Mountain Education Charter High School: A Unique Educational Opportunity

Mountain Education Charter High School:
A Unique Educational Opportunity

By Kaila Steele

If you’ve never been to a Mountain Education Charter High School (MECHS) campus, you might be surprised at how different it looks from your typical high school. While MECHS students are working through the same curriculum as their day school counterparts, they are working in a very different environment.  A few of the biggest differences between a typical high school and MECHS are that MECHS operates in the evenings, there is a flexible attendance policy, there are no failing grades, and the learning is entirely student-centered which allows students to work through the curriculum at their own pace.  Picture this: an MECHS student clocks into the school building at around 4:30 p.m. today.  School opened at 4:00, but since he doesn’t get off of work until 4:00, MECHS’s flexible attendance policy supports his coming to school after work. The student then chooses the course in which he wants to work this evening.  He may want to work on only one course for the entire evening, or he may choose to switch classes and work in several different courses in one night.  While the student is working in class, his mentor might drop by to sit with him and track his progress and help him set goals.  Or, she may just drop by to see how he’s doing or offer congratulations on a recent achievement. While in the classroom, the student sits at his own computer working through online curriculum with the support of a certified teacher.  He will work through online lessons and take online assessments. If he fails a test, the classroom teacher will support him in better understanding the material through one on one interaction. The student may also retake lessons until he feels confident in the material, and then he will retake the test until he earns a passing grade. Failure is not an option. Whether students complete a specific course in 4 weeks or 10 weeks doesn’t really matter. What matters is that through completing the material and demonstrating on tests that they’ve mastered the material, students for whom day school wasn’t the right fit can graduate high school with a Georgia high school diploma.

Allowing high school students to complete the state-mandated high school curriculum at their own pace may seem risky, but MECHS offers an extensive amount of support for students through their student services department.  Not only do students have the daily support of their classroom teachers to get them through their coursework, but they also have the support of mentors who meet regularly with students to set goals and keep students motivated and on track to graduate. Additionally, students have the support of guidance counselors who provide both academic and personal support and graduation coaches who work to keep students on track for graduation by offering incentives and keeping students and parents informed of required tests and other graduation requirements. The student services department has career specialists available to advise students through the process of dual enrollment with local colleges as well as to help students complete the Bridge requirements for graduation. Also available to students are school social workers and various support groups. The support of the student services department helps to hold the students accountable for completing their courses and other graduation requirements and gives them the support and confidence they need to earn their high school diplomas.

Those who have not been to an MECHS campus may ask, “What brings students to MECHS?”  Students attend MECHS for many reasons.  MECHS is a second chance high school, so many of its students have already dropped out of their regular high schools for various circumstances.  Perhaps they have to work to support their families or weren’t successful in the day school environment.  Whatever their reason for dropping out, MECHS gives these students a second chance at completing high school. Some students who attend MECHS are considering dropping out of high school and decide to transfer to MECHS.  Others appreciate the self-paced environment and attend for the opportunity to graduate earlier than their day school peers.   There are also students who attend MECHS because they simply feel that the MECHS school environment is a better fit for them.  There are even students at MECHS who are still enrolled in day school and attend MECHS in the evening for credit recovery of failed courses.  MECHS credit recovery allows these students to stay on track to graduate at their regular high school with their peers. MECHS welcomes all of their students and is grateful to provide these students an opportunity to earn a high school diploma. ​

MECHS is a public state-chartered high school that is SACS accredited and free for full time students. MECHS operates sixteen sites in fifteen counties that serve students in the North Georgia area. In the 2016-2017 school year, MECHS graduated 297 students from its sixteen sites combined.  The schools and the superintendents in the counties MECHS serves support MECHS's effort to give students options in earning diplomas and taking the next step towards personal success.  By working together with MECHS to provide another option for high school graduation, local schools are seeing their own graduation rates rise.  MECHS's current superintendent, Dr. Charles Wayne Lovell, has a steadfast vision to develop and maintain a continued focus on school improvement to ensure that MECHS remains relevant and sustainable.