What is alternative education?

What is alternative education?
Posted on 08/29/2018
Mrs. Kerri Ferrari, Director of Alternative Education

From Mrs. Kerri Ferrari, Director of Alternative Education Today's students attend alternative schools for a variety of reasons, including smaller class sizes, flexible schedules, and differing individual learning methods based on relationships between students and staff. Alternative schools were first established to help “troubled” students who had behavioral problems for which traditional public schools were ill-equipped to handle. Often times, students in an alternative school are labeled due to a stigma attached to such program. However, that’s just not the case in today’s educational world.

Alternative learning environments, like our Mexico Education Center (MEC), provide a space where students’ social and emotional needs are met. Just a few of the reasons a student may be enrolled in the MEC program include credit deficiency, learning disabilities, a significant trauma history, homelessness, previous drop out, a mental health diagnosis, incarcerated parents, children of their own, or other difficult life circumstances.

This year, MEC has expanded to accept 40 students as well as employ four instructors. Once in the program, MEC students participate in a variety of programs and curriculum. We offer online instruction, direct instruction, and life skills. Students also meet frequently with the Director for Social Emotional Support through individual sessions and goal setting. Our program is a trauma-informed school, which creates an underlying culture of respect and support.  

MEC is currently housed at the Hart Career Center; however, we are our own program.  Students are allowed to participate in extracurricular activities and continue to take classes at the Mexico High School and Hart Career Center to create a blended schedule. MEC is strictly an application and panel interview acceptance process. We are looking for students who want to graduate and are ready to make a commitment to their education.

Mexico Education Center also offers an alternative path to graduation through the MO-Options program where students are allowed to receive a high school diploma by taking the HiSet Exam (High School Equivalency) when they are at least 17 years of age and at least one year behind their cohort in credit. Further, they must have completed several prerequisite high school courses. MO-Options students must also be employed part-time, and they receive elective credit for these hours.   

Last year, we created a jobs program with a community partner, Youth 180. This program assists students in obtaining job skills and local employment opportunities. We were able to offer several part-time positions within Mexico Public Schools that include: custodial, food services, and classroom assistants. As Superintendent Dr. Zach Templeton stated, “If we’re expecting our community to hire Mexico graduates, then we should be doing the same.”

This year we have added the JAG (Jobs For America’s Graduates) program to MEC, which is a dropout prevention program assisting students to become self-sustaining citizens and career ready.

As society has changed so have our youth and our response to education. Many students today are not getting basic needs met at home, which places education at less of a priority. If you are unsure of where you are sleeping at night, it is hard to think about studying for a test, concentrating in class, or staying out of trouble. Overall, Mexico Education Center supports the mission of how an alternative school works to develop the whole child: academic, social, emotional, and career ready.