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An alternative school is an educational establishment with a curriculum and methods that are nontraditional. Such schools offer a wide range of philosophies and teaching methods; some have strong political, scholarly, or philosophical orientations, while others are more ad hoc assemblies of teachers and students dissatisfied with some aspect of mainstream or traditional education.
Some schools are based on pedagogical approaches differing from that of the mainstream pedagogy employed in a culture, while other schools are for gifted students, children with special needs, children who have fallen off the track educationally, children who wish to explore unstructured or less rigid system of learning, etc.
There are many models of alternative schools but the features of promising alternative programs seem to converge more or less on the following characteristics:
In the United Kingdom, 'alternative school' refers to a school that provides a learner centered informal education as an alternative to the regimen of traditional education in the United Kingdom. There's a long tradition of such schools in the United Kingdom, going back to Summerhill, whose founder, A. S. Neill, greatly influenced the spread of similar democratic type schools such as the famous Dartington Hall School, and Kilquhanity School, both now closed. Currently there are two democratic primary schools, Park School and Small Acres, and two democratic secondary schools, Summerhill and Sands School. There are also a range of schools based on the ideas of Maria Montessori and Rudolf Steiner.
In the United States, there has been tremendous growth in the number of alternative schools in operation since the 1970s, when relatively few existed. Some alternative schools are for students of all academic levels and abilities who are better served by a non-traditional program. Others are specifically intended for students with special educational needs, address social problems that affect students, such as teenage parenthood or homelessness, or accommodate students who are considered at risk of failing academically.
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