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Academic Outcomes for North Carolina Virtual Public School Credit Recovery Students. REL 2017-177

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Across the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast Region there is growing interest in strengthening the presence of online learning in all public schools to help equalize education opportunities for all students and prepare students for a digital future. For instance, the North Carolina General Assembly has required that the state transition to digital learning tools by 2017, and work is under way to meet that goal. This study was designed to expand stakeholders' understanding of one pre-existing aspect of digital learning that helped inspire the state's transition--the extent to which online learning is already providing digitally enhanced options for students at risk of dropping out. Both virtual schools and state education agencies are interested in learning more about the reach of credit recovery programs (which allow students to retake required courses to make up graduation credits for courses they failed) and how outcome data differ across credit recovery options. These questions also are important to district-level personnel, especially in North Carolina. Though North Carolina dropout rates have decreased and graduation rates have risen in recent years, considerable public pressure remains for school districts to continue to improve these rates, and interest in using online credit recovery to address the issue is growing. This study examined the North Carolina Virtual Public School's (NCVPS) credit recovery program (which was added to NCVPS's extensive list of high school course offerings in 2008) and other common credit recovery options available to students in the state (such as summer school and traditional school-year course repetition, as well as online credit recovery provided by third-party vendors). It also compared short- and longer-term academic outcome data across the credit recovery options. Finally, the study calculated correlations between the academic outcomes and characteristics of students enrolled in the various credit recovery options to lay the groundwork for future research on the efficacy of credit recovery programs. Key findings include: (1) NCVPS credit recovery students were less likely than other credit recovery students to be economically disadvantaged, and a greater proportion entered high school proficient in math and reading; (2) There was little difference in the short-term success rates (such as end-of-course exam scores) between NCVPS credit recovery students and other credit recovery students; (3) On measures of longer-term success (such as graduation rates), NCVPS credit recovery students were less likely than other credit recovery students to graduate, but those who did graduate were more likely to stay on track to graduate (by succeeding in subsequent related coursework) and to graduate on time (that is, within four years); and (4) Black NCVPS credit recovery students were less likely than students of other racial/ethnic groups to reach proficiency in the recovered course (as measured by test scores) but were more likely to succeed in subsequent coursework in the same subject area after completion of the credit recovery course. The following are appended: (1) Data and methodology; (2) Regression results referenced in the main text; (3) Detailed results of all regression analyses; and (4) Interview protocols for third-party vendors.


Stallings, D.T., Weiss, S.P., Maser, R.H., Stanhope, D., Starcke, M. & Li, D. Academic Outcomes for North Carolina Virtual Public School Credit Recovery Students. REL 2017-177. Retrieved June 10, 2023 from .

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