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Innovations Academy - Catch-Up Program for High School Students


High school students who might not otherwise graduate are welcome at a personalized learning program where they choose their own lessons and finish classes on their own schedule. Called “Innovations Academy,” the program is limited to 80 students at a time. Although the program is housed at Lathrop High School, any high school student in the district can apply. And there are openings in the program now.

The program is aimed at students who have fallen behind in the traditional curriculum. Carly Sween is the principal at Lathrop High School and oversees the program.

“We’re keeping kids in school who normally would not be in school. A lot of these students would have given up by now. They say, ‘oh man, I’m this many credits behind, there’s no way I can graduate. I’m done.’ And they’d be walking out the door. But they are coming back to school, and they’re graduating.”

There are only 80 slots in the Innovations Academy. Those students work with four teachers, one for Social Studies, one for Science, one for Math and one for English.

So the student-to-teacher ratio is pretty low. And the teachers meet regularly to update each other on student progress and become familiar with each student’s style. The program is at Lathrop High School, even though it has its own dedicated classrooms.

“It’s a school within a school, so if you are in the program, you can participate in all the other activities that we have at school; you can go to the Homecoming dance, you can be part of that high school experience. But you’re in a smaller environment, and a more personalized approach to learning.”

That personalized approach is a mix of traditional lessons, on-line self-paced instruction with a computer, and projects each student develops with a teacher. Several students may be in the same classroom together, but working on completely different lessons. Sween says each student could take a different path to mastering the material they need to know.

Sometimes they just need to catch up.

“Because many of our students are coming in behind in credit, we have opportunities for them to recover credit, where they are not necessarily having to take the entire class over.”

Sween says a key component of the program is each student has a mentor teacher.

“And that mentor teacher sits down with you one-on-one, you look at how you are doing in your classes, they help you set some goals, they communicate with your family, and someone is checking in with you weekly.”

The program is in its third year, and administrators have tweaked it a little bit each year to get more success. 10 graduated in the first year, including a student who was the first in his family to graduate from high school. In the second year, 20 graduated. Sween says there are still openings in the Innovations Academy for this year. The application for the Innovations Academy is on the Lathrop High School website.