Local high schools offer alternative learning models

Royal Oak Review | Published April 3, 2013

By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer

ROYAL OAK/CLAWSON — With enrollment and course selection season for the fall just now getting under way at local high schools, the hometown districts want residents to know how much they have to offer.

Between alternative high schools, online courses and dual enrollment options with local colleges, teens have a variety of options to fit their individual learning styles and educational aspirations.

“Most of the kids are going to opt for the comprehensive high school fit,” said Shawn Lewis-Lakin, superintendent of Royal Oak Neighborhood Schools. “(But) yes, there’s other choices, and you can find these through your community high school.”

With what Lewis-Lakin calls a “menu of opportunities for families in Royal Oak,” the local district has recently launched or expanded a variety of programs.

The Churchill Community High School experience is one that has both day and evening classes that are smaller in size than a typical class. The alternative high school also offers the opportunity for credit recovery, helping students who may have fallen behind on the path to graduation.

Another more flexible option is the W-A-Y program, which stands for Widening Advancements for Youth. Currently in its first year for all grades, W-A-Y is a project-based program that utilizes the online environment and features individual instructional support.

“The W-A-Y program tends to be an alternate model,” Lewis-Lakin said. “There’s one-on-one learning in a learning lab. W-A-Y is more of a blended learning program.”

The Virtual Learning Academy Consortium similarly utilizes online courses taught by accredited teachers. It was available for kindergarten through eighth grade this year, but will be open to high school students in the fall.

“The Virtual Learning Academy is more for kids who want an online high school experience,” Lewis-Lakin said. “They’re all college preparatory courses.”

Due to their small district size, Clawson Public Schools have also taken to the Web to offer students new options.

“We will also be offering online advanced placement for students,” said Monique Beels, CPS’s superintendent.

Clawson schools are part of the CASA program, which is a consortium between the Clawson, Berkley, Oak Park, Madison, Lamphere and Ferndale school districts at the Center for Advanced Studies and the Arts (CASA) building, which is a former Ferndale school in Oak Park.

“We send a lot of students, starting in the ninth grade, if they want to go,” Beels said. “It’s arts and advanced placement. It’s a way to offer advanced placement that we may not be able to offer.”

Since each of the districts involved with CASA are small, they may not offer the full range of advanced courses at each high school. But the districts bus students to the Oak Park facility free of charge so they can still have that advanced learning experience. Beels said that, with about 25-30 students in CASA, Clawson’s district sends the second-most students after Berkley, which is a larger district. A newly revamped computer lab at Clawson High School will also have computers dedicated to CASA student use this fall.

Other options for Clawson students include a lottery for a seat at the International Academy or dual enrollment at Oakland Community College.

Royal Oak students will also be able to participate in a new type of collegiate dual enrollment starting this fall. The Oakland Accelerated College Experience will allow students to simultaneously earn both their high school diploma and an associate degree after a 13th grade, as opposed to 12th grade and then two years of community college at OCC.

“In 11, 12, 13, we’re going to completely blur the line between high school and community college,” Lewis-Lakin said, noting that it is primarily targeting college-ready students who may have financial or family barriers.

Lewis-Lakin said that those in the education field with “deep insights and deep knowledge” helped develop many of the new programs. However, most are just now launching, so enrollment is still getting off the ground.

“At this point, the numbers are relatively small,” Lewis-Lakin said. “Most of them are relatively new programs.”

Established in 1913, Royal Oak High School will also be hosting a centennial celebration for its 100th birthday from 4-7 p.m. April 25, which will also serve as an open house for local families.

“We know there are these families who are thinking, ‘Are Royal Oak schools right for us?’ And we want them to come to our open house,” Lewis-Lakin said, noting that online learning is already being incorporated into the comprehensive classroom model. “We have teachers who are doing blended learning with their classes at the high school.”

For more information, visit www.royaloakschools.com/portal/node /51228, www.clawson.k12.mi.us or www.casa-online.org.