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Teachers' Union to Take a Critical Look at Online Credit Recovery Programs

The nation's largest teacher's union is going to take a look at the troubled world of online credit recovery.

The "new business item" was approved at the recent convention of the 3-million member National Education Association. It calls for $31,000 to be spent on a review of "existing research, data, and information about Online Credit Recovery Programs (OCRP) that were recently being used in various school districts across the nation."

The item was overshadowed by the union's higher-profile actions and statements (such as the adoption of a new charter-school policy, and the suggestion that U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos consider resigning.)

And as my colleague (and longtime union-watcher) Stephen Sawhuck pointed out last year, such new business items often don't amount to a whole lot.

But the increased scrutiny of online credit recovery is worth watching.

Generally speaking, the term "credit recovery" refers to situations in which students are given a chance to redo coursework or retake a course they previously failed. Sometimes, this happens in a traditional summer-school environment.

Increasingly, though, credit recovery happens online. And that's where things get pretty murky: As Education Week described in this recent explainer, there's a real hodgepodge of actual online credit recovery offerings. No one really knows how many students are enrolled in such programs. Research to date has been decidedly mixed. And even proponents of online learning have had some harsh things to say about the practice.

The education media is clearly starting to pay attention, too—in May, Columbia University's Teacher Project and Slate.com published a harshly critical 8-part series on the topic.

We're still waiting on word from the NEA on what they hope might come of the review.

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