How Students Get Banished To Alternative Schools
Historically, alternative schooling has been used interchangeably with terms like “reformatory school.” However, alternative schooling is painted to seem like the best option for students who do not work well in a traditional school setting.
Students who have consistent behavior issues, such as aggression, talking back to teachers or criminal history, are typically sent to alternative schools. However, a new trend has begun to occur where low-performing students in public schools are being sent to alternative schools, regardless of their past behaviors.
Some people see this as a good thing, separating the higher performing students from the lower performing students. However, others say that this practice hides the problems in the education system by making public schools seem to have higher standards than they really do, because of the lower performing students leaving.
The Benefits of Alternative Schooling
Alternative schooling, for many people, seems like a punishment for low-performing or students with behavioral issues. However, for students who do not fit well into a traditional school setting, the benefits of being in an alternative school can be huge. The NEA hosted a discussion board examining the community’s response to alternative schooling, and the results were hugely positive.
Both teachers and members of the general community saw the benefits of alternative schools for students who came from difficult situations or did not seem likely to graduate. However, this study also uncovered some of the faults currently facing alternative schools (read the full article here).
Some school districts are accused of sending any low-performing students, regardless of issues or behavior, to alternative schools to keep the high ratings of comparable local, main public schools. ProPublica, an independent and non-profit news organization, investigated several different public schools and alternative schools to see if this accusation rang true (read the full article here).
They found that many alternative schools offered far less extracurricular activities than other schools and structured their classes in a way that did not promote independent or critical learning. ProPublica also gathered reports of students without behavior or criminal issues being sent to alternative schools with little to no say in their education.
A Call for Resolution
In 2014, the Obama administration sent a letter to public school districts nationwide, urging them to reconsider their discipline practices and treatment of behavioral issues. This letter said not to discriminate against students based on “race, color or natural origin,” and prompted districts to use alternative schools only as a last resort (read the full letter here).
ProPublica learned that since the change in administration, there will be no changes enforced by the current bureaucracy. Many teachers and school districts are calling for reform within their individual state legislations, as seen by the Oklahoma teachers rallies in 2018. Without proper funding, these school districts will likely not be able to focus on changing their behavior and alternative schooling policies, and these issues will continue to fester.
Without the support of the school districts, and federal and state legislature, it seems unlikely that the current policies of sending low-ranking students in major public schools to underfunded alternative schools will change.