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Alternative education gives students a unique learning experience

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Little Rock, Arkansas – Associated with the negative stigma of students who get into fights on the school campus or are involved in gang activity – it was known as an alternative school – or an alternative learning environment.

“It shouldn’t be a negative stigma. And you’re right, at one time it was thought that this is where the bad kids go, or this is a punitive program, or it’s a life sentence. That shouldn’t be true at all,” said Matt Sewell, state director of state programs. “Kids are just kids at the end of the day, and a lot of our kids, they live in or experience a variety of circumstances in their lives ranging from homelessness, trauma, broken homes, teen pregnancies, and what we know is every situation or circumstance that a kid lives in is not the same. So AE programs offer something different than a one size fits all approach.”

ALE has now rebranded as alternative education or AE.

AE focuses not so much on the environment, but understanding why a student is behaving in a manner that’s distracting them from excelling in the classroom.

“It’s really a way to intervene on behalf of our students who have greater risk factors, challenges, or situations that are simply a lot of times out of their control. We also have students who might not be engaged in school or students who are experiencing some tragedy in their life that are really difficult to overcome,” said Sewell. “The one that really comes to mind is I had a young man whose father passed away. His father was the sole income earner in the home, working on a construction crew. A young man comes to my office one day and he says ‘hey today is my last day.’ He was going to take the place of his father on the construction crew. So having that program we had, I was able to expand the conversation with the student and provide for his educational needs, while also allowing him to take the place and continue to earn a living and income for his family. Through that, we provided him an education, we provided him with some work skills, and provided him with the opportunity to provide for his family and be the man in the home.”

The program gives students with greater risk factors, “core, plus more.”

“When we say ‘core, plus more,’ what we mean is the core academics, and the extra support and services that a student needs to grow into a contributing member of their school environment and the community at large,” said Sewell.

This is just an intervention to get you on the right track to eventually get you back into the normal classroom setting. “That is one of the efficacy measures of an AE program. The goal of any kind of intervention is to move students to a place where they might not need the intervention any longer. So, absolutely, that is the goal of any intervention program,” said Sewell.

You can also visit the alternative education website to get in touch with a representative.

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