‘Best practices’ in alternative education

A national survey conducted by the US Department of Education (Carver, Lewis, & Tice, 2010) produced a list of ‘findings’ about the best alternative education on offer to American young people :

Personal Issues

–      Finding One – Students want respect and acceptance for who they are and what their abilities are.

–      Finding Two – High school students have not outgrown the need to be cared for.

–      Finding Three – Students have a life outside of high school. This must be taken into account.

–      Finding Four – Students will have a life after high school. They need guidance in figuring out what they want to do, what they can do, and how they are going to do it.

Academic Issues

–      Finding Five – Students learn at different rates and in different ways. They need staff who are patient with their learning and will persevere with the student until learning has occurred.

–      Finding Six – If high expectations are given to students, they will meet them, given necessary and appropriate support.

–      Finding Seven – High expectations translate into high goals

School Issues

–      Finding Eight – Success in the school creates school spirit and a pride of place.

These eight ‘findings’ can be matched to research on best practices which always include most of the following:

(1)   young people experience and value relationships with staff who: listen; are patient, prepared to have fun and are less formal; are fair, kind, and firm about rules; are prepared to negotiate; have clear, high and achievable expectations; see them as ‘teachable’ rather than as deficient in some way.

(2)   the curriculum is: relevant and connected to young people’s experiences, needs, aspirations and interests; has clear goals tailored to each individual; combines experiential learning with opportunities to catch up and accelerate learning; builds knowledge, skills and habits of mind; offers challenging tasks with real world applications; and uses feedback and authentic forms of assessment to build belief in the capacity to learn. There is flexibility, choice and routine; adult learning principles are used rather than didactic instructional methods. Students’ learning is carefully monitored and progress is celebrated.

(3)   agency and independence are built through the offer to be become someone different. All young people are able to have a say in their own learning, and about the overall programme and its operations.

(4)   while the focus is always on learning, health and welfare services support those young people who might benefit from them. There is a family atmosphere in which young people are encouraged to discuss problems and issues, to resolve conflicts and build resources to deal with potential and actual life challenges.

(5)   the alternative education on offer is smaller and more human than most traditional schools. There are smaller class sizes and lower teacher-student ratios. The facilities are generally good; ICTs are used to facilitate learning, not substitute for teaching, mentoring and coaching. Families/parents/carers are encouraged to become involved where feasible.

(6)   staff are committed and highly skilled. They are well trained and engage in ongoing professional development. They have a positive orientation to behaviour and to participatory processes, are concerned that young people feel safe and secure and are well versed in wholistic learning and teaching. [1]

These kinds of ‘best practices’ can be expressed as procedural principles such as those developed by KPMG for the Victorian Department for Education:

Good practice principles:

  • Inclusive
  • Developmentally responsive
  • Comprehensive, wrap around approach
  • Flexible
  • Timely and accessible
  • Mentoring relationships
  • Engage families and support networks

Approaches to education provision:

  • personalized learning
  • targeted supports
  • flexible learning options

Much of the work on best practice has been generated from case studies and surveys of providers, young people and associated stake-holders in schools and school districts/LAs. While there is little that might meet the test of an RCT, the consistency across time and place does suggest some trustworthiness in the findings. However, the key issue is that there is very little research evidence which ties these practices to outcomes for students. This is because there is relatively little research on outcomes per se; this is discussed further in the next section.

 References

2nd chance. (2012). International approaches to second chance education. London: 2NDCHANCEUK.org.

Aron, L. Y. (2003). Towards a typology of alternative education programs: a compilation of elements from the literature. Washington DC: The Urban Institute.

Batten, M., & Russell, J. (1995). Students at risk. A review of Australian literature 1980-1994. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research.

Bielby, G., Judkins, M., O’Donnell, L., & McCrone, T. (2012). Review of the curriculum and qualification needs of young people who are at risk of disengagement. Slough: National Foundation for Educational Research.

Bush, C., & Jones, B. (2002). Student voices: Why school works for alternative high school students. Portland OR: Oregon Department of Education.

Carver, P. R., Lewis, L., & Tice, P. (2010). Alternative schools and programs for public school students at risk of educational failure 2007-08. Washington DC: US Department of Education,.

Connor, J. (2006). What’s mainstream? Conventional and unconventional learning. Sydney: Dusseldorps Skills Foundation.

Daniels, H., Cole, T., Sellman, E., Sutton, J., Visser, J., & Bedward, J. (2003). Study of young people permanently excluded from school. DfES Research Report Rr405. Norwich: DfES.

De Jong, T., & Griffiths, C. (2006). The role of alternative education programs in meeting the needs of adolescent students with challenging behaviour: characteristics of best practice. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 16(1), 29-40.

Evans, J. (2010). Not present and correct: Understanding and preventing school exclusions. Ilford, Essex: Barnardo’s.

Gable, R., Bullock, L., & Evans, W. (2006). Changing perspectives on alternative schooling for children and adolescents with challenging behavior. Preventing School Failure, 51(1), 5-9.

Gazeley, L., Marrable, T., Brown, C., & Boddy, J. (2013). Reducing inequalities in school exclusion: Learning from good practice. A report to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for the Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth Brighton: University of Sussex.

Gutherson, P., Davies, H., & Daskiewicz, T. (2011). Achieving successful outcomes through Alternative Education Provision. Berkshire: CfBT Education Trust.

Hallam, S., & Rogers, L. (2008). Improving behaviour and attendance at school. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press.

Hargreaves, J. (2011). Vocational training and social inclusion at a glance. Adelaide: NCVER.

Kendall, S., Wilkin, A., Kinder, K., Gulliver, C., Harland, J., Martin, K., et al. (2007). Effective alternative provision. Slough: National Foundation for Educational Research.

Kinder, K., Halsey, K., Kendall, S., Atkinson, M., Moor, H., Wilkin, A., et al. (2000). Working out well: Effective provision for excluded pupils. Slough: National Foundation for Educational Research.

Martin, K., & White, R. (2012). Alternative provision for young people with special educational needs (LGA Research Report). Slough: National Foundation for Educational Research.

Mills, M., & McGregor, G. (2010). Re-engaging students in education. Success factors in alternative schools. Brisbane: Youth Affairs Network, Queensland.

Myconos, G. (2011). A path to reengagement. Evaluating the first year of Community VCAL education program for young people. Fitzroy: Brotherhood of St Lawrence.

Nelson, J., & O’Donnell, L. (2013). Approaches to supporting young people not in education, employment or training – a review. Slough: National Foundation for Educational Research.

Quinn, M. M., & Poirier, J. (2007). Study of effective alternative education programs: Final grant report. Washington DC: American Institutes for Research.

Quinn, M. M., Poirier, J., Faller, S., Gable, R., & Tonelson, S. (2006). An examination of school climate in effective alternative programs. Preventing School Failure, 51(1), 11-17.

Ross, S., & Gray, J. (2005). Transitions and reengagement through second chance education. The Australian Educational Researcher,, 32(3), 103-140.

Taylor, J. (2009). Stories of early school leaving: pointers for policy and practice. Melbourne: Brotherhood of St Lawrence.

Thomson, P., & Russell, L. (2007). Mapping the provision of alternatives to school exclusion. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Vulliamy, G., & Webb, R. (2000). Stemming the tide of rising school exclusions; problems and possibilities. British Journal of Educational Studies, 48(2), 119-133.

White, R., Martin, K., & Jeffes, J. (2012). The back on track alternative provision pilots. Final report. Slough: National Foundation for Educational Research.

Yohalem, N., & Pittman, K. (2001). Powerful pathways: Framing options and opportunities for vulnerable youth. Discussion paper of the Youth Transition Funders Group. Takoma Park, MD: The Forum for Youth Investment, International Youth Foundation.

 

Advertisements

One comment

  1. […] deal of case study research across alternative education programmes – this largely focuses on best practices. There is also research which evaluates individual programmes, and a little of this is longitudinal […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: