An alternative school, or non-traditional school, is any education setting that is outside of the conventional education norm. Educational alternatives come in a many shapes and sizes, but typically root from dissatisfaction by educators, students, and/or parents with the typical classroom environment in public schools. An alternative school typically consists of:
Smaller classroom size - 1:1 instruction is growing in popularity.
Close student-teacher relationship
Essential student decision-making and skills gained daily
More involvement with school activities and around the community
Peer guidance and parental involvement
Prepares for a successful future and students can obtain skills inside and outside the classroom
And it’s no surprise that people are dissatisfied and their appetite for an alternative school is larger than ever. The typical middle school classroom in California has a student teacher ratio of over 26:1, with high school classes soaring well above 30. With budget cuts deepening in California and other states, resources dwindling, and class sizes ballooning, students are getting left behind.
In contrast, typically an alternative education setting including independent private schools, charter schools, or home-based learning, place a high value on smaller class sizes, closer relationships between students and teachers, and school culture. When this combination of ingredients are done right, students’ educational outcomes are dramatically improved.
According to the US Department of Education Institute for Education Science 2003 report, reducing class sizes paid off. The average student in smaller classes scored 60% higher on the Stanford Achievement Test in reading/math than students in regular sized classes. In addition, the same study showed that the average student tutored one-to-one reads more proficiently than approximately 75% than the average untutored student.
Halstrom High School, an alternative private school in Southern California and online, has positively impacted its students for the past 28 years with one-to-one instruction based alternative education, providing students with essential skills to succeed insides and outside of the classroom. Halstrom offers flexible scheduling options for actors, athletes and professional students and one-to-one instruction for students utilizing iPad technology loaded with etextbooks and learning apps for those with learning disabilities, social anxiety and those that may need a more individualized approach to learning.
All in all, everyone benefits from more choices in education. Alternative schools each have their own particular “cure” to the limitations of traditional schools. And parents, students, and teachers can rest assured that they don’t have to settle for one-size fits all when it comes to where they spend their school days. For a list of private alternative schools in California click here.
There are many factors that may cause a student to struggle in school
, such as learning disabilities or issues with friends and family. The study techniques outlined here are suggestions to help your child improve test scores
and over all comprehension.
- Organized Note Taking – Summarizing the subject material is a great way to record the important sections from a lesson. To do this implement the following:
- Ask the Five W’s & One H - as you are reading re-cap the section by asking why, what, where, when, who and how to re-cap the section.
- Annotation – jot a note down in your own words that will help you understand the material you just read.
- Visual or Auditory Learner? – If you are a visual learner, reading may be enough to remember the material, or try drawing pictures, diagrams and graphs or even watch videos found online to summarize the material. If you are an auditory learner, record yourself re-capping the material or listen to lessons online.
- Use of Note Cards, Pencils, Pens & Highlighters - By simply using different colored pencils and pens for different meanings or highlighters to make an important section pop will help you remember what you read.
- Review – Re-read your notes and test yourself by answering the five W’s and one H.
- Practice Memory Techniques – We have all seen and heard those folks on TV who are able to memorize the most mundane things after hours and even days without thinking about them. Why? It’s because they practice association when needing to remember something. When studying, build a story around what you are reading or associate a word with an object, place, TV show, etc. For students who are struggling in school, try this at home – Ask a family member to come up with three random words and as they say the word, think of something that reminds you of that word. For example, the word tree reminds me of the word free. Trees are free to enjoy. Second word, pine cone. As I enjoy looking at a tree a pinecone hits me on the head. And so on…visualize this story as the words are being read or said. The next day, have your family member ask you which words you were supposed to remember. I bet that you recall the funny story and will remember which words they are. This study technique takes practice but can be very fun and creative.
- The Obvious – Eating and Sleeping. Teenager’s brains continue to develop until they are well into their early 20’s. For this reason kids need 9-11 hours of sleep a night to be fully energetic and for quicker brain function the next day. In addition, making sure students eat healthy meals and also staying hydrated helps with concentration. Remember the old saying – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Snacking on healthy items (carrots, pretzels, cheese) throughout the day is also extremely beneficial. Avoid high sugar diets and drink plenty of water helps prevent fatigue.
- Ask For & Find Help – Consult with your child’s teacher. There are a number of techniques that teachers may recommend to practice outside of school or implement in the classroom, such as visual learning aides or posturing questions in a manner to engage the class in a memorable discussion about what was learned. Outside of the classroom there are a number of resources to help students struggling in school. Think about who has expertise in the subject matter among your friends/family and who seems to connect with your child. A different perspective may help the child retain and understand the material better. If such a resource is not available, call a local one-to-one instruction tutoring center. Ensure the tutors are educators and will be the same tutor working with your child throughout the tutoring program.
No matter what, don’t give up on students who may be struggling in school.
If these techniques do not work consider a school with small classes or 1:1 instruction
where the teaching is based on content mastery
, and tailored to student’s needs and pace. Schools that offer one-to-one instruction prepare students for life in college and beyond by teaching organizational and time management skills for independent learning and empowering students to take control of their learning in a fun and memorable way.
Does class size matter? Often asked and debated, the question of class size and its impact on student experience and achievement is an important one. The answer is both simple and worthy of some explication. The short and sweet answer is yes, class size matters and a great deal, but it begs a question or two. In what context does it matter? And to whom? And it is in the answers to these questions that we discover just how much it matters for students and their teachers.
Does class size matter in content delivery? In small classes, I can give individual students more attention and better understand their specific needs. Students have more time to ask meaningful questions and I have more time to give meaningful feedback, both on the spot and in response to their work. There are fewer classroom management issues that interfere with instruction and students are likely to have greater access to resources and opportunities for learning. In a one-to-one classroom, these benefits are magnified. I’m able to tailor course content to each student’s needs. I may have several students taking the same course, but with one student, I spend more time on writing and with another, I spend more on reading critically and developing grammar skills. I am able to give each student what he or she needs. No “one size fits all” curriculum in my classroom. If a student understands the concepts, we move on.
Does class size matter in re-teaching and remediation? The reality in education is that some students just don’t get it the first time around. In my classroom, I’m constantly assessing my students for understanding. When they aren’t getting it, we stop immediately to diagnose the problem. I’m able to address problems as they arise, reteach and move forward confidently, knowing that the student is ready to go. In cases when students have to remediate an entire course, we have the unique opportunity of focusing that curriculum on the problem areas. I can ask students why they failed a class. We can focus on those concepts. In this way, they are not simply repeating the course for the sake of a grade, but really acquiring skills and closing gaps.
Does class size matter in rapport and relationship building? The second students enter the classroom, whether they know it or not, they enter into a relationship with the teacher. That relationship is critical to the teacher’s ability to facilitate learning experiences, and students’ willingness to take risks and ask questions as they learn new concepts and skills. In one-to-one instruction, relationships grow organically because so much of what goes on in the classroom is conversation-based. We are on the same team, working together towards their educational goals. Because learning happens at a much faster rate in one-to-one instruction, I’m able to spend time early in the class fostering relationships with my students. When there is trust between teacher and student, more productive work gets done.
I’ve taught in all kinds of classes, from the very large (45-50 students) to the very small (one student). I’ve taught all kinds of learners, from the reluctant to the highly advanced. No matter the environment, no matter the student, one thing remains the same. I see the best results in students when I am able to give them personal attention, when I am sensitive to their needs, and when my teaching decisions are responsive to their progress. I want to bring out the best in every student that I encounter and when I work one on one with students, I am able to do that.
One-to-one instruction is based on the research of Dr. Benjamin Bloom from the University of Chicago which shows that learning occurs at a rate of 98%.
About the author:
Mandy Paterson is a teacher at Halstrom High School. She received her teaching credential and a Master of Arts in English from Cal State Fullerton. Before coming to Halstrom, Ms. Paterson taught English and ELD in a traditional public school.
Here is an example of the extremes that families to take to help their children get into a top-tier college. If the student truly cannot learn effectively at a regular school, why attend at all? More evidence that a one-to-one educational model is a superior model for all types of students (purely from a learning perspective).