By Rick Wallace, CPSF Trustee
This summer, dozens of students from Corvallis High School, Crescent Valley, and College Hill enrolled in credit recovery, working towards graduation with hands-on help from district staff.
The program is not new; the District has offered credit recovery in the past to help those falling behind in the credits needed for graduation. But the Covid-19 pandemic both created new, complex challenges and exacerbated challenges that were already present for many Corvallis young people.
According to CHS counselor Matt McDonough, who directed the program at Corvallis High, “This is very important because students that fall behind likely will not graduate.”
During a celebratory lunch marking the end of the first session, Jordan, an incoming CHS sophomore, had high praise both for the curriculum and for the personal relationships he developed. “I signed up for the credit recovery program because I didn’t do well at my previous high school. The environment is really positive and I have made a lot of new friends…it has really helped me be hopeful and feel supported.”
Working with teachers and aides, students are earning credit in Math, Language Arts, and Science, using Odysseyware learning software. Program assistant Jane Kiekel, who teaches Spanish at CHS during the school year, points out that this software allows students to work at their own pace while getting support from staff members.
Kiekel notes that the work is challenging. “They have only 24 days to do a semester’s work,” she explains.
Lindsey, a student taking both Literature and Math this summer, said there is, “…lots of help. It’s nice to be here, getting help from teachers who know what’s going on.”
Alicia, a CVHS Junior who also moved from another town said, of the Corvallis schools, “The District really cares.” She is particularly happy that the program is free, compared to the tuition-based program of her previous school.
On any given day about 80% of the enrolled students make it to class on time, according to McDonough. “After about 20 minutes of class, we get on the phone to the missing kids to see if they can make it in.” He cites lots of reasons the students are late or missing, “It can be lack of transportation, the bus schedule or the need to take care of responsibilities at home.”
Transportation is a significant problem for many students who rely on city buses, parent schedules and rides from friends to make it to school. Alicia is taking a morning class at CHS and an afternoon class at CVHS because of her reliance on bus schedules.
On occasion, students are not able to be at the school in person and are able to do the work remotely by computer. Cheldelin Special Education teacher Tom Berrey, who coordinates the online part of credit recovery, says that at any given time from five to 20 students are doing their work off site. One student is in California visiting a grandparent while continuing to work toward credit.
In addition to the credits being recovered, both students and teachers alike agreed that personal relationships are a great contributor to the program’s success. They believe that the relationships will be a valuable supportive network they can take with them into the school year.
According to McDonough, the classes “Provide care and connection through taking the time to develop relationships with each student.” In addition to instruction, there is built-in time to chat in groups or with staff, drink hot chocolate and coffee, eat bagels and lunch, work out in the weight room, and play basketball or chess with other students and staff members.
Says McDonough, “It has been inspiring to watch students begin to reengineer their limiting beliefs and attitudes, in a positive way, towards school.”
The credit-recovery classes are part of the Corvallis School District’s Summer School program, funded partly by State and Federal grants, the Corvallis Public Schools Foundation, and the 509J budget.