Alternative education models are created to assist students who are having difficulty in the traditional school setting. These programs are personalized, encouraging students to take responsibility for their academic, social and emotional growth as well as attain life skills that will allow them to be successful in a variety of contexts and careers.
Educational alternatives often feature diversity, deregulation, autonomy for teachers and students, small class size, close relationships between them and their educators, and a sense of community. Some alternatives cater specifically to certain student populations such as incarcerated youth, teens with learning disabilities, teenage parents or those needing job-based training.
In these settings, the curricula are tailored to students and educators’ interests rather than being taught separately as in traditional school systems. Subject matter such as reading, writing, mathematics and science isn’t always taught separately but often integrated into other topics. Additional curricular areas like environmental education or spirituality often develop from these interests.
Independent or private schools have the freedom to select staff and adapt their educational approach according to what works best for their student body. Many follow Montessori or Waldorf (also known as Steiner) models while others utilize international curricula such as the International Baccalaureate.
Many of these schools foster strong parent-teacher partnerships and require parents to participate in activities outside the regular school day, like family life seminars. Some of the best alternative schools have a ratio of no more than eight to 25 students per teacher.
Alternative schools can be a valuable option for students who struggle in traditional public or private schools, however their graduation rates tend to be lower than those of more established models. Furthermore, critics point out that these institutions aren’t required by state regulation to meet any accountability standards.
These programs often have low student-teacher ratios and can provide more immediate assistance when a student starts showing signs of failing. Furthermore, many offer credit recovery programs and online course completion options so students can accelerate their learning process.
Traditional schools may offer these programs, as well as those serving special populations such as incarcerated youth, those with learning disabilities, expelled students, those needing job-based training and teens dealing with parenting issues.
Furthermore, many of these programs are tailored to assist students who have been suspended from school and will not be returning for several weeks. Virtual learning platforms like eAcademy or Engage offer virtual instruction to help students get back on track with their studies and acquire essential skills that will allow them to transition successfully into traditional schools.
Due to this, there has been an uptick in the popularity of self-directed learning. While traditionally this concept has been exclusive to home schoolers, now public school systems are taking notice and taking note as well.