For recent Rye Lake High School graduate Arthur Parham and others like him, an online credit recovery program called GradPoint has been a game-changer.
Arthur, who was a student at Rye Neck High School at the SWBOCES Center for Special Services, enrolled in the program last summer.
Special education teacher Doreen Sheldon said he had several credits to make up before graduation, which made him an ideal candidate for the digital learning solution.
The assessment tool was provided to educators at Rye Lake High School through the Lower Hudson Regional Information Center, which contracts with Pearson Education to bring it to educators across the region.
The program is intended to reduce drop-out rates and provide media-rich lessons that motivate students to learn.
Using the program by itself can’t produce the required results, Ms. Sheldon explained. “For the types of students we teach, you just can’t put them on the computer and say, do the best you can and then leave them alone.”
Ms. Sheldon said teachers must be willing to offer lots of encouragement and be physically nearby as students go through the program’s various modules.
“It’s a different type of teaching that requires both emotional and academic support,” she said.
Rye Lake’s guidance counselor, Cristina Tompkins, referred to Arthur as the school’s “shining star” because of his success with the program. She said that several other graduates also took to it positively, in part because it allowed them to catch up on their required coursework in a safe learning environment, away from the typical judgment that often comes from peers.
“Most of the students, if not all of them, come from districts because they have failed,” explained Ms. Tompkins, referring to their inability to accrue the necessary amount of credits for high school graduation.
When Arthur entered the program last summer, Ms. Sheldon said he was angry. “He was so upset that he didn’t feel he had any connection to us or to the program,” she added. But over time, he let his guard down, she said, interacting more with the staff and allowing them to work with him.
Ms. Tompkins said that Arthur’s reaction is common among the student population at Rye Lake who frequently cut classes in their home schools, are resistant to authority and generally have no structure in their lives.
“They have this feeling that they are not going to amount to anything,” she said. “Arthur encompassed all of that.”
Ms. Sheldon concurred. “A lot of them feel hopeless and feel that everyone has given up on them.”
Ms. Tompkins explained that their introduction to GradPoint begins with a one-on-one meeting to see what graduation requirements are needed and then to give them an idea of their anticipatory graduation date.
Every other day, up to three students enter the computer lab and are helped with GradPoint’s log-in process, after which they spend approximately 42 minutes going through a series of chapters and online quizzes to test their knowledge of the material.
Instructors often print out the instructional slides, which she said helps with note-taking and an overall understanding of the material. Various checkpoints throughout each lesson helps keep students on track.
Students can log on to the program from home as well, and many students in the program have done so, she said. Ms. Tompkins has the capability of remotely checking to see that they completed the required lessons.
Ms. Tompkins said the program has been well received at the school, and it has also boosted morale among the student population.
“GradPoint was a way for Arthur to get out of the traditional classroom,” said Ms. Sheldon.
The results speak for themselves, said Ms. Tompkins. Since introducing GradPoint, some students have been able to graduate with Regents diplomas and even go on to community college, she said.
“It’s a lot of independent work and the students have to be motivated to want to do it, but at the end of day, it has been a perfect tool for us.”