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How Restorative Grading Practices Are Taking Credit Recovery to the Next Level

How Restorative Grading Practices Are Taking Credit Recovery to the Next Level

Without a doubt, credit recovery programs are a powerful option leveraged by schools and districts across the country to keep students on track toward graduation. This approach also rings true for the seventh largest school district in the state of Florida, Pinellas County Schools. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Dywayne B. Hinds, the executive director of middle school education in the district, and he shared how the district is combining a flexible approach to traditional credit recovery with restorative grading practices to ensure that middle school students are closing gaps early, before they ever reach high school.

Dr. Hinds recounted how educators in the district were piecemealing resources together back in 2015, with much frustration, to help students recover courses. That was when the district began a pilot of Courseware, Edmentum’s customizable online courses, during the summer of 2015 at one of the middle schools. Quickly, leaders recognized that they had found a partner that would meet their needs, and the expansion to other schools continued to flourish year over year. As of this year, all 23 middle schools in the district are now leveraging Courseware as their primary course recovery resource and platform. 

“I would say the first thing that I think was a draw for the program is the ability to customize the courses to meet our individual needs as a district,” said Dr. Hinds. “The other piece that was beneficial was the reports that are found within the program, where we can actually see live everything a student is doing and track their performance over time.”

Currently, the middle school course recovery program is held either before school or after school. Depending on the situation, some students also have access during the school day or at home. During any given year, if students are unsuccessful passing a course during the first semester, they have the opportunity to repeat that first semester in a credit recovery environment and take the second semester simultaneously with their peers. If they can pull up their grade in both, they can recover the credit for the entire course without ever rolling over into summer school.

While the program is constantly evolving year over year, one of the most exciting innovations is one middle school’s use of restorative grading practices. Essentially, when students are not doing well academically on an assessment or assignment, teachers have the flexibility to pull in other instructional methods to help students demonstrate mastery of the content. When students are able to demonstrate learning, teachers then revise the grade and move forward. Currently, Oak Grove Middle School is leveraging Exact Path, Edmentum’s assessment-driven individualized learning program, to implement this practice for both skill and unit recovery.

“Sometimes, a student might need additional time to demonstrate mastery of content,” stated Dr. Hinds. “And so, if we know that to be true, why not give them that opportunity? And so now, what that means is training our teachers on how to create an atmosphere, an environment, that will allow for us to have that level of flexibility when it comes to understanding the notion that we all don't learn at the same time, in terms of we're not able to demonstrate mastery today. But, maybe tomorrow with one more additional practice or additional time, I might demonstrate mastery. And once I demonstrate mastery, should I not be graded accordingly, or should I be graded on what I've turned in initially because the due date [has passed]?”

Ensuring that teachers aren’t thumbing through endless resources in search of quality content to allow that skill or unit recovery to be successful is a critical component to Oak Grove’s implementation. In addition to the learning paths that students automatically receive in Exact Path to pinpoint their areas of need, teachers can build custom assignments.

“When [resources] are easy to search, easy to locate, and easy to push out, then I think those instances you’re able to get more buy-in from a teacher,” commented Dr. Hinds. “We can search in [Exact Path]; we can search by title of the standard; we can search by the standard number. And, it makes it so much easier to locate [and] assign out to a student.”

As Dr. Hinds and educators at Pinellas Country Schools continue to uncover more applications of their Edmentum programs to drive these practices, feedback and lessons learned are informing next steps.

“[I’ve learned] you’ve got to find a champion,” remarked Dr. Hinds. “And a champion is the school leader or leaders within the school that truly understands the work and have a vision for excellence around this work. It's a mindset change, quite frankly, for teachers. It's a mindset change for practices within a school. So, getting that buy-in is very important. And then, building a system of support so that when you do start the journey, [you can answer], ‘How do you sustain the practice and keep people moving forward?’”

With champions throughout Pinellas County Schools leading the charge, Edmentum is confident that educators will continue to explore new opportunities and experience ongoing success helping students achieve meaningful outcomes. Interested in learning more about creating a successful credit recovery program? Check out this blog post on how to quickly get students back on track for graduation with minimesters.

madison.michell's picture
Madison Michell

Madison Michell has been a member of the Edmentum team since 2014 and currently serves as a Marketing Manager. As a former Kindergarten and 3rd grade teacher during her time as a Teach For America corps member, she believes education truly has the power to transform lives. She is passionate about connecting educators with online programs, best practices, and research that improve teaching and learning for today's students.