An Evaluation of Credit Recovery As an Intervention for Students Who Fail Courses
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
While students do not graduate from high school for many reasons, credit accumulation is often one of the only official barriers to graduation. Credit recovery is a tool for students to increase credit accumulation that has greatly increased in popularity over the last decade. Credit recovery refers to the opportunity for a student who has previously failed a course to retake it online. Many have hypothesized that credit recovery has led to a higher graduation rate at the cost of the rigor that comes from traditional courses, as most notoriously exemplified by the recent scandal in the public schools in Washington, D.C. where many schools are said to be using credit recovery to help unqualified students graduate on time. In this study, I explore the effectiveness of credit recovery in helping at-risk high school students graduate from high school or prevent them from dropping out of high school.
The data for this study include all students in North Carolina Public Schools who were first-time ninth graders in either the 2012-13 or 2013-14 school years who failed at least one core, required course while in high school. This sample allows me to longitudinally track students up to five years after they enter high school. Since credit recovery is an intervention to address course failure, the treatment group is defined as students who enroll in credit recovery and the comparison are students who fail courses but repeat courses traditionally.
This study uses cohort-by-school fixed effects with within school-cohort coarsened exact matching and Mahalanobis distance matching to attempt to estimate the causal effect of credit recovery on the outcomes. Findings indicate credit recovery students are more likely to graduate from high school and less likely to drop out than students who repeat courses traditionally. Credit recovery is a particularly effective strategy to prevent dropping out for black, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged students and for increasing the likelihood of graduating from high school for economically disadvantaged students. A series of robustness checks confirms these findings.