By Greg Bowman

A Detroit charter school is using a new way to make sure students are learning — that’s right, the WAY Program (Widening Alternatives For Youth) has begun.

The school is taking kids 14 to 19 years old out of  full-time classrooms and providing them with an iMac laptop and access to a lab — so they can learn at their own pace and around their own schedule. It was created as a “personalized learning experience for students who struggle with traditional high school.”

The program has 11 sites in 100 school districts across Michigan, with staff available 24 hours a day. Mentors issue detailed student achievement reports weekly.

“It is a highly interactive, personalized, individualized curriculum. And students have access to that, as well as a lab instructor 365 days a year,” said Shannon Smith, director of charter schools for the WAY program. “We also have a lab setting where students can come in and get personal help, as well as do science labs, art projects and those pieces.”

How does the program work to make sure students are getting the lessons they need to learn?

“We design projects around students’ interests and needs,” said Smith. ” We wrap state standards into those projects so students meet those standards and credit toward graduation by completion of those projects.”

Smith says the WAY Program has been a big success, with approximately a 95 per cent graduation rate. The new Detroit Way Academy is located on Vernor in Southwest Detroit.

The school is still accepting enrollments for the 2012-2013 school year. Get more details at


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