An Alternative to Alternative High Schools

Avondale School District is working to change the perception that alternative high schools are for students with behavior issues or low academic performance. To that end, the district has restructured its alternative program as a school conducive to different learners as well as a school that is a useful stepping stone to a productive future. “We’re aware of the preconceived notions about alternative high schools,” explained Avondale Superintendent Dr. James Schwarz “we want to change those misconceptions and provide validity to a program that is the perfect fit for some students and also, a program that is a viable path to a rich life after graduation.” Schwarz added that the Avondale Academy is an alternative to the standard take on alternative high schools.

Oakland University STEM workshop where Avondale Academy students had a chance to explore

Oakland University STEM workshop where Avondale Academy students had a chance to explore

The Avondale Academy is part of the Avondale Meadows Learning Center, a school located in Rochester Hills with administration and staff committed to student success. Providing options for students is at the heart of the school’s restructuring as the students are given choices that fit their learning style and support their development in and out of the classroom. With a focus on post-high school goals for every student, the Academy provides career and college counseling that goes beyond handing each student a college brochure. “It isn’t enough to just tell the students you should go to college or here’s a trade school you should look into”, said Avondale Academy principal Taylor Chapman, “you have to engage them in the possibility that they have many choices and can decide their future path.”

Engagement in future possibilities happens throughout a student’s Avondale Academy years. From freshman year through graduation, students are learning about post-graduation options. Trips to colleges, college fairs and trade schools as well as guest speakers, college signing week activities, workshops and more are all built into the exploration of life after high school. In addition, the students participate in lessons and activities designed to tackle real-world challenges and obstacles that may preclude success of their goals.

“We’ve built a lot of opportunity and resources into the programming to help the students’ personal development,” said Chapman, “activities designed to develop leadership and problem solving skills, bolster confidence, measure personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as experiences to help them determine character and encourage their personal growth.”

The experiences Chapman refers to include a change in scheduling that allows students to have what’s being called “flex Friday”. The students follow their regular course schedule from Monday through Thursday and on Fridays they are offered a variety of activities focused on personal development as well as career exploration, leadership development and Project Based Learning. In addition, the Academy is calling on its community partners including Oakland University for a program new for the 2017-2018 school year, Transforming Identity Empowerment and Resilience (TIER) Program; and Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) to provide AdviseMI AmeriCorps advisors to help students navigate post-secondary educational choices.

Other changes made to the alternative high school include student participation in Avondale High School athletic teams; online courses for credit recovery, acceleration or student desired electives; expanded opportunities for dual enrollment; and implementation of PBS (Positive Behavior Support) / Restorative Justice based in interventions.

“All of the changes we’re making reflect our belief that alternative high school students deserve the same support and opportunities afforded to every other high school student. We want the students to feel that the Avondale Academy isn’t just a place to go, it’s a place to be”.

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