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An opportunity school is an alternative to regular schools. Students who may be applicable to attend opportunity schools are students who have unique situations that may hinder their abilities in an average schooling environment. This may include: students who cannot work well in large groups, such as in an average classroom; students who have difficulty paying attention to their teachers or their school work; students who have been suspended or expelled from their home school and need to make up their credits; pregnant students; students with physical or mental health problems; students who don't feel comfortable among certain teachers or classmates; students who cannot afford the cost of attending a regular school; and other unique situations.
A common misconception is that opportunity schools are only available for "troubled youths". While this may be true in some cases, an opportunity school is not made for the sole purpose of being a holding place for "troubled youths". An opportunity school is an available option for students with various unique situations who may otherwise fail to succeed in a regular school environment. On the other hand, opportunity schools are, quite contrary to their name, often a place of little or no opportunity, with dumbed down classes, prohibitions on extracurricular activities, prohibitions on socializing, and often a schedule with no time between classes and a rule forbidding being on campus before or after classes. They are often used as a punishment or a dumping ground for students the system does not want to deal with in any sort of reasonable or constructive way, such as zero-tolerance policy violators.
Students who exhibit poor behavioral skills can be sent to this school as a punishment due to the fact that they are unfit to stay in a regular learning environment.
In the early 1950s, the Allentown School District, Allentown, Pennsylvania, began one of the earliest gifted programs in the area. It was also called opportunity school. Students in the program were selected through teacher recommendations and a required minimum score on a standardized IQ test. In the 1950s and 60s, the program was for students in grades 3 through 9. In grades 3 through 6, students were given typing instruction and Spanish instruction in addition to the normal curriculum. In addition, 7th through 9th grade students were given Spanish instruction and advanced English, mathematics and science classes. Classroom activities were creative and did not follow the same curriculum as non-opportunity school students. Students were selected from each elementary school in the school district in second grade and attended classes in a central location. Students arrived at the schools where the classes were held by school buses, public transportation, or were driven by parents. In 1954, the Opportunity School classes were held at Jackson Elementary school. In the following two years, the fifth and sixth grade classes were sent to Jefferson Elementary school; they were then sent to South Mountain Junior High school for 7 through 9 grades. At the end of ninth grade, those students were then integrated back into the high school which served the geographic area where the student lived. Students who began third grade in 1961 and completed sixth grade in 1965 went to Jefferson Elementary School. They were then sent to one of four junior high schools and then to one of the two senior high schools (William Allen or Dieruff), again depending on the geographic area where the student lived.
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