Cyber high school program reaches at-risk teens

Westwood Cyber High School, which caters to dropouts or potential dropouts, is one of a handful of Michigan schools in which all students learn online. But what makes the school unique is its emphasis on what educators call project-based learning, reports the Detroit Free Press—and many are watching this year-old online school to see if it offers a new model for reaching students in danger of dropping out. At this school, students—called researchers—learn by doing projects, but it’s no cakewalk. These projects must be sophisticated enough to show students have learned the same concepts students in traditional classes learn. In the beginning, Samantha Chapman found it hard to adjust to the new way of learning at Westwood Cyber High. Up until September, school meant having textbooks, teachers standing at the front of the classroom, and structure. At the cyber high school, her home is her classroom, her computer her textbook, and there are no teachers giving her direct instruction. Plus, getting credit requires doing a bunch of projects, instead of the typical classroom assignments and tests. “I was kind of lost. I didn’t know what to do,” said Samantha, 16, of Dearborn Heights. But she quickly adjusted and said she thinks the focus on projects is a better fit. “A lot of the things they teach you in school you don’t use in life,” she said…

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