The excitement among students at the new W-A-Y program at Oasis Alternative High School is palpable.
Mount Pleasant Public Schools has embarked on a completely new method of offering alternative education. This program combines online classes with face-to-face classroom work to provide a true reinvention of education.
W-A-Y stands for Widening Advancements for Youth, the name of a Belleville nonprofit organization that offer the program. Mount Pleasant actually is outsourcing this project — hiring an organization with a core competency in hybrid online/classroom alternative education, instead of trying to develop its own program.
Part of the method that W-A-Y uses to attract and keep its students is a jawdroppingly good computer and broadband access. It belongs to the school, can be tracked if stolen and can be deactivated immediately if the student quits.
That in itself is a great incentive to stay in school and finish.
More than that, it allows students and faculty members to work together to craft project-based learning experiences that teach everything a traditional high school requires. It does it in a way that encourages students to turn those own life experiences into real, palpable, measurable learning.
Teenagers are, by nature, rebellious and want to do things on their own terms. Alternative school students often are at the far end of that spectrum. W-A-Y shows real potential to turn that independence into a way to obtain knowledge.
Beyond that, the methods show some real potential to impact traditional schools. It will take study and adaptation, but in our networked age, this offers something potentially better and more effective than traditional "sage on a stage" teaching.
W-A-Y will have to prove itself, but it's off to a good start.
Morning Sun (Mount Pleasant)