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Meet Exact Path High School Champions: Tennessee Volunteer ChalleNGe Academy

Meet Exact Path High School Champions: Tennessee Volunteer ChalleNGe Academy

The competition was fierce, but one high school rallied to bring home the trophy! Meet the Tennessee Volunteer ChalleNGe Academy (TNVCA) in Nashville, Tennessee, the high school champions of Edmentum’s 2019 Exact Path Skills Challenge competition. I had the chance to talk with Kevin Meadows, lead instructor at the TNVCA, and chat about how the school is using Exact Path to personalize learning for students in an alternative setting, why Exact Path works for the school, and what got his students motivated to beat out the high school competition.

You're super proud of your students, and you have every reason to be because they did such a great job in this contest. How will you and your students be celebrating?

We're going to do a big presentation. We're going to make this a big thing for the kids, and we're going to take them bowling afterwards as well. This is going to be their big party.

The Tennessee Volunteer ChalleNGe Academy is one of 40 ChalleNGe Academies in the nation where students participate in a structured, disciplined, five-and-a-half-month residential program focused on education and practical life skills, followed by a 12-month post-residential phase where graduates are supported by trained mentors. Can you tell me more about what it’s like at your school and how you use Edmentum?

We take any kid from the state of Tennessee that is at risk of dropping out of high school. We are a quasi-military program as well.

When students come to us, we have to meet them where they're at. Now, we love using our Edmentum programs, from Courseware to Study Island to Exact Path. We try to figure out where the student is, then teachers will blend their classroom work with Edmentum. And, as educators, we really like Edmentum because it gives us the ability to saying, “Hey, we're meeting our standards; our state standards are being touched, and we have a good guideline.” We can trust Edmentum, and I think that’s very important for our staff.

The TNVCA offers students three different options when they enter the program: they can pursue a credit recovery program, they can receive a high school diploma, or they can prepare for the HiSET exam (High School Equivalency Test) if they are behind on earning the appropriate 22 credits. Because the TNVCA first incorporated Exact Path back in January, how are your students using it in the classroom day to day? How does it fit into your student’s success paths? Which program features do you find particularly useful?

When we started using Exact Path, we started to see how effective it was. Our kids like it, and our teachers like it, so it's just been a home run for us.

We're on block scheduling, so if a kid goes into an algebra one class for first block, they may do an hour and a half of class. They may do 45 minutes of classroom work, board work, example problems, kids collaborating with each other, and then the other half of the class would be working on Exact Path or using Courseware so they can get caught up or to advance. Courseware is very effective when somebody is trying to get their high school diploma because they're able to finish those classes as credit recovery, but Exact Path really just meets our students where they're at academically.

We love to use the Exact Path learning path with our students, especially in that blended learning atmosphere because, when they take their [diagnostic assessment] at the beginning of the year, they're not overwhelmed with the work. It starts them off with confidence, and they start to feel very good about themselves. And, when a kid feels good about themselves, then a teacher can become more effective. It also really meets them where they're at as far as the state standards go. Our school is very dynamic in the sense of we have kids from both ends of the academic spectrum, and using Edmentum is very beneficial for us in that area. Even our HiSET students are using Exact Path very effectively.

What are some of the ways that you regularly encourage your students to use Exact Path during their time at the TNVCA? How do you leverage the Exact Path Challenges and Trophies?

These kids feed off of competition. We are a quasi-military school, but we have Battle Buddies. A kid will pick a Battle Buddy, and they'll track each other's Trophies from their learning path. If a kid's behind, they have their Battle Buddy to kind of push them and peer tutor.

Our school is built off of a lot of teamwork activities and team building, and so we mix that in. You can win tickets at our school, and those tickets can buy you snacks, buy you field trips, and more. We base the tickets off the Trophies students earn, so every Trophy you earn in Exact Path would get you a ticket. Of course, the instructors have their own competition and their own challenges in the classroom as well—I know each one of them have their own grading scale in the classroom that goes along with that.

How did you hear about the Exact Path Skills Challenge? Did you do anything special to encourage your students to participate?

At first, we didn't make much of it because we knew there were tons of schools that were participating, but we were still using it as a motivational factor for our kids. We did the Battle Buddies and [other incentives], and then one week, we saw that we were in the top 10, and our kids saw that, and they were so excited about being ranked. They were like, "We're not going to be denied; we're going to make it." They just came together.

Our program's five and a half months, and the first two months are really tough on these kids because they're away from home and their families, and it takes some adjusting because they're used to their regular high schools. Our first two months is really team building and trust, and after that, then the kids get really dialed into education. When they see what they can do here, they just have a passion for their education.

What would you say that you took away from participating in this contest?

My kids love competition. They love to have something to fight for and incentives. They are always looking to achieve something, and I think that if there's something for them to achieve, then they're really going to go all out for themselves and for the school.

Again, I'm just so proud of our school and our teachers. I know how hard it is to finish our program, and I'm just very proud of our school and our team.

Interested in learning more about Edmentum’s 2019 Exact Path Skills Challenge champions? Check back for more winner profiles coming soon!'s picture
McKenna Wierman

McKenna Wierman studied Journalism at the University of Mississippi, and has worked with Edmentum since June 2016. She currently serves as a Digital Marketing Specialist, and believes that empowered teachers are the key to successful students.