Educators understand students will often have some pre-instructional knowledge about a given subject or topic when they walk into the classroom. Student knowledge, however, can be illogical or misinformed. It is a normal part of the learning process. All of us naturally form ideas from our everyday experience, but not all ideas we develop are correct. These misconceptions are a common part of our classroom and personal life. Alternative education often falls in this misconception paradigm. Through the intensive research and practice our Acceleration Academies team has completed, we've learned a lot about misconceptions in alternative education and student re-engagement and recovery. Here are seven common misconceptions about alternative education that Acceleration Academies would like to dispel.
1. "Same old, same old" will not work for disengaged students.
- Disengaged students will not find success in the same sit-and-get, rows of desks atmosphere they found in the traditional classroom. An alternative setting must provide a unique atmosphere and culture that differs from the traditional setting so the student immediately recognizes they are in for a new experience. Trust starts when a student walks through the door. Acceleration Academies understands this and has adopted a classroom setting and culture unlike anything our students have previously seen.
2. Seat time does not equate to student progress.
- Many disengaged students simply don't have the time to sit in a classroom for eight hours. Outside of their normal schoolwork and activities, students can be dealing with financial, drug, or myriad other problems at home. They may be a parent themselves. Flexible learning gives students an opportunity to access their work in a way that's responsive in pace, place, and delivery. Any student that's left the traditional setting knows that sitting in one place to learn is not conducive to their learning style and may in fact hinder it. Alternative settings, like Acceleration Academies, that provide a flexible learning experience will give their students the best opportunity to succeed.
3. GED is not a real equivalent.
- Often students that have left the traditional classroom will think I'll just get my GED', but it's not that simple. A high school diploma earner, on average, will make twice as much over the course of their lifetime than someone that earned their GED. Additionally, one in three students that receive their diploma will earn their bachelor's degree, compared to one in twenty students that receive their GED. It will also be much more difficult to join the military without your diploma. Though an alternative setting requires more work, the reward is evident.
4. Personalized learning plans work.
- Entering into a new learning environment, it's important for a student to feel like there is a plan in place. Creating personalized learning plans lets the student know early and often what's next and why they need to take each course. On an academic level, creating a plan focused on each student's needs and interests will set them on the path to success by putting them in courses that interest them while speeding up their road to credit recovery. At Acceleration Academies, each student is given a pathway to graduation within their first week in the academy. They participate in rigorous, competency based courses, one at a time, preventing students from feeling overwhelmed while knocking out the remaining courses they need to complete their education.
5. Focus on prevention.
- Innovative school districts serious about the problem of kids dropping out focus their scarce resources on prevention, and take on an expert partner to find the kids who've already left their programs. Instead of splitting up minimal resources on dropout prevention and recovery, creative districts will bring in a knowledgeable partner to find the kids who are currently walking the streets. Acceleration Academies will not only recruit the kids who've left, but retain the students in their program. Innovative districts know resources are valuable, and some things are best left to the experts.
6. Districts need to select an expert partner carefully.
- Some of the ways Acceleration Academies stands out in the profession is through commitment to kids, focused and performance-managed programming, wrap-around supports, and the relationships we build with our students. Any alternative program can set up computers in a space and force students to take course after course, but there is something unique to a program that builds relationships with their students before starting them on the path to their diploma. At Acceleration Academies, students participate in career and college ready supports and have their own mentor to guide them through their journey. With Acceleration Academies, students don't have to do it alone. Alternative programs may be able to check off a few boxes on the academic side, but our relationships with students are what foster a curiosity that extends outside the classroom doors.
7. Innovative leadership is necessary for student success.
- Keen school executives know that the traditional setting is not one size fits all. Any student facing a disadvantage needs a secondary opportunity to continue their high school education if the traditional path doesn't fit. Innovative leadership won't let these students fall through the cracks. Instead, they create an alternative opportunity for those students to learn and grow. If districts don't consider the needs of all students, than not all students will succeed. An innovative district understands where there is a deficiency and acts. An innovative district won't let a portion of their students fall through the cracks without doing something about it. Innovative districts know successful alternative education starts at the top. Innovative districts are the right districts for Acceleration Academies.
If you think the Acceleration Academies might be right for your district, or if you're interested in learning more about the model, please click here.