Alternative Education

In US News I take a look at two different alternative programs (Rikers Island in New York City and Youth For Tomorrow in Virginia) and the role they play in the effort to ensure all students receive an education.  This is an issue that gets insufficient attention at all levels of education policymaking.

2 Replies to “Alternative Education”

  1. It seems like we could all agree on the need to expand high-quality alternative school systems. Sure, high-quality would be costly, but it would be cheap in comparison to continuing to waste money on doomed school reforms. As great as KIPP and many other charters are, they also would be overwhelmed just like neighborhood schools are if they were also prevented from enforcing their rules because there were no places for chronically disruptive and dangerous students.

    I’d only quarrel a little with your statement that “parents understandably do not want disruptive or dangerous students in school. But we cannot simultaneously demand “zero tolerance” and fail to build a network of quality alternative placements.”

    “Zero tolerance” is a sideshow. The real issue is schools that aren’t allowed to enforce even the most routine behavorial policies.

    I started in alternative schools (and yes they often are a dumping ground for teachers who should have been fired) but they also are a great place for rookies. Where else can you learn your craft working with soical workers, counselors, probation and other officers of the courts, and other with experience with troubled juveniles?

    Soon, we’ll be laying off large numbers of veteran social workers, etc., as well as wrestling with educational cutbacks. But we have the Obama windfall for Title and Special Ed funding. Rather than waste huge amounts of it on safe non-personell expenditures/toys that don’t risk “falling off the cliff,” why don’t we hire the best of those experienced veterans?

  2. Great article. Most of us who work with incarcerated youth know that these students realize the importance of an education and have a thirst for knowledge despite having reading and learning difficulties and/or being shortchanged in part, by their neighborhood schools. This and the fact that many juveniles turn their lives around with the help of innovative and effective alternative schools and teachers often go unnoticed. To counteract the negative media stereotyping which helps perpetuate “out of sight, out of mind” attitudes, more light needs to be shed on these institutions that expose both the good and the bad. Reports such as this article and the recent Justice Departments survey results on sexual abuse in detention facilities are needed to present a more complete and human picture of these students, their teachers and alternative schools.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.