What are the Advantages of Alternative Education?

It has always fascinated me as to why students who fail to achieve in traditional schools are able to thrive in what I call non-traditional schools (most commonly called Alternative Schools).  So I asked a group of respected Alternative Educators what they believed were the advantages of Alternative Education. Below are their comments:

I think another advantage to alternative education is a relentless focus not only on student achievement (both the academic and social/emotional development) but also on family and community engagement.  It takes a village…

Karen Scheessele?Director of Alternative Education?[email protected]

Educational service delivery is differentiated; teaching and learning is student centered; and school success is measured by both academic and social/emotional performance.  As a result of school-wide individualized instructional approaches, students and faculty develop healthy bonds that promote life-long learning for all stakeholders.

Bob Eichorn, Principal

New Directions Alternative Education Center

My reflection is this: Public education seems to focus on systems, rules, traditions, and constituencies. Alternative education has only one focus: students! What must be done for students to be successful? There are no competing loyalties. That is the advantage of alternative education.

Tom Trautman

For an at-risk student, good ALE practice begins with diagnostic steps to identify both the academic skills and personal/emotional/ situational status of the individual.  On the academic side, teaching and learning can then begin “where the student is” and can move ahead at a pace that leads to mastery.  On the personal side, barriers to learning can be removed or mitigated through support, counseling, provision of special services or other means.  Beyond being “advantages,” these approaches are essential for this population.

For other non-traditional students, the same philosophy of identifying individual barriers to learning whether they are physical, situational, or arising from some personal disadvantage is important.  ALE’s approach of tailoring learning programming to the needs of the individual student can vastly improve the chances that anyone will learn what needs to be learned.

Even for students who do well in traditional classrooms, lessons learned in good ALE environments – functionally defined assessments, individually paced and structured study programs, use of mediated content delivery, project-based teaching, etc. – can be applied with dramatically improved results.  The Alternative Learning community has much to teach all other educators.


We must remain student centered, student focused, and solution providers for our students, educators, families, communities, states and our nation.

Lori L. Lamb

What Are the Advantages of Alternative Education?

Alternative education gives hope and saves lives by giving students another chance.  It is one of the greatest joys in life.  It gives teachers a chance to recover their passion for one of the most difficult and most important jobs in the world…teaching.   It gives teachers an opportunity to do “whatever it takes” to interact with young people in an experience like no other, while providing options for students who thought they had no options.  These teachers seek out ways to make learning new and exciting, often thinking “out of the box.”  The responses of their students may be what cause them to continue their work in alternative education.  Those outside of the program sometimes note that these individuals were innovative, creative teachers in previous teaching assignments, but seem to be a little “crazier” now.  The teachers often respond, “What can I say?  I am an alternative education teacher.”  Each new year is a journey not a destination, a renewed opportunity to touch the future by engaging young minds.  I think it is what causes us to return to the classroom each year.

Students see the advantages of alternative education as a place that is student centered, safe, accepting of everyone, and a place where students feel that they belong.  It is never a less than education, but rather an approach that is different.  It is a place that provides respect, relationships, and relevance to the real world and a place where students can become re-engaged. Students report that the connections that are made by alternative educators are not so much in their methods, but in their hearts.  It is a place where students are invited and they can thrive, because it is a place where the environment is changed and not a place where we try to change students to fit our mold.  Alternative education is a model that believes all students can succeed, and a model that is leading educational reform.  Alternative education is powerful and is positively affecting our nation’s dropout crisis.

.Denise Riley

Assistant Director

Oklahoma Technical Assistance Center