Inside the Classroom

One Alternative Education Program’s Success with Nontraditional Students

Four words represent the goal of Upper Merion Vantage Academy: “Help students achieve success.” This alternative education program offers options to nontraditional students who are struggling in a conventional classroom. Upper Merion works with public school districts to reach out to students who need an alternative schooling option, such as those in their fifth year of high school, young parents, and those who are working. Once these students are identified, Upper Merion gives them a path to graduation with the help of technology.

Program Director Amanda Heintzelman and her team help empower students to get them on a path to reach the goals they set for themselves. Amanda touts the importance of a customizable curriculum, like Edgenuity, as the only way to give students the individual attention they need while adhering to their district’s graduation requirements.

Upper Merion works with about 10 different school districts, accepting students who have been referred from their home school for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, their alternative education program is transitional for students, and gives them the support they need to get back on track, recover credits, and return to their home school. Other times, the program sees students through to graduation. In the first few weeks of attending Upper Merion, students are on campus for four hours a day, which allows them to get familiar with the curriculum, work closely with content teachers, and develop a rapport with the lead teachers who oversee the program. If students are making significant progress and maintaining a C-level grade or better, they are allowed to work from home two days a week.

Because of the transitional nature of this alternative education program, students begin their courses with different levels of knowledge. Teachers work tirelessly to get a feel of what students already know versus what has been covered in class, and catch them up as needed, making sure they learn everything required without instruction being redundant. Edgenuity’s pretesting features and expansive data visibility help teachers to understand where the students are, where they are struggling, and where they are excelling. With this information, Upper Merion’s teachers and staff can truly help their students exactly when and where they need it. “Edgenuity is a very high-quality product and as an administrator, I appreciate the accessibility to truly track where the students are and be able to intervene early and often when they fall off the boat,” said Amanda.

Edgenuity also enables Upper Merion to offer electives that it would otherwise be unable to, including Psychology and Introduction to Engineering. This partnership gives the students a breadth and depth of options that nine teachers and six periods a day couldn’t otherwise provide. As a result, students are exposed to courses that truly interest them, keep them engaged in school, and help them learn about career options for after high school.

Upper Merion’s teachers, parents, and students all work together toward graduation by tracking milestones, which helps give students a sense of hope, something that is so often extinguished by the time the students reach the academy. “The quality of the curriculum is great,” said Amanda, and the incorporation of videos bridges the gap for students with low reading levels while still respecting them as learners. As a part of the Lakeside network of therapeutic schools, an organization that emphasizes a brain-based and trauma-informed approach to learning, Upper Merion works to change students’ mentality and open them to the possibility of graduation.

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About the Author


Where Learning Clicks

Since 1998, Edgenuity has been creating products and services that help all students achieve their full potential. As an extension of our efforts, we also produce Where Learning Clicks to share meaningful and timely ideas about trends, developments, and changes in education, as well as how to further incorporate technology into today’s classrooms.