Alternative school

Alternative school
This article deals with the physical schools based on an educational model that purports to be outside of, and more rigorous than, historically traditional ones, but one that is nevertheless still meant for those without cognitive disabilities or similar impairments. For the more general concept behind these schools, see the article alternative education.

Alternative school is the name used in some parts of the world (in particular the United States) to describe an institution which provides part of alternative education. It is an educational establishment with a curriculum and methods that are nontraditional.[1] These schools have a special curriculum offering a more flexible program of study than a traditional school.[2]

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 United Kingdom, School refers to a private school that provides a learner centered informal education as an alternative to the regimen of traditional education in the United Kingdom.[3] There is a long tradition of such schools which includes Summerhill, the founder of which, A. S. Neill, greatly influenced the spread of such schools, Dartington, and Kilquhanity School[4] and a range of schools based on the ideas of Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner[5]

United States

In 1970, there were only a few alternative schools in operation in the United States.[6] 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.[7] The term "alternative" is now used to describe nearly every type of school imaginable, but many share certain distinguishing characteristics:

  • Average or smaller classroom size
  • Close student-teacher relationship
  • Student decision-making and skills gained daily
  • More involvement with school activities and around the community
  • Diverse curriculum
  • Peer guidance and parental involvement
  • Prepares for a successful future and students can obtain skills inside and outside the classroom

This type of school is not only intended to accommodate students who are considered at risk of failing academically, but also students of all academic levels and abilities who are better served by a non-traditional program. Many programs are specifically intended for students with special educational needs, but others address primarily social problems that affect students, such as teenage parenthood or homelessness.

Students are typically referred to as at-risk students, and may have one or more of any several reasons such as challenging behavior, a need for special remedial programs, emotional disabilities, or problems that destabilize the student's personal life, such as homelessness or, in the case of migrant farmworkers, moving very frequently.[8]


Alternative schools in Canada share many of the same characteristics as American alternative schools. School boards, which are separate by municipality but funded by the province, choose whether or not they wish to have alternative schools and how they are operated.


Germany has a long tradition with Montessori and Waldorf Schools which are organized in their own national associations (with 994 Waldorf schools in the world there are 213 in Germany compared to 130 in the USA). These are based the concept of "Reformpädagogik" which is roughly equivalent to the anthroposophy concepts in progressive education. Other alternative schools are organized in the Bundesverband der Freien Alternativschulen (federal association of free alternative schools). These private schools only get limited funding which differs for each Bundesland in Germany.

Full public funding is given to "Laborschule" institutions which are schools attached to a research facility. They are supposed to explore alternative school concepts to be introduced to the general public school later on. The Laborschule Bielefeld had a great influence on alternative schools that do not adhere to the traditional concepts (Montessori, Waldorf, etc.). One result was the renewal of the democratic school concept.

South Korea

There are many alternative schools in South Korea. Moreover most of these alternative schools are based on religious faith and personal testimony.

See also


  1. ^ Definition of alternative school, accessed August 9, 2007. Archived 2009-10-31.
  2. ^ Definition of alternative school, accessed August 9, 2007.
  3. ^ "alternative schooling". A Dictionary of Education. Ed. Elizabeth Wallace. Oxford University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-19-921207-1
  4. ^ "Alternative school set to reopen". BBC News. 23 March 2009.
  5. ^ We’ll Fund Montessori And Steiner Schools, Say Tories Daily Express July 9, 2009
  6. ^ Alternative Schools Adapt, by Fannie Weinstein. The New York Times, June 8, 1986, section A page 14.
  7. ^ Brenda Edgerton Conley (2002). Sudbury Schools, Democratic Schools, Montessori Schools, and Waldorf Schools. id=N7zxYYpyLLcC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Alternative+schools#v=onepage&q&f=false "6". Alternative Schools: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1576074404. Sudbury Schools, Democratic Schools, Montessori Schools, and Waldorf Schools. id=N7zxYYpyLLcC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Alternative+schools#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved August 5, 2009. 
  8. ^ Changing Perspectives on Alternative Schooling for Children and Adolescents With Challenging Behavior, Robert A. Gable et al. Preventing School Failure, Fall 2006. Volume 51, Issue 1, page 5.

Further reading

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