e2020 – online credit recovery

What is e2020 and what is it for?

e2020 is the name of the online program created by the private company, Edgenuity, used by Douglas County and many other districts in Georgia and throughout the country to allow students to “recover” credits needed to meet graduation requirements. Most students in the program failed a traditional course needed for graduation and are taking it again online.

Is the program credible?

Not according to the NCAA, which will not accept e2020 credits for high school graduates because it does not meet its requirements for “nontraditional courses.”1 These include: 1) Having regular interaction with a certified teacher in that subject area for instruction and assessment; 2) Being comparable in length, rigor, and content to traditional courses; and 3) Designating clearly on official transcripts that the course is non-traditional. These requirements help ensure that earned high school credits represent actual student learning!

Furthermore, we have solid evidence that Edgenuity has rigged e2020 courses to make it possible for students to complete them, and thus earn credits for graduation, even if they have not learned the material. The rigging is through the way the software creates re-tests when students fail an assessment. The tests and quizzes are multiple choice. When I student gets a re-test, they see a large percentage of the same questions with the same exact answer choices in the same order. This greatly improves students odds of guessing correctly, enabling them to pass tests by trial and error or process of elimination. Some of our data on this was published in Slate’s investigative series on online credit recovery courses.

Is the program effective for helping students learn?

The evidence we have indicates that is not effective, at least for the student population it serves. In 2015, over 72% of e2020 students at Douglas County High School failed the state End of Course exam (in most cases they were taking it for the second time).

This finding was corroborated at the state level by an AJC investigative report that found a 10% proficiency rate among online credit recovery students on EOC exams, in 2015 and in 2016. Note that these include other programs besides e2020.

Altogether, there is virtually no evidence that such programs are effective for student learning, yet they have proliferated throughout the country because they are an efficient way of raising graduation rates.

How has e2020 impacted our county’s graduation rate?

This is difficult to quantify. Our high schools have hundreds of students taking e2020 courses and it is widely believed by administrators that it is making a significant contribution to graduation rates. For example, the Georgia State Senate Resolution that commends DCSS for its graduation rate increases identifies e2020 as one of the factors responsible for the gains (it is referred to as a “personalized learning” program).

Students in e2020 have a very high pass rate. For example, at DCHS in 2015, 100% of e2020 students passed the course, and over 90% of these made As or Bs (in spite of the high failure rate on exams). Thus, it is a very efficient way for students to get graduation credits, even if they are not learning.

While difficult to quantify, there is a growing awareness that programs like e2020 are a major driver in nationwide graduation rate increases, raising rates at the expense, perhaps of student learning. The Economist magazine recently published (Jan 2019) that U.S. graduation rates are “puffed up” and identified online credit recovery courses as a major factor.

What has the Douglas County school system done to improve its online credit recovery program?

After investigating the program in the Spring of 2016, sweeping changes were announced to deal with some of the most egregious problems (students finishing courses in a matter of days or weeks; students being enable to cheat on the Internet and guess more successfully on multiple choice tests; etc.). Yet the changes need to meet NCAA requirements have not yet been made.

Course providers, like Edgenuity, have systematically lobbied state governments around the country to get digital, online courses deregulated. Their success has enabled schools to offer low quality courses to substitute for traditional approaches to recovery credits (ex. summer school, repeating a class or grade, etc).

What can I do to help hold schools accountable to run these programs rightly?

There are least two things you can do. One, communicate with your district’s board member that you care about the value of a high school diploma in our county and thus insist that all graduation credits be legitimate2. Two, you can volunteer as a CEPS representative at the high school in your district to advocate for higher academic standards, including in e2020 (email citizens4excellence@gmail.org if interested).

2See Board of Education page on district website for district maps