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From an early age, it has been perceived that education is the ticket to one’s success. Study hard! Do well in school! Go to college!

Supposedly by making education freely available to all children and adolescents, there is an equal opportunity for everyone to succeed in life. The path to success, however, is not so straightforward; some students do not respond well to the standard education system.

Some other paths for those students include the option of alternative education. Alternative education is an initiative within a public school district, charter school, or educational collaborative established to serve at-risk students whose needs are not being met in the traditional school setting.

This type of schooling has several different programs and models that differ from standard education; the various programs and models are aimed at a wide variety of students.

Alternative schooling is already an opportunity to many, but is it a suitable path for students? Should more schools offer it? Is the idea of alternative education itself beneficial to students?

A few teachers at Molalla High School responded to these questions. Social studies and English teacher Kurt Van Deren said, “For the most part, yes, I think we should offer alternatives for students who don’t plan to attend college. Having said that, though, I’m not sure what that should include or look like. Students need certain skills – reading, writing, and critical thinking skills – whether they attend college or not. Students should be learning those skills in all of their classes, but if we were to include a vocational or some other sort of alternative program, we would need to be sure that students continue to receive the same level of education in those skill areas as they currently do.”

Spanish teacher Jessica Melton had a similar response. “It’s key that all students fully understand the basics in reading, writing, math and science,” Melton said. “Once that is mastered, then specialized education is more appropriate and obtainable. I think it’s crucial that all students get the opportunity to learn the basics so that they can become successful at whichever avenue they pursue.”

Currently, Molalla High School does offer vocational tracks. One program that is offered is Oregon Outreach Incorporated (OOI). This program is only for 11 and 12 graders who are behind in credits. OOI has half-days where students can work at their own pace in packets and design their own credit with teacher’s guidance.

Another option offered is E-School, which is held after school Monday through Friday. This is available to any student who needs to make up a credit, with a cost of $75 per class.

The last alternative is Oregon Virtual Education (ORVED), an online high school. This option is free and also available to any student, but space is very limited.

MHS Senior Clancy Paul was asked if she thought alternative education would be beneficiary or disadvantageous to students. She said, “Alternative schooling is beneficial because it would be great for a lot of students who are struggling in school. It would allow school to be more exciting and personal. I also believe it would allow me to focus on my goals instead of goals that are set for me.”

In an increasingly diverse public school setting, the one size fits all approach created by a standard education system is too much of a simple solution that cannot possibly fit the needs of all, or at the very least a majority of students. Though it may require more time and effort, alternative education programs that benefit the individual student, and continue to teach the essential skills of reading, writing, and critical thinking that standard education programs focus on, will undoubtedly lead to the improvement of the quality of education in this country.

— Autumn Barber, a senior at Molalla High School, is the student intern for the Molalla Pioneer. She writes a weekly column called “Here’s the Scoop,” and as the Pioneer’s MHS correspondent, she covers school news as a photographer and reporter.

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