Alternative Schools  Dr. Rich Patterson

  As a former alternative school administrator, I know the value of offering alternatives to kids when things just look like they aren’t going to work out.  But I also saw first hand 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 easily as well to just keep peace in the house, but often that turned out to be false as well.

Letting kids of the hook, so to speak, with regards to making a consistent effort in school short changes the child later in life.  Take for example a high school English class in a traditional high school.  In most cases it is 18 weeks long and likely meets 5 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, may be 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 that 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 there are much fewer electives even offered.  Oftentimes students have the core courses, Math, English, Science, and Social Studies and maybe a few other classes and that is it.  This is another place where they are short-changed in their education.

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 to write some type of document pertaining to the job, and then the now adult discovers that they just 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 really had a difficult conversation with ourselves to be sure that it isn’t just a matter of making a more consistent effort.  If that is true now, how will a lack of effort haunt them all of their lives?