Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Martin Reardon


High schools in the United States are facing increased scrutiny to increase the number of students graduating with a diploma in four years. This pressure comes from many sources. First, the No Child Left Behind Act instituted graduation as a measure of a high school’s success at the federal level. States soon followed by increasing accountability in this area. Differences in how graduation rates were measured and advancements in data tracking technology led to many states measuring cohort groups of students who enter high school in the ninth grade and tracking them to see how many graduate in four years. This measure became known as an on-time graduation rate and, in many states, became a measure used to determine high schools’ accreditation. School districts responded to these changes in accountability by instituting new programs designed to increase graduation rates and decrease the number of students dropping out. One type of program that has increased in popularity across the country is the online credit recovery program. Online credit recovery programs utilize an asynchronous online learning platform that is designed for students who are repeating a course they failed in a traditional classroom setting. Features of an online credit recovery program include a one-to-one learning environment where students interact with digital curriculum that includes text, audio, video, and graphic information. Online credit recovery courses are designed so that students can demonstrate mastery of known content quickly and focus on material they did not master the first time they took the course. This instructional approach, along with the asynchronous design that allows students to work through course content at their own pace, enables students to earn a course credit in a reduced period of time. The purpose of the current study was to capture the perceptions of students who are enrolled in an online credit recovery program. The goal of the study to document what factors they believed contributed to their success. The study was driven by research questions which sought to analyze the (1) factors students attributed to their success in the online credit recovery program, (2) perceived chances of graduating from high school on-time after successfully completing the course, (3) relationship between the credit recovery course and the one-to-one laptop computing initiative supported by the school district, and (4) online learning environment of the credit recovery program, as compared to a traditional classroom setting. A qualitative, phenomenological, design was used to explore the research questions. Twenty retained ninth grade students were interviewed. Ten came from each of the two schools that first implemented the online credit recovery program in the school district. The researcher inductively coded these interviews which allowed themes to emerge through the voices of these students. These themes included a sense of control of the learning environment in the online credit recovery program that students did not feel in a regular classroom. This control was manifested by the self-paced, distraction-free, learning environment that was enhanced by the district’s one-to-one laptop computing initiative. Also, increased and varied opportunities to demonstrate mastery fostered this sense of control. Another major theme that emerged is that students believed that their chances to graduate on-time were improved because they were able to earn a credit in a course quickly that they had previously failed. The ability to recovery this credit allowed students to avoid traditional credit recovery options in which they felt they would not be successful. Students also perceived that they would continue to experience success if they were allowed to take other courses through the online credit recovery program.


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VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

October 2011