What is an alternative high school? How is it separate from traditional high schools? Is attending one the best option for you or your child?

An alternative high school is simply a school that provides any educational experience other than what is deemed traditional.

What Is an Alternative School?

Alternative schools have been available to students since the 1830s when leaders of the Transcendentalist movement founded The Temple School. The trend proceeded with Montessori schools opening in the early 1900s and continued with the development of magnet schools in the 1960s.

Today, the definition of alternative school is very broad. There is no official "alternative school" designation or qualification an establishment must meet in order to be considered an alternative school.

Alternative schools provide a unique educational experience from traditional educational settings. Generally speaking, alternative schools aim to serve children who haven't been successful in a conventional school setting, often due to behavioral problems or learning disabilities.

Typical characteristics of alternative schools:

  • Smaller class sizes
  • Adaptable schedules
  • Flexible graduation requirements
  • Wide diversity in teaching methods
  • Non-traditional evaluation techniques
  • Address the social, mental, and emotional requirements of the student

Exploring the many varieties of alternative schools

Alternative schools can be part of the public school system or they can operate as a private school. Public alternative schools are sometimes located in the same facility as a traditional school and are sometimes located within institutional settings such as hospitals or juvenile justice facilities.

Examples of alternative schools:

  • Charter schools
  • Parochial schools
  • Boarding schools
  • Vocational centers, often with job training opportunities
  • Magnet schools, typically designed to attract students for specific subjects
  • Independent study programs where students study online or remotely

Alternative schools are designed to address a variety of different needs, so they have very diverse student bodies.

Common traits of alternative school students:

  • Behavioral or emotional difficulties
  • Students who have been suspended, expelled, or incarcerated
  • Certain limitations or learning disorders
  • Bored or not challenged in their current educational program
  • Difficult life circumstances
  • Specialized talents or academic pursuits
  • Difficulty learning in a traditional school setting
  • Medical needs that call for extensive care
  • Social or behavioral struggles
  • Students who are at-risk for or have dropped out of school

Here, at Makana Leadership Academy, our goal is positive "outcomes" that are perpetual. We answer to no bottom-line profit nor investor. Instead, we are driven by our triple-bottom-line objective. Our mission, which is to give "more suitable care" to our students, is the personal commitment of each professional on our staff. Our promise and our gift to our at-risk teen boys and girls and their families, is lasting change and a future with hope.

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Utah Department of Human Services
Utah State Board of Education
California Department of Education
The Joint Commission
Post Adoption Service
Greenwood Associates