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Funding Credit Recovery in High School

The impact COVID-19 has had on high school students and their families has led to high rates of absenteeism and course failure. School district leaders must rethink the way they approach credit recovery classes to account for these acute and widespread needs. 

Research and case studies indicate that successful credit recovery programs provide sufficient support, target needed competencies, and offer flexibility. Fortunately, district leaders have an opportunity to invest ESSER funds in these credit recovery programs to support students. 

Our downloadable guide explains how leaders can strategically invest in credit recovery in high schools for long-term change.




What Is Credit Recovery? How Does Credit Recovery Work in High School?

When students fail a course required for graduation, they can retake the class to recover credit. These credit recovery classes can take place during or outside of the school day. 

Some high schools also offer alternative pathways to graduation with flexible approaches to credit accumulation, such as competency-based courses and out-of-classroom experiences. Research indicates that high school students can succeed in credit recovery if their teachers and leaders provide sufficient support, target needed competencies, and offer flexibility when scheduling programming, including offering virtual credit recovery options.


How to Spend ESSER Funds to Support Credit Recovery

ESSER funds provide an opportunity to address students’ current needs and build toward lasting improvement. When investing one-time revenue infusions, such as ESSER, to support credit recovery, leaders should:

  • Size the full cost of implementing strategies over time.
  • Plan out how spending will shift to sustain critical investments over time. Investments should balance meeting immediate student needs with building lasting capacity, while also being mindful of start-up and ongoing costs.
  • Pilot and evaluate new approaches that redirect resources or lower future costs. Leaders can pilot ways to sustain better credit recovery than was available pre-pandemic.
  • Define success, measure, and adjust. Use continuous improvement cycles to plan and improve on future investments.


Download Our Guide on Credit Recovery in High School to:

  • Better understand credit recovery programs and how they work.
  • Learn what areas high school leaders should invest in to best support credit recovery programs.
  • Discover how ESSER funding can provide an opportunity to support credit recovery for high school students and build toward lasting improvement.
  • Explore strategies for scheduling and staffing for credit recovery in high schools and access real-world school district examples.
  • Learn about common credit recovery challenges and how to address them.




Additional Resources and Real-World Examples of Credit Recovery: 


Helping Students on the Road to Graduation: A Q&A Session on Credit Recovery with DC Public Schools.  

DCPS administrators Shemia Anderson and Liz Wiemers Smith highlight how the district improved its credit recovery program by providing greater access and flexibility for students to help them get back on track to graduate, while keeping the academic rigor high. 

High School Graduation Is Down. There Are No Quick Fixes. 

Online credit-recovery programs are popular, but many shortchange students. Check out this piece co-written by our President and CEO Karen Hawley Miles for Education Week on how to best provide online credit recovery for high schoolers.


Building Toward Sustainable Change. 

Learn how some visionary district leaders are using ESSER funds to create sustainable change in their schools and systems, and explore the benefits of research-based credit-recovery programs.

Designing Education Podcast: Recapturing Lost Credits.

Listen to this conversation between our President and CEO Karen Hawley Miles and Dr. Robert Balfanz, who discuss credit recovery and the challenges schools face as they try to get students back on track. 




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