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Alternative school (sometimes called a nontraditional school), is the name used in some parts of the world (in particular the United Statesmarker) to describe an institution which provides part of alternative education. It is an educational establishment with a curriculum and methods that are nontraditional. These schools have a special curriculum offering a more flexible program of study than a traditional school.

A wide range of philosophies and teaching methods are offered by alternative schools; some have strong political, scholarly, or philosophical orientations, while others are more ad-hoc assemblies of teachers and students dissatisfied with some aspect of mainstream or traditional education.

United Kingdom

In the UKmarker the term Alternative School refers to a school that provides a learner centred informal education as an alternative to the regimen of traditional education in the United Kingdom. There is a long tradition of such schools which includes Summerhillmarker, the founder of which, A. S. Neill, greatly influenced the spread of such schools, Dartington, and Kilquhanity School and a range of schools based on the ideas of Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner

United States

In 1970, there were only a few alternative schools in operation in the United States. They originated to serve a growing population of students who were not experiencing success in the traditional schools. Today there are thousands, and the number continues to grow. The term "alternative" is now used to describe nearly every type of school imaginable, but many share certain distinguishing characteristics:

  • Small size
  • Close student-teacher relationship
  • Student decision-making
  • Diverse curriculum
  • Peer guidance & Parental involvement

This type of school is intended to accommodate students who are considered at risk of failing academically (These students are referred as at-risk students), for one or more of any several reasons such as challenging behavior; or a school with special remedial programs for students with emotional disabilities. Alternative school is closely associated to a special school however it allows more flexibility.

At-risk students

The term can be used to describe a wide variety of students, including,
  • academically disadvantaged
  • disabled
  • low socioeconomic status
  • probationary students


It is necessary to identify at-risk students as soon as possible. Once a student has been identified, remediation can begin. Examples of remediation include the following: remediation programs, tutoring, child care services, medical care, substance abuse awareness programs, bilingual instruction, employment training, and close follow up procedures on truancy and absenteeism. Schools also try to work with parents to help them learn ways to help their at-risk child.

Finally, the government is now recognizing that a decline in federal financial support and higher standards have been having a negative impact on at-risk students. Therefore, intervention programs that support school districts who are struggling to help their at-risk students as well as incentives for school districts who successfully help their at-risk students have been established.

At Risk Programs

Title I is one of the largest federal program in K-12 education. funded at more than $26.4 billion in the 2008 school year.

The Title I program sends money to school districts based on census counts of children from low-income families and children in several smaller categories, such as foster children, homeless children and those living in correctional institutions.

Most schools use the money to hire teachers, purchase supplies, and fund intervention programs to help the at-risk students . Many schools use the Title I program as reading intervention for struggling students.

See also


Sagor,R.(2004). At-Risk Students: Reaching and Teaching Them. Eye on Education, Inc.

External links

Further reading

  • Claire V. Korn, Alternative American Schools: Ideals in Action (Ithaca: SUNY Press, 1991).

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