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Alternative Schools Are a Better Choice for Students

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Alternative Schools are a Better Choice for Students
Christy Price
AIU Online

Alternative Schools are a Better Choice for Students What are alternative schools? Alternative schools according to the World Book Encyclopedia (2003) are, “… any public or private school that differs from traditional schools in curriculum, purpose, or teaching methods.” The definition comes from the 1960’s when free schools were created and contained smaller groups of students and teachers. During this time the general consensus was, kids would learn at their own pace and teachers were not meant to be viewed as authority figures but should be mentors to the students under their care. In comparison to public schools, which were seen as oppressive, free schools were a suitable alternative for many students (Miller 2002) For some students alternative high schools are the better choice for their education.
Students who attend alternative schools do not lack the ability to learn they just have different learning needs than other students. According to the Waterville Alternative School (2003), located in Waterville Maine, public schools are created on a “one size fits all” basis. That is, there is one set curriculum, schedule, and teaching style. Each student is expected to learn at the same pace; however, this is not the reality. Thus, alternative schools have been created as a way to meet each student’s individual needs.
Alternative schools are appealing to some students for a number of reasons. The enrollment is smaller in comparison to regular public schools. According to Cynthia Franklin (1992), most alternative schools do not exceed 200 students. Smaller class sizes allow for a more supportive environment for the student. Teachers are able to give more one on one attention to their students and even the principals can get involved with the students and the learning process.
With the individualized attention from teachers, students feel that the teachers are interested in what happens with their education and this leads to higher achievement rates (Thompson 2001). A large number of students, who attend alternative schools, are those who are labeled, “at risk.” There are a number of factors that give students this label. According to Chris Thompson (2001), these factors include, but are not limited to, “… class, race, gender, special needs, pregnancy, abusive home situations, relationship problems, drug abuse, alienation, boredom…” These factors, along with others, can lead to poor behavior and performance in school or even worse drop out altogether. For these students an alternative school provides a more suitable learning environment.
Another way alternative schools are better for some students is the individualized curriculum that is offered. Teachers understand the students have certain learning needs, thus they are presented with a curriculum that is “self-paced and mastery-based” (Franklin 1992). Students are able to work at their own pace and learning style, which results in higher rates of completion and accuracy. In traditional public schools students either understand the material progress forward or they have trouble with the material and fall behind.
The decision making process is also different in alternative schools. Students are allowed to have a say in the learning process and in traditional public schools teachers and administrators make those decisions for the students and students are not given a choice in what happens.
According to a study discussed by Edward Saunders (2002), Students at Walnut Creek Alternative high school were interviewed to find out if they believed in the characteristics of the alternative school and one hundred students were given two surveys.
The first survey dealt with past experiences in public school settings and topics for concern was the students overall school experience and their perceptions of teachers and administrators. One student stated that “I felt as if the teachers didn’t know me; I was just a number not a human being” (Saunders 2002). The second survey dealt with their current experiences at the Walnut Creek alternative high school and results showed student’s responses in regards to the alternative school were quite positive. Students described the teachers as “Good…they try to help me every way they can” (Saunders 2002). It was also noted that administrators treated students more fairly. The statistics from the two surveys show that the alternative school clearly ranked highest in both topic areas, only three percent of the students rated overall experience in public schools as excellent, in contrast to the seventy-nine percent of students who rated overall experience in alternative schools as excellent.
In conclusion the educational system’s “one size fits all” method of teaching is an issue that needs to be addressed. All students cannot be expected to learn at the same pace or in the same way, thus alternative schools are better for some students. H.G. Wells once stated that, “Our challenge is not to educate the children we used to have or want to have, but to educate the children who come to the schoolhouse door.”

Miller, R. (2002). Free schools, free people: education and democracy after the 1960’s. Albany:SUNY Press.

Waterville Public Schools, (2003). Statement of purpose. Retrieved June 26, 2013 from the World Wide Web:

Thompson, C. (2001). The most beneficial features of alternative schools, according to alternative school students. Retrieved June 26, 2013 from the World Wide Web:

Saunders, J., & Saunders, E., (2001). Alternative school students’ perceptions of past (traditional) and current (alternative) school environments. High School Journal 85 (2), 12-23. Retrieved June 26, 2013…...

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