Course correction for Running Start student

After stumbling in classes at Clark College, Columbia River High student is recovering by attending summer school

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter



High school summer credit recovery in Vancouver Public Schools

Allows high school students to recover credits they failed to complete during the school year. Students pay $150 per class.

95 students took 118 classes in 2013.

89 students took 119 classes in 2012.

128 students took 168 classes in 2011.


Allows high school juniors and seniors to earn college credits while completing their high school education. According to the below statistics, Running Start students’ failure rate is slightly lower than for other Clark College students.

Spring 2013 Running Start

1,740 Running Start students enrolled, the most in the state.

5 percent of Running Start students failed all their classes.

Comparatively, 12 percent of all other Clark College students failed all their classes in spring quarter.

388 Running Start students, or 22 percent, failed or withdrew from at least one class.

Comparatively, of 9,577 non-Running Start students, 2,195 students, or 23 percent, failed or withdrew from at least one class.

Running Start students earning AA degrees upon high school graduation: 215 in 2013; 175 in 2012; 148 in 2011.

Fall 2013 Running Start

Deadline to complete application process is Sept. 6.

On the Web: Running Start

When Alex Peterson found himself floundering in the first quarter of his Running Start classes at Clark College, he realized he was in over his head.

School had always been easy for the 16-year-old Columbia River High School student. But halfway through the term, the workload increased, and he couldn't keep up. Soon, he was failing his classes.

Alex didn't know what to do.

"I kind of didn't do anything until after the fact," Alex said.

He didn't tell his parents or seek help at Clark College. But he did make sure he was the first at the mailbox every day until his report card arrived.

"I left my report card on the table and waited in my bedroom," Alex said.

It took about five minutes for his parents, Mike and Lisa Peterson, to find his report card and talk to their son.

They were surprised. They figured Alex could handle the advanced Running Start classes at Clark College because he'd always

done well in school, said Lisa Peterson. The previous year, he'd had a 3.3 cumulative grade point average.

"Alex is such a good kid and good student," she said.

Lisa Peterson said she blamed herself for her son's problems at Running Start.

"He's young for his grade. He didn't have the study habits because everything always came easy," Peterson said. "We were disappointed. But then we had to go to Plan B quickly."

Plan B was meeting with the high school counselor and finding out how Alex could recover his credits and graduate on time with his class. He decided to make up the missing credits through a combination of online classes during the school year and three weeks of all-day summer school.

Summer school

Alex isn't alone. He was joined by 94 other high school students from Vancouver Public Schools. Some, like Alex, spent mornings and afternoons sitting at a computer at Columbia River High School completing assignments in a widely used online credit recovery program called PLATO. Most Clark County school districts offer credit recovery during the summer as well as during the school year.

Students end up in summer school for a variety of reasons. Some have failed classes. Others missed too much school. Others have medical issues that prevent them from excelling.

"It usually isn't that the work is too hard for students," said Charlotte Pellens, the district's administrator who oversees summer school credit recovery programs.

Pellens also is a certificated teacher who is equipped to help the students as needed.

Help available

"Thankfully, the number of students who end up in this situation are few and far between," said Linda Calvert, associate director of Running Start at Clark College. The college has the largest Running Start enrollment in the state.

Of the 1,740 Running Start students enrolled during spring quarter, only 5 percent failed all their classes. "We can test for their reading and writing ability, but not for their maturity or study habits," Calvert said.

Clark College provides "lots of help for struggling students," Calvert said, with a free tutoring center, writing center, academic workshops and student success workshops on test taking, test anxiety, stress management, time management, note taking for college success and more.

"It's their first college experience," Calvert said. "We want it to be a successful experience."

In September, Alex will be a senior at Columbia River High School. After taking credit recovery during summer school and another online class in the fall, he'll be only a half-credit behind. He said he doesn't plan to return to Clark College or Running Start. He is unsure how the failed classes will affect his grade point average.

"I hope it doesn't put him off going to college," his mom said about his two quarters at Clark College.

"You do the best you can with the decisions you make," Lisa Peterson said. "If it falls apart, you go to Plan B. Like we told Alex: Life is not over. You keep going. It's been a good learning experience."

Looking back, Alex offers this advice to struggling students: "Be sure to study. Ask for help. And keep your parents in the loop."

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515;;