A Fresh Start for High School Students

Do you know a student who needs a fresh start?  Maybe they got off to a rocky first semester?  Or had a rough transition in high school? Worried about graduating on time, or getting into a college worthy of your potential?  Maybe your family experienced some hardships that kept your student from being focused and on track?  Or maybe you’ve had to move homes disrupting an otherwise smooth school year. Colearn Academy has the perfect program for your student!

Starting January 2023, we will be offering a Fresh Start for high school students. For students who are motivated, we will amplify our flexibility, coaching, advising, elevated teaching, alternative assessments, study skills, college readiness, and portfolio development. Fresh Start is a selective program for students highly motivated to engage, learn and achieve. 

In this post, we’ve tried to express much of our thinking. Given people rarely read from beginning to end on the Internet, here’s the TLDR:

High School students will benefit from access to:

  1. world-class college counseling,
  2. accelerated learning opportunities, 
  3. study skills coaching and coaching groups,
  4. opportunities to dramatically improve their grades and transcript,
  5. credit validation for unacknowledged work, pursuits and expertise,
  6. one-on-one and small group tutorials, and iterative portfolio development,
  7. counseling, paired with interest, healthy habit, and character development,
  • Grading includes the whole picture and does not use “averages;” it allows revision and iteration and improvement, and encourages growth. This type of grading is not a “freebie” – it simply acknowledges that knowledge cramming and test taking is not the only way (and not even a good way) to give feedback and measure progress.
  • High School students have the opportunity to improve any part of their transcript by demonstrating effort, work, and knowledge in creative ways. We evaluate effort, passion, competency and mastery. 
    Students will not have to “retake” a course just because. If they have evidence of work, or can demonstrate thorough knowledge and perform on the tasks related to the course, they can get credit and improve their grade.
  • Retaking a course does not require “seat time” – it requires evidence of work and evidence of knowledge across the learning objectives. Therefore, it can be fast.
    For students who take advantage of accelerated learning opportunities, they can speed up their path to graduation.
  • Students will graduate with a differentiating transcript as a better student, a wiser and more mature young adult, and college ready.

Many high school students make poor grades at some point. This often happens in the first semester, for the freshman year, or sometimes even the first few years. Sometimes a great student can hit a teenage moment and derail for a bit. Family drama or trauma can happen, and even subtle events can create lasting challenges. Or maybe just an independent mindset turns into a rebellious streak. A clash with a teacher, a troubled romance, a surreal gaming addiction – who knows. Traditional school structures of pacing, grading, testing, and credit and transcript regimes are unfathomably and unfortunately unforgiving. There are millions of bright students with potential that deserve a Fresh Start.  

For the past two years, Colearn Academy has been rethinking school as we know it – and making groundbreaking improvements. Just in our Arizona Charter, we’ve been more successful than we hoped. Parents love us more than Costco. Achievement is better than most online schools, academic growth is better than the average brick and mortar school. More importantly, we’ve made huge gains in parent involvement, family choice, personalized academic planning and progress tracking, building community online and In Real Life. We are treating the whole Internet and The Whole World as a classroom, and balancing public accountability with American style innovation and increased American style family freedom to boot.

We are amplifying what we already do well to offer a “Fresh Start” – students can make up credits, redo classes, start mid semester and still finish the year with a full year of credit, even shining grades to be proud of. We don’t do this by lowering expectations or giving free passes, we do it by evaluating effort, work, and knowledge differently. We do it by allowing students to utilize the whole Internet and the real world, and appreciating all kinds of learning and work to count towards academic credit.  

We can offer accelerated learning by leveraging our full curriculum options, and by implementing our study-skill based learning portfolio. We can serve these students through unique, meaningful, and refreshingly sensible goal setting, best work portfolios, and “promotion panels” (oral exams), and genuine coaching relationships with outstanding teachers.

Students will have the opportunity to propose credit opportunities on work they have done or work they are doing. To do this, the student must independently: 

  • Write a proposal with identified learning objectives and personal goals, 
  • document effort, initiative, and consistent, deliberate focus, 
  • assemble a portfolio of work that shows iteration, skill and growth, 
  • demonstrate conceptual understanding and foundational knowledge, 
  • evaluate their own work and understanding with wise and fair critiques,
  • present or showcase their journey to others.

Colearn believes success isn’t about reciting facts and taking tests. Too many students disengage from learning at school because schools have somehow mainly come to rely on “content knowledge” as their main goal of instruction. And then too many teachers default to worksheets and multiple choice tests as the way to assess students. This happens to be a mostly boring way to try to promote learning, and a lot of students disengage. So, the way many schools educate is counterproductive to learning. 

We open the door for more students to re-engage in learning and succeed through multiple paths. Our simple but radical belief is that “content knowledge” is the RESULT of a lot of important habits of mind and deliberate actions over time. We believe we can help all students build these success patterns. So, at Colearn we look at the whole picture, and allow students to demonstrate success through our five Aspects of Mastery.  

All work will be graded through productive conversations in cooperation with teachers, parents, and the students themselves. We do this through our unique Aspects of Mastery framework, which looks at the “whole picture” of a students’ learning and growth. For the learning nerds who want to know how, we developed the Colearn Aspects of Mastery Pyramid featuring the way we “ATACC” evaluating student learning and work.


We use this framework in creative ways to help students set their own goals, evaluate their own work with the collaboration of teachers, mentors and peers, and succeed step by step as they grow and thrive. 

Parents and students can hopefully see what kind of transformational program Fresh Start is, and what kind of amazing school Colearn Academy is. If you know anyone who could benefit, please share this as an invitation for them to learn a little more. And, if you think you family might benefit, we always love getting to know new families and talking about our wonderful team. Click here to learn more, or fill out our inquiry form and we'll be with you shortly.  








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