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Established in the late 1970s, alternative schools were designed to address the needs of students who were not able to learn in traditional school settings. These students often had behavioral concerns, medical conditions or learning difficulties.
Often these students were disruptive or at risk of dropping out of school. Now the objective of alternative schools has expanded to encompass a broader student population base. Alternative schools are designed around a variety of student-specific needs.
A Holistic Approach
With a focus on the whole student, alternative schools have evolved to provide a more comprehensive learning environment. For students who have psychological issues like depression, substance abuse or a history of violence, an alternative school can offer a much safer environment than public schools. Goals are more individualized attention, not just for academic success, but also to address self-esteem and improve social skills for these at-risk students.
Other Aspects of Alternative Schools
Research in alternative school programs has shown that factors like the following help make these schools successful:
• Small student base
• Very defined mission and discipline code
• A caring staff and focus on staff development
• Flexible learning environment, which includes community involvement and support
• Programs tailored to a student’s specific needs
Because of the mix of students, a level of diversity is achieved that is absent in traditional public schools. This can contribute significantly to student self-awareness and acceptance.