Thanks to a specialized summer program, an additional 87 Tulsa Public School students who otherwise would have watched their friends walk the stage without them were able to graduate this year.

TPS’ credit recovery program begins right as the school year ends and gives students another shot to pass previously failed classes and prove they’re ready to receive their diploma.

This latest session, the program’s fifth, nearly doubled last year’s 44 graduates.

The program is unique in that it relies on a computer program — packed with tutorials and problems — to do most of the teaching. Each classroom still does have a teacher standing by to help when the computer won’t cut it.

“It doesn’t compare to having a great teacher by any means ... but I do think across the board students seem to find the tutorials and the lessons very helpful,” TPS teacher Michael Philippsen said.

Philippsen was impressed by the effort the many students put into the program, with some earning an entire semester’s worth of credit for a class in a single day.

One student was able to earn credit for 21 courses, essentially an entire school year, in just a matter of weeks, Philippsen said.

TPS advanced learning team leader Taylor Hill-Taylor says the number of graduates has grown with the program.

Philippsen said there are a number of barriers that get in the way of a student graduating, including poverty, racism, problems at home and often teachers being unable to find effective ways to connect with a particular student.

“We have to be willing to find new ways to engage students and be aggressive in our use of interventions when students aren’t initially successful,” he said “In all my years I’ve never met a student that didn’t want to learn, sometimes you just got to peel back the layers.”

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