Aspiring Teachers: Would You Feel At Home in a Nontraditional School?

Many teachers decide to work in nontraditional school settings. These may be private schools, but there are many public nontraditional schools, such as charter schools, alternative schools, and magnet schools. Let’s go into more detail about two of these options: private school teaching and alternative school teaching.

Private School Teachers: Because they are not controlled by local, state, or national governments, private schools generally have the right to select students. Private schools are funded almost entirely through student tuition. Many private schools have affiliations with religious denominations, and nearly all religious denominations manage schools across the country. For example, many private schools are founded on the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Quaker faiths. The Catholic Church has one of the largest networks of religious schools in the country, with 5,889 elementary/middle schools and 1,205 high schools. According to the National Catholic Education Association, total Catholic school student enrollment for the 2009–2010 academic year was 1,507,618 at the elementary and middle school level and 611,723 at the secondary school level.

Although private school teachers tend to be paid less than public school teachers, there are many benefits to teaching in a private school. The U.S. Department of Education Schools and Staffing Survey suggests that private school teachers are more satisfied with their positions than public school teachers. The survey indicates that, by a significant margin, private school teachers are more content about their classroom size and receive a lot more support from other teachers and administrators than their public school counterparts.

Alternative School Teachers: No single definition applies to all alternative schools or programs. Although these programs are built around a solid set of principles, the field of alternative education is still evolving. Alternative schools are usually small, highly individualized schools that operate apart from traditional schools, although they are usually a part of a school district. They share distinguishable characteristics such as small classes, close student–teacher relationships, diverse curriculum, peer guidance, and strong parental involvement. Typically, alternative schools are established in communities where social problems such as violence, drugs, and use of weapons threaten children’s ability to receive an adequate education. Alternative schools are designed to educate at-risk students, who are likely to fail or drop out because of obstructive environmental circumstances. At-risk students are characterized by low grades, high absenteeism, disruptive behavior, suspension, pregnancy, or similar factors associated with early withdrawal from school. Alternative schools seek to reduce the impact of negative community influences that lead to problems that interfere with children’s access to an education. Sixty-four percent of districts in America reported having at least one alternative school or program for at-risk students during the 2007–2008 school year.




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