career ready, Education, technology, Teen Mental Disorders, teen moms, Uncategorized, virtual school

What is Personalized Learning?

Everyone is a genius.

Danielle Yanssens

Personalized Learning “refers to a diverse variety of educational programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic support strategies that are intended to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students”, according to The Glossary of Education Reform by Great Schools Partnership. How does Back on Track, offer personalized learning?

When a student submits an inquiry online or calls the Back on Track office, we are able to offer them several different options to acquire their high school diploma. For students who have previously dropped out of high school and are 21 or older, we enroll them into Clintondale Virtual School, a credit recovery program which, for a small fee, allows adults to achieve their high school diploma. This appeals to adults who had considered getting their GED in the past, which limits their options for post-secondary education.

For those students who have previously dropped out of high school and are between the ages of 18 and 20, we suggest our tuition-free Step Up program where students work on one class at a time and are required to complete a minimum of one class per month, with the ability to work year round. This gives students the opportunity to work on completing their high school education at a faster rate than if they attending a full time high school. We have also found that for this population, students are able to find more success when focusing on just one course at a time, rather than the full six class course load.


Many students who are between the ages of 16 and 20 choose to attend one of our brick and mortar alternative education schools. This student population includes students that are teenage parents, potential dropouts, have been expelled from their traditional school, or have been court-ordered by the juvenile detention systems. Our alternative education locations offer various skilled trade courses where students can graduate with a certificate of completion to help them obtain employment right out of high school. While there is increased security at these locations, they are also staffed with caring employees who encourage students to complete their education and get on a better path for their future.

Parents with students in grades 6 through 12 will often contact us requesting information about our virtual school, My Virtual Academy. MVA partners with school districts throughout the state of Michigan, offering a fully online option for students. This appeals to a wide variety of students, including those looking to graduate early, students who struggle with mental or physical illness, teenage parents, students who do not feel safe in their traditional school due to bullying or students who have to work full time in order to help support their family.  We have students who are pursuing their passion, such as the theater or gymnastics, and choose online schooling to work around their schedules. Some parents even prefer their children attend a virtual school based on their cultural and religious beliefs.

In addition to the several different educational programs Back on Track offers to help meet the different learning needs of our students, we also offer a variety of learning experiences and instructional approaches. Our highly qualified, certified teachers ensure that the curriculum meets all Common Core Standards. Teachers have the ability to offer students different types of assessments based on their instructional needs, and offer in-person tutoring in addition to daily on-line tutoring. Students receive one-to-one instruction, with teachers contacting them a minimum of once per week, as well as participating in whole group activities in our weekly live sessions.

Untitled design (9)

While there are some obvious limitations to virtual and alternative learning, the many benefits often make Back on Track the best option for many students.

Education, Teen Mental Disorders

An Increase in Adolescent Mental Disorders is Causing Many Teens to Turn to Alternative Education Options

By: Danielle Yanssens
Studies have shown a rise in anxiety, depression and behavioral disorders among teens. According to Psychology Today teens are five to eight times more likely to suffer from depression than they were 50 years ago. Many adolescents are simply terrified to go to school.

There are alternative schools, such as Neil E. Reid High School in Clinton Township, Michigan, with programs addressing the needs of students with severe behavioral and emotional issues. Many teens are able to attend these schools and find success. It is often helpful for them to meet other students dealing with similar issues, and is a big relief to know they are not the only ones struggling.

Teens suffering from anxiety or depression are often terrified to attend traditional school.

Teens suffering from anxiety or depression are often terrified to attend traditional school.

Many students cannot take that first step to attend any school. Credit recovery is an option, offering students the ability to take one course at a time when they are ready. However the price can be restrictive for some parents.

Attending a virtual school is an option that many have turned to. Those affiliated with public school districts are free to attend. When students feel immobilized in a classroom among other students, being able to continue their education at home can be the key to allowing them to stay on track for completing high school and earning their diploma. Some students are able to work from home for one or two semesters and then transition back to their brick and mortar school after therapy and counseling.

A My Virtual Academy parent, who requested to remain anonymous, said she thought her daughter was being defiant. She would cry and scream, refusing to leave the house to go to school. The mother went as far as trying to physically force her into the car to take her to school. She felt helpless and finally took her daughter to a psychiatrist. She discovered her daughter was suffering from depression. While her daughter was being treated for the disease, she enrolled her in My Virtual Academy to keep her from falling too far behind in school.

These alternative education avenues are not ideal for many, but they are a necessary choice for some students. For detailed information on various children’s mental health issues and their impact on their education go to

Danielle Yanssens is in charge of Continuous Improvement for My Virtual Academy. Her organization also offers On-site Alternative Education programs, several free online learning options and credit recovery for students throughout the state of Michigan.

Source: The Decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Mental Disorders, Psychology Today January 2010. Author Peter Gray for “Free to Learn”.


You Can Be a Key Ingredient in Helping an At-Risk Student Earn Their High School Diploma

“Every Kid is One Caring Adult Away from Being a Success Story”
~ Josh Shipp

By: Danielle Yanssens
Teenagers drop out of school for many reasons, it isn’t always poor academics. Students may leave school for financial reasons, family caretaking responsibilities or teen pregnancy among other reasons. Students who drop out of high school are more likely to live in poverty, be incarcerated and use illicit drugs. (Hair, Ling, & Cochran, 2003)
At-risk students often get lost in large traditional high schools, but many thrive in smaller alternative or individualized school settings. Alternative education schools give students more personalized attention and often offer vocational classes. Virtual schools are great options for students suffering from anxiety, depression or bullying. Many teenage parents who are either caring for their children or working full time to support their families succeed in online school or taking credit recovery courses.
A student’s success is directly related to the amount of involvement by family members. One caring adult can lead to a higher GPA, regular school attendance, a positive attitude towards school and the likelihood of enrollment in post-secondary programs. (National Parent Teacher Association 2001) A student without family support can still succeed in high school. Any compassionate mentor – teachers, social workers, neighbors, friends or relatives can be the difference between a high school dropout and a high school graduate.

Kaylee - mentor

Kaylee Smith, teacher and mentor for MVA, with one of her students .

What can you do for a student at-risk of leaving school?
• Remind them often about the importance of getting an education
• Help them with homework
• Praise academic achievements no matter how small
• Monitor their school attendance
• Encourage positive extracurricular activities
• Tell them that people with high school diplomas earn twice as much as those without (and keep reminding them)
• Help them keep track of their credits, with graduation as the final goal
• For those students who are unhappy at their traditional school, help them find local online high schools, alternative high schools (both free to students) or credit recovery programs
Mentoring an at-risk teenager doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. Touch base with them a couple of times a week and see how they are doing. Let them know you care and tell them you believe they will succeed as often as possible.

For more information on mentoring at-risk youth visit:
Source: Hair, Ling, & Cochran, 2003 … (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2003; American Youth Policy Forum, 1998; Hair, Ling, & Cochran, 2003; Harlow, 2003).
Source: National parent Teacher Association (2001). National standards for parent/family involvement programs. Chicago, Illinois: Author.

Danielle Yanssens is in charge of Continuous Improvement for My Virtual Academy. Her organization also offers On-site Alternative Education programs, several free online learning options and credit recovery for students throughout the state of Michigan.