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Model Programs Guide Literature Review: Alternative Schools

NCJ Number
Date Published
3 pages
Based on a literature review, this paper describes the features of alternative schools, explains the theoretical foundation for their development, and presents evaluation outcome evidence for their effectiveness.
Alternative schools provide specialized educational environments for students expelled or suspended from mainstream schools because of disruptive behavior or weapons possession, as well as students with chronically poor performance in mainstream schools. Alternative schools typically have small classrooms, high teacher-to-student ratios, individualized instruction, non-competitive performance assessments, and less structured classrooms. Alternative schools may also assess social skills in addition to academic performance and provide for family social services, health care, and parenting classes. In theory, such an educational environment will facilitate students to feel more comfortable in a learning environment, have higher self-esteem in the non-competitive environment, and have more positive and motivated attitudes toward school work. In addition, this development of more positive attitudes toward self and school is expected to reduce delinquent and problem behaviors. A meta-analysis of 57 alternative school programs (Cox, Davison, and Bynum, 1995) found that alternative schools had a positive effect on school performance, attitudes toward school, and self-esteem; however, they had no effect in preventing delinquency. This study also found that alternative schools targeting at-risk youth produced larger effects than other programs; and the more successful programs tended to have a curriculum and structure that emphasizes the needs of the designated population. Postive effects, however, tended to dissipate over time (1 year later). 12 references

Date Published: January 1, 2001