Alternative education under pressure

MUSKEGON, Mich. - At least 14 public school districts in the Muskegon area offer some type of alternative education, either on their own or through a consortium, but the programs are under both budget and academic pressure, according to a report in The Muskegon Chronicle.

A number of alternative education students will find it hard to complete the advanced math and science coursework that Michigan now requires, educators told The Chronicle. Additionally, alternative programs tend to have smaller class sizes as well as support services, which drives up their cost, the report said.

"I don't think John and Jane Doe fully comprehend the train wreck that's coming" when many students fail to graduate, Kathleen Wardell, program director for the Orchard View Schools adult and alternative education program, told The Chronicle.

Some school districts are closing alternative programs because the students fail to make adequate yearly progress under the terms of No Child Left Behind, which lowers the district's overall rating, Wardell told The Chronicle.

Muskegon Heights Public Schools closed its alternative program in November, when enrollment stood at 59 but average attendance was only 10 to 15 students, The Chronicle said. Those students returned to the district high school, but due to "assimilation issues" were then moved to a separate site, the report said. Now the program has 35 students and two teachers, Superintendent Dana Bryant told The Chronicle, and its future is uncertain.

The Muskegon Chronicle, "State shortfalls put alternative education at risk," March 11, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, "Some will get certificates, not diplomas," Feb. 23, 2010