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Credit retrieval program helps keep high school students on track for graduation

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Students at Sunnyside High School have a new way to stay on track for graduation. For the second year in a row the school is offering NovaNET, a computer-based credit retrieval program that allows students to go back and pick up credit from classes they have failed. This year there are already 194 students enrolled in NovaNET classes at the high school.

Failing a class at Sunnyside High School used to mean having to attend summer school and hoping that any of the courses failed would be offered at that time. However, in the last year something has changed in the way the high school deals with credit retrieval.

Instead of being put on a waiting list for summer school courses, students are now given a chance to make up the missed credits during the regular school day or after school through the 21st Century Learning Center.

Sunnyside High School Principal Dennis Birr said last year the school started operating NovaNET, a computer-based credit retrieval program. The program offers curriculum in the subjects of math, English, social studies, science and health. Birr said the school district looked long and hard before it was decided that NovaNET would be used for credit retrieval, noting that teachers and other staff members were looking for a curriculum that closely matched the state's essential learning requirements, as well as the curriculum already being used at Sunnyside High School.

Birr said NovaNET is a web-based program that Sunnyside accesses through Educational Service District (ESD) 105, based out of Yakima. The Sunnyside School Board recently approved a service agreement with ESD 105 for the use of 50 NovaNET ports. The cost of the agreement was $50,000.

Half of the NovaNET ports are set up in one of the high school's computer labs, a space that contains 25 computers. There are also nearly a dozen laptop computers that can access NovaNET that are used in other classrooms. Birr noted that PRIDE High School will also be using nearly a dozen NovaNET ports this year, offering the computer-based credit retrieval curriculum there, as well.

Birr said last year, NovaNET was available to students in need of credit retrieval for a couple of periods during the school day, as well as after school through the 21st Century Learning Center. He noted that during that time there was a teacher who oversaw the computer lab and helped ensure students were progressing as needed.

Birr said, even offering the credit retrieval program on a limited basis, more than 115 credits were retrieved last year through the use of NovaNET.

"We were just really pleased with it," Birr said.

The school was so pleased with the program that this year eight periods of NovaNET are being offered during the school day, and it is still being made available through the 21st Century Learning Center for those students who need the service but can't fit it into their regular schedules.

Birr said one of the reasons the school is able to offer NovaNET every period all day long, including several periods where two teachers are offering additional credit retrieval, is because of a switch in staffing. He said a teacher left the school from one area of teaching was moved into credit retrieval.

Birr explained that teachers who oversee students using the credit retrieval program help with pre-testing students to find out which portions of the curriculum they might need to repeat, or whether or not a student will have to repeat an entire class. He said the teachers are also responsible for going back to the teacher the student had for the original class they failed, to find out where the student struggled. Birr noted that another responsibility of the overseeing teacher is to test students after they have completed the curriculum to ensure that they have an understanding of what the class was about and will be able to get the credits they need.

Birr said last year NovaNET was something the school chose to offer to mostly 11th and 12th grade students, those students who were closer to graduation. This year, Birr said, the school is already offering NovaNET to 10th, 11th and 12th graders and has plans to open it up to ninth grade students at the end of the semester.

Birr said he feels that NovaNET is something that will help the local graduation rate.

"It helps them stay on track," Birr said.

According to Birr, before NovaNET, students who were in need of credit retrieval would have to either attend summer school or take classes at PRIDE High School to get back on track for graduation.

"Some students were going [to school] full time here," Birr said. "And catching up on credits at PRIDE after school."

Birr said at this point in the school year there are already 194 10th, 11th and 12th grade students using NovaNET during the school day.

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