional education system. Supporting this statement, Jared and Jessica (2014) conclude that online programs are effective when they aid students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out; a recent study suggests that the popularity of online courses is increasing in many areas of the country (Volkerding, 2012; Pettyjohn, Southern, & LaFrance, 2014). On the contrary, some researchers argue that online courses still do not have universal acceptance (Palardy, 2013; Wolff, 2014). Research also shows that online programs are often not structured properly to benefit the students, as the programs do not offer face-to-face interaction, close guidance, or help to improve the students’ writing style or quality of work (Freeman & Simonsan, 2014; Spitler, Repetto, & Cavanaugh, 2013). Another issue identified from the research is that online programs require sophisticated technology, but many institutions fail to ensure the required technology, which in turn causes the programs to fail (Cardak & Vecci, 2015; Frank, 2012; Volkerding, 2012). Due to such issues identified in various studies, the online credit recovery program is not able to meet the expectations of policymakers (Picciano, Seaman, Shea, & Swan, 2011). Carr (2014) asserts that the lack of empirical data on credit recovery programs is the reason for not finding a relationship between online courses and graduation rates. Many researchers have clearly indicated the difficulty of collecting reliable data about the students who enroll in credit recovery programs (McCabe & Andrie, 2012; Bernard & Echols, 2015; Clements, Stafford, Pazzaglia, & Jacobs, 2015). Further studies on credit recovery programs have revealed that a lack of a systematic structure is a cause for program failure (Sparks & Noel, 2013). Improper curricular delivery method could be another reason why the credit recovery program is failing to meet the expectations of policymakers.
A review of the literature on the topic provides evidence of the many potential benefits of online credit recovery programs, but it does not provide enough information to draw a conclusion about the impact of credit recovery programs on the graduation rate. In terms of measuring the impact of the online credit recovery program, the literature review has identified some major issues that could cause program failure. Among the identified issues, the following are most notable: improper structure of the program, socioeconomic variables, technological barriers, academic failures, and disengagement of students. Consequently, the proposed study suggests a solution to the identified issues in order to ensure the maximum possible positive impact of the credit recovery program. Subsequently, the results of the proposed study would help determine the overall impact of the credit recovery program on the country’s high school dropout rate. The study would also measure the actual impact of different socioeconomic variables on the graduation rate. In essence, the proposed study would be the ideal way to quantify the impact of different social variables on students’ GPA, which ultimately measures the impact of low GPA on the dropout rate.
Relevant works of literature were sourced from different databases that include but are not limited to Google Scholar, ERIC, PsychLit, EdLit, EBSCOhost, JSTOR, Proquest Multisearch, and the Walden University Library. A number of relevant search terms were used to find appropriate peer-reviewed journals, including the following: high school dropouts and graduation rates, alternatives programs for at-risk students, alternative education and graduation rates, dropout rates, technology, distance education, online learning, blended learning, virtual schools, and credit recovery. The searches generated more than forty published journals and, among them, twenty-five journals were selected as fitting the criteria of this proposed study.
The proposed project will require different resources to successfully carry out the study; among these resources are the following: access to the national student database, access to data regarding online credit recovery programs from different institutions, access to the required funds for carrying out the study across the country, a computer and internet connection for secondary research, and appropriate technology for conducting online interviews.
The university library already has a good number of journals to study for the initiation of the secondary research, and a computer and internet connection are readily available, giving the researcher access to different online journal publications to conduct further research on existing pieces of literature. However, the difficult task of this proposed study would be collecting the required information from the national student database, as gaining access to the data would require going through some formal institutional procedures, which could be hectic and time-consuming. Another major barrier for the project would be gaining access to information from different institutions that offer credit recovery programs. To get access to this information, the researcher will have to write emails to as many institutions as possible in order to make sure there are enough willing institutions to satisfy the project needs. Another aspect that will be required is proper funding for the project; as the researcher will have to put a focused effort on the study, the project funding should support all personal expenditures such as living expenses, food, and so on. Because the project will also require frequent visits to different states across the country in order to collect sample data from different states, additional traveling costs will be required as well. The proposed project should follow the given timeframe as described below:
|Research Task||Time Horizon|
|Sample selection||Please fill with your planned time frame|
|Final report submission for review|
Furthermore, the study will require honest responses from the students, especially those who have already dropped out of school. Cordial assistance from the different institutions offering the credit recovery programs is also expected for a bias-free result of the study.
Project Evaluation Plan
The effectiveness of the project will be evaluated based on the ability to achieve the articulated goals of the study. The study will have four distinct goals to achieve, and the successful achievement of those goals would ensure a positive impact of credit recovery programs on the graduation rate. As a matter of fact, the success of the study will depend on the successful achievement of the stated project goals.
The data analysis and literature review on the impact of credit recovery programs show that motivation for learning comes from the result as well as certain socioeconomic variables; a bad result may lead students to drop out, while a good result can motivate students to continue through graduation. It is believed by many different researchers that students’ results, both good and bad, depend on different demographic variables, and as such, this study aims to measure the impact of different demographic variables on students’ GPA. A perfect measurement of students’ GPA should fulfill the condition of maximum possible outputs of the credit recovery program, which requires the identified issues of the program to be solved. Because the solution to these identified issues is the proposed project’s goal, the successful achievement of the project goal should help evaluate the project’s success.
As stated above, the project will have the following four goals:
- To provide an appropriate structure to the credit recovery program;
- To ensure the academic and technological soundness of both the institutions and the students enrolled in the credit recovery program;
- To implement a tracking system of the enrolled students; and
- To improve the high school graduation rate.
The evaluation process will require the researcher to monitor whether or not the goals of the project have been achieved, which will determine the overall success of the project.
The successful implementation of the project may change the attitudes of students who have dropped out regarding their ability to achieve the required credits for graduation by means of the credit recovery program. A change of attitude towards the program should have a positive impact on the graduation rate nationwide. Moreover, the legislation around the alternative education system in the United States might change as a result of it having a positive impact on the country’s overall graduation rate.
The proposed project is important for mitigating both the local and national problem of student dropout; as asserted by many researchers, the current dropout rate in the United States is alarming, and policymakers need to take responsibility for solving the problem. Students who have dropped out of high school don’t add much value to the economy of the country but rather drag down the economic balance as they don’t have the required skills to join the workforce; therefore, these students create a social inequality that reduces the social ranking of the country in a global context. Given this fact, improving the alarming dropout rate is an absolute necessity for the United States. Although credit recovery programs should in theory lower the dropout rate, they are failing due to some specific issues, which this study has great potential to solve. Consequently, the proposed project is significant for local areas as well as the nation at large.