I teach at an alternative high school because it’s hard out there without a diploma. Students who have acted badly enough to be suspended at one school may find it difficult to enroll in others. However, every student deserves a chance to succeed in school. Alternative high schools can be that chance.
Many alternative high schools allow students to work independently from their text books at their own pace. The other students in the classroom may be working on a different page, in a different book, or for an entirely different course. This approach offers many advantages for many students.
Early Graduation is Possible
Because students work at their own pace, some students move through the curriculum quickly. Many can finish a semester-long course in nine weeks. Therefore, students who have missed lessons because of suspensions, medical issues or family moves can quickly catch up to their classmates, and others can graduate early.
More Individual Attention
Since teachers are usually not presenting a lesson to the entire class, they can usually address a student’s individual needs. Since teachers don’t have to worry about slowing down the pace of the class, they can stay with a student until he or she fully understands the concept.
Many students read slowly, or do not read well out loud. This causes them a great deal of embarrassment and often leads to disruptive behavior. However, this is rarely a problem at an alternative high school. Teachers rarely call on students to read aloud, and other students rarely know the rate at which their classmates are progressing. Therefore, students on a self-paced program at an alternative high school can achieve their goals at their own pace without being publicly embarrassed by the gaps in their skills base.
Fewer Hours on Campus
Because alternative high schools have more flexible schedules, students can often leave campus for paying jobs more easily. This is a big blessing for students who need money now, but don’t want to lose out on the later higher earnings that come with a diploma or college degree.
Of course, there are some challenges that come with attending an alternative high school. Since many of the students have had previous discipline problems, the atmosphere may seem less civil and more frightening than at traditional high schools. However, they are rarely more dangerous. Our campus, for example, is small enough that we can usually act very quickly when conflicts occur. We also have a Student Resource Officer nearby.
Further, because the focus is solely on achieving a diploma, alternative high school students will have fewer opportunities to play sports or participate in extra-curricular activities. The class-work may seem boring and quiet compared to the group work, games and discussions that teachers usually include in traditional lessons.
However, students who truly wish to overcome their previous choices can transcend these drawbacks. Alternative high schools can be the best way for such students to earn a high school diploma and achieve their life goals.