In past years, alternative education at MHS has supplied students with a quiet location outside of the traditional classroom where they can complete work and get assistance with certain topics. This year, a new structure for the program increases focus on direct instruction and provides opportunities for credit recovery in multiple settings.
“We will hopefully be able to serve more students through this model,” said MHS Principal Paula Callan. “We should also be able to catch students who are just on the cusp of not being able to meet standards, but who can succeed with a little extra support.”
The new structure is based on a team approach to working with students. New additions to the alternative educational program include English teacher Kellie Sanborn and science teacher Cathy Gillis. Gaylen Mayhew, who has coordinated the onsite alternative education program for years, is now covering social studies, and Sara Rushton is providing Math support.
Students have the opportunity to seek out one on one assistance and work on credit recovery in the learning center, which is open and staffed during all periods of the day. Small class sizes for alternative ed courses also provide students with greater opportunities for success. “I have 5 students [in alt ed science],” said Ms. Gillis, “and they seem to be more accountable and engaged because of the reduced class size.” Ms. Sanborn is seeing the same in her alt ed English classes. “It has been helpful to have smaller class sizes,” said Ms. Sanborn, “particularly for students who have struggled in the past with anxiety around attending or speaking up in class.” She added that students who have faced challenges with attendance and grades in past English classes, “are now really thriving in this new environment.”
Placement is also being done a little differently. The administration and guidance staff put in several hours of work over the summer, identifying students who could benefit from the additional support. Staff then sat down with each student to help them create a personal learning plan that determines their educational pathway.
Thanks to these changes, the use of the alternative education program can be different for each student. One student might be in the alt ed English class with Ms. Sanborn, cover math with Ms. Rushton, and only leave the program for Physical Education or a fine arts class. Other students might only come into the program to receive assistance in one course; it is entirely based on their needs as learners. “There’s a lot of flexibility to get kids back on track,” said Ms.Callan.