What is an Alternative School?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2019
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An alternative school is an educational institution that provides an alternative education. This type of education is often strongly political, religious, or remedial in nature. It is also sometimes more advanced than a typical public school. A parent might decide to send his or her child to an alternative school to give the child a more diverse and challenging education, to instill religious teachings in the child along with the standard curriculum, or to help a potential dropout finish secondary education. While these schools vary in almost all aspects, they all generally have a small class size, diverse curriculum, and a lot of parental involvement.

Just like home-based education, education at alternative schools must teach subjects required by local law. Generally, these subjects include language, math, and science. In addition, an alternative school might have classes for religious study, present-day political happenings, and other areas of study that are usually not covered by a traditional school. Due to the small class size, students normally develop a strong teacher-student relationship.


A common type of alternative school is one that teaches special education or remedial studies. These schools are normally reserved for students who are in danger of dropping out, such as students with learning disabilities or students who have not been able to focus on their studies in the past due to drug addictions, pregnancy, or child abuse. Alternative schools for these students strive to help them finish secondary education and move onto post-secondary education. The teachers must usually keep distractions to a minimum, with a strict policy on acting out.

Another type of alternative school is one that focuses on scholarly pursuits, challenging the students with advanced subjects. Students in these schools are often already doing well with their studies and are now preparing for a prestigious university. In addition to challenging its students, the school might teach students how to man a farm, live a green life, or give the student other unique experiences rarely offered at a public school.

Alternative schools in general are often expensive private schools that accept a limited number of students. Applying for an alternative school is similar to applying to a college; students who stand out to administrators because of their past experiences or skills are often those who are accepted. Even if a student is not accepted, however, he or she might be put on a waiting list for the next semester.



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