Russell Rumberger, a scholar with an encyclopedic grasp of the dropout issue, has doubts about the latest, hottest cure — online credit recovery. That means letting struggling students take courses on a computer without the annoyances of listening to a teacher or doing homework.
Online credit recovery accounts for about half of all instruction in the $2 billion online education industry, with great potential for good, many educators say. But Rumberger, director of the California Dropout Research Project at the University of California at Santa Barbara, says he knows of a student who got a D in English, so took an online course that required reading only one book — “To Kill a Mockingbird” — and about 12 hours of work on a computer over one week.
The student received an A for that one-semester credit. “Online credit recovery offers students a quicker and more flexible way to earn high school credits,” said Rumberger, author of “Dropping Out: Why Students Drop Out of High School and What Can Be Done About It.” But, he said, “there is generally insufficient evidence and accountability to ensure that the online courses are as rigorous and impart as much learning as traditional courses.”