1999). The purpose of the school was to allow these students to earn their high school diploma (Kennedy et al. 1999). The board of directors for the school included administrators who were teachers at the time or retired teachers (Kennedy et al. 1999). For researchers, the purpose of studying this particular school was to examine the manner in which the school evolved over a ten-year period and to see what educators learned as a result of teaching this particular population of students (Kennedy et al. 1999).
The school began in 1980 and was contained in a single room of an elementary school with two teachers and an office. Consultants of the program went to nearby schools to make administrators and students aware of the program that would allow at risk students and drop outs to receive their high school diplomas (Kennedy et al. 1999). Initially the program was designed so that no student admitted to the alternative school could be suspended (Kennedy et al. 1999).
The creators of this school believed that these particular students needed to learn social interaction and how to deal with the rules of society (Kennedy et al. 1999). The program was also designed to have small class sizes and each class featured an assistant and a counselor. Eventually the school grew in popularity as students began to graduate from the school. Eventually there was a waiting list to enter the school. Once students had enough credits to graduate they actually returned to their high schools to graduate with their class (Kennedy et al. 1999). In addition the alternative school always celebrated the accomplishments of students.
A great deal of the success that this school realized had to do with the strategies that were created to teach dropouts. According to the authors the administrators understood that the school would be the last chance for many students. They also recognized that conventional schooling had failed these students. One administrator explains
"We assumed that students were given work to accomplish in public school that they were incapable of doing. Therefore, we began with an individual education program (IEP) for every student as though each was a special education student. We might have a student who was performing at second-grade level in math and at tenth-grade level in English. Although it seems logical that teachers would be sensitive to the abilities of their students when they assign work, they are sometimes, for several reasons, not able to meet the needs of individual students who have fallen behind (Kennedy et al. 1999, pg 103)."
The author points out that the tracking system in public schools places students on an educational path that moves forward very quickly. In addition, the goal of public school curriculum is to cover the mandatory material instead of monitoring the ability of students to understand the material (Kennedy et al. 1999). In addition, the daily class changes mean that some students do not get the attention that they need. Also some students fall through the cracks because teachers do not communicate with one another (Kennedy et al. 1999). In addition, students often believe that if they lack the skills needed to complete a task it is the teacher's duty to teach them how to complete the task. On the other hand, teachers believe that their purpose is to teach the lesson and that it is up to the student to accomplish the task, or to seek help if they are having difficulty completing the assignments (Kennedy et al. 1999). The author insists that this disagreement about who is responsible is the root of the problem in many traditional classrooms (Kennedy et al. 1999).
The Center for alternative learning understood that this conflict existed and needed to be addressed in the educating of drop out students (Kennedy et al. 1999). The administrators and teachers of the alternative school also recognized that students needed to experience academic success and that such success needed to be acknowledged (Kennedy et al. 1999). Therefore the students at the school that only had the capacity to complete second-grade-level work were given that level of work and carefully guided through the work (Kennedy et al. 1999). In addition, teachers at the alternative school made certain that the work that was assigned was also work that the students had the capacity to complete (Kennedy et al. 1999).
The author points out that such a strategy seems so practical but it is a difficult strategy to implement at the public school level because teachers are responsible for so many students (Kennedy et al. 1999). As such students get lost in the system and end up dropping out of school. In addition many students that have dropped out of the public school system have asserted that teachers often show favoritism. The author explains "The most frequent comment from at-risk students about public school teachers was that they showed favoritism. Teacher favoritism results when some students acquire the social skills that a business expects from its workers. Those students coming from business-oriented families or from academic families have a far greater advantage in our public school system than do those students coming from poverty-stricken homes (Kennedy et al. 1999, pg 104)."
The article further explains that teachers and administrators in both public and alternative schools should be aware of the obstacles that many students face because these obstacles can greatly affect the students ability to learn (Kennedy et al. 1999). If teachers and administrators are more aware of the climate that children encounter in their homes and their neighborhoods they can work more effectively with students to ensure that these obstacles do not prevent the students from receiving an education (Kennedy et al. 1999).
The Center for alternative learning has been successful in teaching at risk students because it has taken all of the aforementioned concepts into consideration. In doing so the school has created an environment that is conducive to learning and committed to developing students that understand the rules of society and how to abide by these rules. Ultimately many of these students have been able to improve their grades and go on to have successful lives. This type of successful program is essential to assisting school districts throughout the country in understanding what alternative education needs to contain in order to be successful.
The purpose of this discussion was to examine alternative Educational Resources for Dropout Risk Students in American Public High Schools. The research indicates that there is a serious need to address the problem of high school dropout rates. This problem is so critical because individuals that do not receive high school diplomas are more likely to live in poverty, be incarcerated, and to have a shortened life expectancy. With these things being understood it is vitally important that school districts across the country focus on preventing high school dropouts and encourage students to stay in school.
In many school districts administrators and educators have chosen to develop alternative schools. One of the main strategies of these alternative facilities is to reduce class size to ensure that students get the attention that they need. This is a strategy that can not be implemented into the regular public school because there are so many students. The research indicates that in many cases students simply fall through the cracks and enter into high school without the capacity to complete assignments.
Some alternative schools are successful and some have struggled to differentiate themselves from public schools. The programs that are struggling to be successful have failed to adopt a curriculum that is geared toward the students that populate the school. On the other hand programs that have been successful have focused on fulfilling the needs of the students and gaining a better understanding of the obstacles that students face in their homes and in the environments in which they live. The research makes it apparent that an understanding of all these factors assists the alternative school in developing a curriculum and school environment that is conducive to learning. In doing so, these programs can successfully assist students in attaining high school diplomas.
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Dunn Thea K. (2004) Enhancing Mathematics Teaching for at-Risk Students: Influences of a Teaching Experience in Alternative High School. Journal of Instructional Psychology. Volume: 31 (1). Pg 46
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