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Researchers get a $3.26-million federal grant to study online credit recovery

Students take part in an in-person algebra credit recovery course at Garfield High School is East Los Angeles. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Students take part in an in-person algebra credit recovery course at Garfield High School is East Los Angeles. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Researchers have received a $3.26-million federal grant to study the effectiveness of online credit recovery programs that allow students to make up failed classes. 

The grant, from the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, will pay for the nonprofit research group American Institutes for Research to study how online makeup courses for Algebra 1 and ninth-grade English compare to retaking the class in person.

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 FOR THE RECORD

5:55 p.m., July 14, 2017: An earlier version of this post said that the L.A. Unified School District had received the grant. The grant recipient is the nonprofit group American Institutes for Research. The district will help implement the project. 

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"The growing use of online credit recovery for high school students has outpaced the research," the grant description reads. "As concerns mount over whether students actually learn in online courses, and as questions arise about how to best implement online credit recovery, there is a critical need for rigorous evidence about the effective use of online credit recovery for high school students."

L.A. Unified has dramatically expanded its online and in-person credit recovery programs since 2015 to come closer to its goal of a 100% graduation rate, drawing concern that not all graduates have received the same level of subject knowledge. The results of this study, which will focus on about 3,000 students from 15 high schools, could answer some questions that critics have about rigor.

The students in the study will all be sophomores in the 2017-18 school year or in the 2018-19 school year who failed either Algebra 1 or English 9.

To compare the outcomes of online to in-person classes, researchers will look at factors such as students' end-of-course scores, 11th grade standardized test results and graduation statuses.

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