Halstrom Blog Post

Benefits of Alternative Schools

Benefits of Alternative Schools

For those who are unfamiliar with its definition, the term “alternative school” can be a confusing one. It does not specifically explain what kind of institution a school is, but seemingly only what it is not. It may help to know that the term “alternative schools” covers a broad range rather than one specific category. According to Wikipedia, “An alternative school is an educational establishment with a curriculum and methods that are nontraditional.” The key word here is nontraditional. Any school outside of the beaten path fits within this category.

Alternative schools provide a place for students who struggle within a traditionally structured system. For a parent worried about their student’s education, alternative schools can be what the name suggests: another option. Within the category of alternative schools are specific brands that can aid a multitude of situations all the way from innovative approaches to learning to safe-guarding at-risk students. Just as students are unique in their situation and needs, alternative schools are varied in their nature to accommodate these realities.

Alternative schools fight a negative stigma because the term "alternative school" is often synonymous with "failure" or "drop-out" school. This is an unfortunate bundling with the many types of schools with those for at-risk students that are themselves battling the stigma of failure. In her article Synthesis of Research / Alternative Schools: The State of the Art, education scholar Mary Anne Raywid examines different types of alternative schools and their effectiveness on the academic success of their students. She ultimately concludes that the methods applied at some alternative schools can be beneficial to both students who are struggling in school as well as students who are excelling. Alternative schools provide a different type of social and learning environment from their traditional counterparts and some even implement programmatic innovations. She reviewed multiple sets of data and found that “one of the most extensive studies of alternative schools to date concluded that its recommendations pertained equally to schools for youngsters who are and are not at risk. The recommendations would improve most schools.” Rather than just being filled with problem students, alternative schools address failures on the part of schools to adjust to the specific needs of students.

Halstrom Academy is an alternative school with campuses across California. According to Raywid’s classifications of alternative schools, Halstrom Academy is a “Type I alternative, where the creativity focuses on the instructional mode, and particularly on ways to provide experiential learning.” Halstrom also provides the Type III compassion. Its emphasis is one-to-one learning and a schedule created by the student with parental and instructional aid. Halstrom believes in the power of choice: “Parents don't have to accept whatever their local public school system offers. There is the option to choose the best setting for your child's educational needs.”

Halstrom seeks to counter the effects of larger classrooms where students often slip through the cracks. Halstrom’s instruction is based on the research of Dr. Benjamin Bloom from The University of Chicago who discovered students who learn with the one-to-one interaction outperform their counterparts in a traditional classroom by 98 percent. With a smaller setting, teachers are able to throw out the one-size-fits-all and help students create a customizable plan. With parental involvement, Halstrom’s team of experts works with students to set goals and develop a customized learning plan with a diverse curriculum that fits each student’s unique needs.

Every alternative school is different and parents should explore the different options offered by alternative schools to determine if such a school is right for their student. As Raywid explains in her study, “A good alternative school represents a carefully built community, an engaging instructional program, and a synchronized set of organizational arrangements.” These are things parents should pay particular attention to when considering a school for their student. To learn more, contact us today!