Alternative Schools  Dr. Rich Patterson


 As a former alternative school administrator, I know the value of offering alternatives to kids when things look like they aren’t going to work out.  But I also saw firsthand many kids who truly didn’t belong in an alternative school setting.  So many of them had just given up on trying to do something they didn’t want to do.  The parents had given up too quickly to keep peace in the house, but often that turned out to be false as well.

Letting kids off the hook, so to speak, making a consistent effort in school short changes the child later in life.  For example, a high school English class in a traditional high school.  In most cases, it is 18 weeks long and likely meets five days a week for roughly 50” or so.  Students earn one semester of credit for completing those 18 weeks.

In an alternative school, an English class, depending on the structure of the alternative school, maybe 5-6 weeks long, meeting every day for 45” or so.  In comparing these two, you can see that there is no way a student can receive the instruction they would in a traditional high school class.  The same is true for math, science, social studies, etc.

Another common trait of many alternative schools is that the choice of elective classes is fewer.  Often students have the core courses, Math, English, Science, and Social Studies and maybe a few other courses, and that is it.  Be sure of the current course offerings in the school that you are considering.

Why does it matter?  It matters when the child later in life has a job where a supervisor asks them to send out an email to employees or write some document about the job, and then the now-adult discovers that they don’t have the skills.

Alternative schools do have their place for sure, but as parents and as teenagers, we need to be sure that we’ve had a difficult conversation with ourselves to ensure that it isn’t just a matter of making a more consistent effort.  If that is true now, how will a lack of action haunt them all of their lives?

Here is the link to another post that I wrote on Charter Schools: Public or Private?  Click here for the link, Charter Schools: Public or Private? – Dr. Rich Patterson (

the Very Well Family website has an article Is an Alternative School Right for Your Child?  Click here, Is an Alternative School Right for Your Child? (