From AAPSNews Service
Seventeen-year-old Stephanie Chueh was home schooled until the 10th grade, when she entered Ann Arbor’s Options Magnet Program. She will graduate this year as a senior with all of her required high school classes as well as 32 college credits thanks to the flexible program that has allowed her to dually enroll in high school and college as well as take online classes.
“I love it. It’s been such a good lesson for me,” said the Ann Arbor Options senior who lives with her family in Pittsfield Township. “I think the thing that impresses me the most is how nice everybody at Community High School is and how flexible they are.”
The Ann Arbor Public Schools is hoping to entice students like Chueh from around Washtenaw County – and those within the district who don’t attend public school – with a larger-than-ever offering of online classes and individualized learning through the district’s Options Magnet.
Options is one of the ways the district is hoping to increase student enrollment and per-pupil revenue, for the county’s largest district.
In Chueh’s case, her mother has been willing to drive her between Washtenaw Community College, Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan so that she can experience high school in a unique way. “College is challenging, but not too hard,” she said. “It’s helped me to take initiative, because I had to look for the class.”
She has taken courses online through the Michigan Virtual High School such as Western Civilization and Spanish. Through her home school network, she has taken some elective courses. But, she will earn her degree through Ann Arbor.
Under the program, students can take a majority of their classes in a non-traditional format and pursue classes they might not otherwise be able to take in a traditional setting, said program coordinator Susette Jaquette. The Options program also serves students, such as Chueh, who may have been home schooled and want to transition into a public school setting, she said.
Active students who have scheduling issues during the regular school day also take advantage of the program, which was formalized by the district in 2008. Jaquette said what makes Options special is the variety it offers. “For students who are busy with language, music and other electives, they don’t have time (to fit them in.) This appeals to them.”
Any student from Washtenaw County can take part in the Options program for the 2010-11 school year, enrolling as a schools-of-choice student. The program is coordinated at both Community and Stone high schools.
One way of learning in the Options program are Community Resource classes, called CRs, Jaquette said. These courses are taught by a volunteer “expert” from the community either off-site or in the school and monitored by certified teaching staff, They can be as specialized as a student and parent want them to be and can be for one student or many.
“Sometimes the CRs become so popular, they actually become (regular) classes,” she said, using the examples of a Model United Nations class and a Google Ads class at Huron High School that uses the expertise from local Google staff.
Jaquette said a CR allows a student to explore career options, an opportunity to do community service or a way to accommodate a learning style preference. Another way Options students can learn is through dual enrollment, state approved since 1996, where students can take both high school and college-level classes simultaneously.
The district has beefed up its online offerings, allowing high school students the option of taking many classes online instead of in the classroom. Those enrolled in the Options Magnet can include these online offerings as they design their semester of learning. Some of the online offerings have included self-paced math, health classes and classes through the Michigan Virtual High School.
Other classes are blended, with some online components and some face-to-face learning.
This fall, Jaquette said the district plans to offer online options for all classes, but is unclear how many students will register. “We’ll see what students sign up for and adjust accordingly,” she said. “We don’t know what will happen.”
Of the 60 students currently enrolled in the Options program, about half would not be enrolled in Ann Arbor Public Schools were it not for the flexibility offered through the Options Magnet, Jaquette said. This has already brought about $278,000 in revenue to the district that it would not have received otherwise.
She said the expansion of the Options Magnet with its flexible approach is one way to bring more students to the district. “It’s potentially a way to get 500 new kids without a new school (building),” she added.