Alternative public schools have evolved from their origins in school choice and the progressive education movement of the 1920's into a system of schools that have become the assigned "dumping ground" for a population of ill-prepared, behaviorally disruptive youth, a population that is also disproportionately composed of minority students. Research suggests these schools fall short of providing an optimal educational opportunity for their students. There are multiple factors that place alternative school administrators "at risk" of failing in their charge to educate. Using a case study from a Midwestern alternative school, the author focuses on policy and the role of administrators, presenting interviews with the state legislator, the district superintendent responsible for oversight, and the school's onsite administrator. The essay demonstrates implications of policy that emphasizes behavior over education and argues the need to develop a cultural climate within the alternative school far different than that of the traditional school. Policy must engage the role of parents, healthcare workers, social workers, probation officers.


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