Online Learning as a Remedy for Course Failure: An Assessment of Credit Recovery as an Intervention to Earn Credits and Graduate from High School
Samantha Viano

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Vanderbilt University

Primary Discipline

The high school graduation rate has been rising each year since 2002 with new record-high graduation rates being set on an annual basis since 2011. However, national test score data indicate 12th grade test scores are either stagnating or declining. This dissertation explores one possible explanation for this pattern: credit recovery courses. Credit recovery (CR) refers to online courses that students take after previously failing a traditional version of the course, representing a shift from students repeating courses the following school year or earning course credit in an after school or summer school program. The purpose of this dissertation is to elucidate the potential benefits and unintended consequences of CR. Using data from North Carolina, this study will be the first to utilize statewide administrative data to investigate CR, including courses developed and administered by the state and private entities. The first essay will investigate if students enrolled in CR are more likely to graduate from high school than other students who fail courses using a school and cohort fixed effects strategy with within-school and cohort propensity score matching. The second essay leverages the recent implementation of CR options in North Carolina high schools for a difference-in-differences approach to explore the impact of adding CR options at the school level on graduation and dropout rates. This essay will also explore possible unintended consequences of CR implementation including higher initial course failure rates, lower proficiency levels on end of course exams, lower ACT scores, and higher absence rates.
About Samantha Viano
Samantha L. Viano is a doctoral candidate in K-12 Educational Leadership and Policy at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development. Her research interests include how to measure and grow effective school leadership, understanding teacher mobility from an organizational perspective, the antecedents and effects of school climate and safety for both students and school staff, and the effect of student course taking in high school on students’ short and long term outcomes. Across all of her research, regardless of the topic, she maintains a focus on potentially high leverage practices that could substantially improve outcomes for traditionally underserved student populations. Prior to her doctoral studies, Samantha was a high school math teacher in Chicago Public Schools. She holds a BS in Math from Haverford College and an MSEd from Northwestern University.

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