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HLWW’s alternative learning program has successful first quarter
Nov. 15, 2010

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, WINSTED, MN – Students who’ve fallen behind in class don’t need to stay that way, thanks to the new alternative learning program (ALP) at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Middle School.

“It has morphed a lot in this first quarter, and I think the kids are responding to it,” ALP teacher Patty Diers told school board members at last Monday’s meeting.

In past years, HLWW sent about 15 of its students to an alternative learning center (ALC) in Buffalo. With the ALP, most of them are now able to stay in the district.

The program is designed for students at least halfway through 10th grade (ages 16-21) who have fallen behind in credits. Through the ALP’s smaller class sizes and family-style environment, students are able to focus on the courses they are struggling to complete.

“When they’re in this program, they still have to meet all of their required courses,” Diers said, but added that the ALP allows for more flexibility than a traditional classroom setting.

“They don’t have to move together as a group, because I have so many of them in different things,” she explained.

For example, some students take biology, while others study algebra.

“It depends what the student is missing,” Diers said. “I look to see what they need, and what grade they’re in, and try to catch them up to grade level.”

The curriculum includes computer-based learning that can be tailored to meet individual needs. Through Educational Options’ Star Suite, students have the opportunity to read and do practice questions through a password-protected website.

“This is like their textbook online,” Diers said. “They can be interactive here, and get that immediate feedback.”

Some students find it more difficult to read from a computer screen, so Diers prints a hard copy, which can later be filed and reused. For the online homework questions, students get different questions in order to prevent cheating.

Students need to complete the online homework and fulfill 65 hours of “seat time” to get credits.

“They can access it at home, and they can do submissions, but I won’t give them seat time for it,” Diers said. “I want to know they’re actually working.”

Diers showed the board a geometry example of the interactive material, in which students can make an angle wider or narrower.

“There’s some really cool things with this,” Diers said.

Having the ALP in the upstairs of the middle school is working out well, so far, according to Diers.

“I had one happy wanderer, but for the most part, the kids like their area and they stay to it,” she said.

HLWW might consider allowing students from other districts to take advantage of the program, as well, but that possibility is still far in the future.

“We’re just getting it out there that we have this program,” High School Principal Mike Day said.

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