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85% Of Sarasota High School Students Are Graduating, But What Can Be Done For The Other 15%?

85% Of Sarasota High School Students Are Graduating, But What Can Be Done For The Other 15%?

| Laura Bell Adams |

Over 1,300 high school-aged students in Sarasota County are not enrolled in traditional high schools due to a variety of factors: need to work, lack of transportation or resources, caregiving responsibilities. While that’s below the state average, it’s still a significant amount of young adults losing out on more than $500,000 in lifetime earning potential and much-needed job opportunities. The reason? Life challenges stop many of these young adults from succeeding in a traditional, sit-at-your-desk, 8am – 3pm high school program. Disengaged students struggle to find success in the traditional classroom structure so an alternative setting must provide a unique and flexible culture that differs from the traditional setting to allow a student to immediately recognize they are in for a new experience.

Luckily, alternative education programs are being implemented to combat district dropout rates. One of these programs is Acceleration Academies — an innovative education partner that is redefining the traditional school model by leveraging the use of technology through a blended learning model whereby students, or Graduation Candidates as they call them, don’t have to sit in a traditional classroom to make progress against their education goals. Physically attending an Academy is essential to educational development, but because the Acceleration Academies coursework platform is web-based, Graduation Candidates can work on courses anywhere with internet access.

With coursework provided through Edgenuity, Graduation Candidates have access to an award-winning and accredited online platform which offers courses that are designed to help students in grades 9-12 to meet the rigor of Common Core and state standards, as well as state graduation requirements for a diplomas. In our digital age, the use of technology is crucial in creating truly student-centered learning environments that drive the critical outcome – a high school diploma – while still meeting the real needs of young people today who are juggling work, family and financial needs.

Acceleration Academies uses face-to=face instruction with a certified teacher.Beyond coursework, Acceleration Academies also works to ensure that all of their Graduation Candidates are best prepared for life post-graduation. Acceleration Academies is partnered with Naviance, which is a comprehensive college and career readiness solution that helps Graduation Candidates to discover their strengths and interests in relation to postsecondary goals, and this helps to drive student outcomes and connect learning to life. Pairing this technology with on-site career and life coaches helps to tailor the program to put Graduation Candidates on a path towards their next step — whether that is college, a career or the military.

Bethel Acceleration Academy Graduation Candidate, James Macko, credits the Acceleration Academies program for saving him from dropping out, saying: “Now I am learning, enjoying, and understanding my work. I have been able to apply what I learn to the world around me and I have been reminded why I need to get a diploma and why I will continue fighting to earn one. This program is tailored to every student to the degree that everyone can succeed if they try.”

By mastering one course at a time through a blended learning model which includes online courses and face-to-face instruction with a certified teacher, Graduation Candidates are able to focus on the task at hand and master the content at their own pace. By combining in-person help from paraprofessionals with online-based curriculum Acceleration Academies helps young adults overcome real-life challenges to earn their district or state-issued high school diploma, tuition-free. They opened their sixth location in Florida in Sarasota County on August 27.

“Acceleration Academies, a ‘drop-back in’ academy will expand the educational horizon of Sarasota’s students that have dropped out of school,” said Dr. Dawn Clayton, a supervisor on Sarasota County School Board. “We are excited to partner with this organization that has proven to reach children and help them accomplish their goals.”

The Acceleration Academies partnership with Sarasota County Schools aims to increase district graduate numbers, enrich the local community, and provide every student in Sarasota County the chance to earn a high school diploma free of charge.

Miami-Dade Acceleration Academies’ Graduation Candidate Alejandro D. believes that the Academy is different because “you can go at your own pace while still being able to have the time to understand what you are learning.” He adds, “I also feel like I am learning more here than in any other school because I don’t get as distracted.”

Acceleration Academies helps Graduation Candidates achieve their goals.Acceleration Academies understands that Graduation Candidates have other responsibilities that make obtaining a high school diploma appear impossible and so they use a unique approach. And that’s what today’s outcome-based, technology-enabled education should be about: empowering young adults to truly learn.

For more information about the program, visit  or give them a call at 872-529-5115.

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Photos courtesy of Acceleration Academy.

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