The US scholar Aron (2003, 2006; Aron & Zweig, 2003) has argued that developing a typology of alternative education provision is not reflective of what actually happens. She suggested that in reality the practice in alternative education programmes and schools has always showed blurred and overlapping elements. Together with Zweig (2003) she analysed ways of categorising alternative education and concluded that there were a variety of approaches to understanding the field, via:
- historical, legal and operational definitions
- defining purposes compared to mainstream schools
- describing schools, programmes, and approaches
- by population and psychological social needs
- by operational setting
- by content, qualifications and/or intended outcomes
- using Raywid’s three types or variations on her typology of effectiveness
- by educational needs
- by funding/governance
Aron ( 2006, p 6) opted for a definition of alternative education as
… schools or programmes that are set up by states, school districts or other entities to serve people who are not succeeding in traditional public environments. Alternative education programs offer students who are failing academically or may have learning disabilities, behavioural problems, or poor attendance an opportunity to achieve in a different setting and use different and innovative learning models. While there are many different kinds of alternative schools and programs, they are often characterised by their flexible schedules, smaller teacher-student ratios, and modified curricula.
This definition eliminates students who are coping or even doing well in mainstream schools and who might choose an alternative school or programme simply on the grounds that it is different. It does however begin to delineate something of the pedagogies characteristic of alternative education. Aron’s framework (below) allowed for the individual characteristics of programmes to be mapped.
|General type of alternative education||
|Focus/purpose (and mix):||
Operational setting-proximity to K-12:
|Operational setting-location of activity||
|Sponsor or administrative entity||
|Funding sources (and mix)||
One can imagine that this framework might also lend itself to a ‘scorecard’ on which providers would be able to tick the point in each category which applied to them.
Aron, L. Y. (2003). Towards a typology of alternative education programs: a compilation of elements from the literature. Washington DC: The Urban Institute.
Aron, L. Y. (2006). An overview of alternative education. Washington DC: The Urban Institute.
Aron, L. Y., & Zweig, J. M. (2003). Educational alternatives for vulnerable youth: students’ needs, program types, and research directions. Washington DC: The Urban Institute.