Study shows alternative schools work

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 12, 2002

ANDIS – Studies from The Ohio State University show that alternative schools work.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

ANDIS – Studies from The Ohio State University show that alternative schools work.

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Statewide, more than 46,000 students participated in alternative education programs last school year. Of those in long-term intervention programs, nearly 80 percent were able to return to their regular classrooms, and 12 percent had other successes, such as advancing a grade level or graduating.

"Alternative education is an important part of our overall strategy to enable every child to succeed," said Gov. Bob Taft. "We’re helping thousands of troubled and disruptive students turn around their lives, focus on their education, and return to their regular classrooms. This is about building a better future for every child in Ohio."

"The success of the alternative education program is that school districts aren’t standing alone," Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Susan Tave Zelman said. "Through the excellent collaboration among the school districts, the juvenile court system, and the local agencies within the community, students are getting the help and attention they need, both in and beyond the classroom."

In September of last year, Zelman visited the county’s alternative school to sing it praises. Zelman called the school’s faculty and the county’s education community caring and committed to the success of students.

According to state statistics, the county’s alternative school is one of two schools in the state that has a return rate of less than 40 percent. Only 8 percent of the students who go to the school return the second time. Gallia County’s program, which is mirrored from the Lawrence County school, has an 11-percent return rate.

The school’s director, Mike Vavra said students come from all of the county’s school. The students are in grades 7-12 and the students are there for a variety of reasons.

"They come here for any suspendible offense," Vavra explained, "Our top three reasons are insubordination, truancy and tobacco use in the school."

Vavra said the rules at the alternative school are more rigid than in the regular schools and the students sign a sheet stating they understand what is expected at Andis.

The students are expected to act in a responsible manner while at the school and treat the staff – and one another – with respect.

"We teach discipline, respect, consistency and focus," at the school, Vavra said.

When they attend the school, the students keep their jewelry at home, restricted to wearing only a watch; girls keep their makeup on their nightstand because none is allowed; and the boys have to wear pants that fit. Baggy jeans aren’t allowed and if the student decides to wear them anyway, they are treated to a impromptu duct-tape hemming.

When the students arrive at the school their day of highly structured learning begins. Lining up on yellow tape line on the gym floor, the students stand at attention and are patted down and their coats and bookbags are checked for contraband. Silence and respect for themselves and others are the two main rules from the moment they enter the school.

The students then go through close-order drills. They learn and practice marching as a unit. Vavra explained that the drills aren’t so much for military reasons but as an exercise to build self-control.

Academic work and physical training fills the rest of the day’s schedule. The students exercise to build both self-esteem and self-control.

Vavra said the program offers a challenging, highly structured, therapeutic, rehabilitative, character-building program.

He explained that the school’s staff work to produce students who know how to act like "young ladies and young men" in the adult world.