Atlanta is one of a growing number of Georgia school districts placing students who failed classes on their first attempt in online classes, giving them a chance to make up the course credit.
Educators say online credit recovery courses can keep students from dropping out. They can work through the online lessons at their own pace and on their own schedule. And some students say they prefer online courses to traditional classrooms.
Some teachers and students say the largely unregulated courses do more to boost graduation rates than help students learn material they didn’t get the first time around, leaving them with high school diplomas but without the skills they need to succeed in college or at work.
Since Atlanta Public Schools began offering online credit recovery two years ago and switched two alternative schools to online classes supervised by school staff, there have been reports of cheating, including students Googling their way through classes and using staff log-in information to change grades or course parameters.
The district has, in some cases, disciplined staff members. And officials have said they are taking steps to reduce the chance of cheating by limiting access to cell phones, among other measures.
Statewide, about 90 percent of Georgia students who took one of these courses last year in subjects covered by state tests passed the course itself. But an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of results of the state-required tests found only about 10 percent of them were proficient in the subject.
In Atlanta, the picture is a little different.
About 40 percent of Atlanta students in online credit recovery courses last year passed them, Atlanta chief schools officer Donyall Dickey said in a written statement. That’s an indication of their level of rigor, he said.
Of Atlanta online credit recovery students who passed subjects covered by state tests, about 8 percent were proficient in the subject last year, the lowest rate in metro Atlanta. That’s to be expected in a district where just 27 percent of all high school students were proficient in the same set of courses, Dickey said.
“Of course, neither 27 percent nor 8 percent are satisfactory to us and we are working to improve,” he said.