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There are several pros and cons that must be considered before deciding on an alternative high school education. The flexible curriculum, smaller class size, lower truancy rate, and low stress environment can provide a surrounding that fosters better learning. The difficulty in adjusting, reduced number of social interactions, and negative connotations associated with alternative education, however, can affect how the student performs outside the classroom.
Alternative high school education is characterized by a modified curriculum that does not follow the one used in a regular public high school. The curriculum can normally be adjusted to match the learning pace of the student, which is particularly advantageous for gifted students and those who have difficulty learning. An example of this might be a charter school for the gifted, created to develop the academic and artistic talents of the students.
The class size in an alternative high school is usually smaller than that of an average school. This allows for a lower teacher to student ratio. The lower ratio facilitates greater interaction between teacher and student and gives the teacher an opportunity to frequently respond to the student’s questions. Students that have difficulty interacting with a large number of peers may thrive at an alternative school. Additionally, the teacher can focus more on correcting some student misbehaviors that are usually ignored in a larger class.
Students may enjoy studying at an alternative high school because of its relatively relaxed environment. The absence of a large number of students and strict curriculum can translate to lower stress levels that are more conducive to learning. Alternative high school education also keeps students from “falling through the cracks” by placing more emphasis on developing the student’s strengths instead of maintaining a specific grade-point average. Students take pleasure from the studying and the rate of truancy is decreased.
On the other hand, the shift from a traditional setting to an alternative school can be upsetting for a student, especially if the transition is made later in high school rather than at the beginning. The group which the student was used to will be absent, and this may result in adjustment difficulties. This also applies when a student transitions from an alternative middle school to a regular high school. In addition, the lack of class diversity at an alternative high school may also affect how the student socializes in the future.
Another disadvantage is the stigma that may be attached to students from an alternative high school. Alternative high school education is commonly offered as a last resort to “at-risk” students that find it hard to function in an average class environment. Furthermore, a student that graduates from an alternative high school may have a tougher time applying for a job.
One major disadvantage of an alternative high school is that a lot of people in town recognize it as the school for troublemakers. If a student gets sent to an alternative school from a regular public school, people may have a tendency to wonder what he or she did to get there. Potential employers may have second thoughts about hiring a recent graduate of an alternative school.
I had a young neighbor who quit her regular high school only three weeks before she would have graduated. She spent a few months living on her own and working some temporary factory jobs. She finally decided she needed to go back and earn her high school diploma, not just a GED.
I helped her get enrolled in an alternative high school near our apartment complex. She managed to pass a few courses that allowed her to graduate a year later, but she decided to move back to her hometown and graduate from that high school instead. If it hadn't been for that alternative high school, I don't know if she would have been able to earn that diploma on her own.
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