New options for troubled kids 

Ten years ago, alternative education carried the stigma of at-risk youths in danger of dropping out of high school.

But school districts around the Peninsula are trying to change that by offering more options for students to advance, make up credits and learn trade skills for a job after high school.

Marshal Burgundy, director of alternative education with Sequoia Union High School District, said though alternative education is not new, it is moving in a direction that is more focused on students and their needs.

“We’re taking away the perception of academic second place,” he said. “Ultimately, these kids have to change their actions and behaviors in order to change themselves.”

The district school board is hosting an informal study session in March to better address the increase in demand and need for alternative education options.

Enrollment in alternative education is increasing, Burgundy said, with 436 students enrolled in one of the six district programs. More than 8,700 students are enrolled in the district’s five high schools.

Sequoia Union offers a range of choices that fall under alterative education. Programs include the traditional continuation school, continued learning through middle college, which allows students to take courses at community college campuses and career technical training to give on-the-job skills to students.

Independent study and the district’s adult school are also considered forms of alternative education.

Burgundy said the school district hopes to expand its programs and reach out to second-semester freshmen with three or more Ds or Fs and are in danger of dropping out.

Expanding alternative education is one of the Sequoia Union’s main goals, Board of Trustees President Olivia Martinez said.

“There are many students who can benefit greatly from something other than 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedules,” Martinez said. “There are studies around the country that have demonstrated that students who don’t do well in normal comprehensive schools can excel in alternative settings.”

Martinez said something different needs to be done to address the needs of students on the “fringes” of traditional education.

Kindy Stumpp, director of alternate education, attendance and welfare for San Mateo Union High School, said as alternative education becomes more widely accepted, more opportunities are created.

“It can be an after-school program, credit recovery, college credit program, online learning, continuation or small high schools and independent study,” she said.

Stumpp said the change has come in the last decade as the state Department of Education has begun to recognize alternative education and provided more options to these children.

“There’s been a real effort in the last 10 years,” she said. “They’re really trying to make options available.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com




Finding another way to help


Examples of alternative education designed to help at-risk students:

Continuation high school: Traditional high school with smaller class sizes and focused curriculum

Independent study: Allows students to work independently from regular class instruction

Middle college: Nontraditional high school collaboration between the Sequoia Union High School District and Cañada College that allows students to complete high school requirements and enroll in college courses

Ninth-grade transition program: Addresses freshmen with three or more Ds or Fs in the second semester by looking at curriculum and how to change courses to better suit the students’ needs

R.E.A.L.: Redwood Environmental Academy of Leadership, a partnership with Stanford University that provides students with education in the core subject areas through the lens of environmental science


Source: Sequoia Union High School District

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