Texas Comprehensive Center

Previous Work
October 2005 through September 2012

These resources were published under a previous TXCC funding; therefore, information contained therein may have changed and is not updated.

Briefing Papers

Alternative High Schools in
Rural Areas

Appendix A


Bear Lodge High School
Sundance, WY

Johnston, C., Cooch, G., & Pollard, C. (2004). A rural alternative school and its effectiveness for preventing dropouts. Rural Educator, 25(3), 25-29.

83% graduation rate

  • Voluntary enrollment, for a minimum of one semester
  • Transportation is provided for all students
  • Students earn privileges using a four-level Phase System based on behavior and attendance.
  • Characterized by small student/teacher ratio; committed school staff; high expectations and standards for behavior, attendance, and performance; flexible schedule; students work at their own pace; caring relationships between students and staff; safe environment
Westwood High School
Gillette, WY

Pollard, C. J., & Thorne, T. (2003). Student centered policies and practices help students "at risk" earn high school diploma. Rural Educator, 24(3), 27-33.

85% graduation rate (state rate is 81%)

Significantly lowered rate of teenage pregnancies

  • Personal attention from teachers—teachers learn about each student's personal life and design a "person-fit" plan for his/her high school completion
  • Innovation and flexibility in program planning; students can carry over partial course credit from one year to the next
  • Tutoring and study hall time available before and after school
  • Community partnerships and school-based business enterprises
  • Remedial education, work-study, and special interest programs such as community service
  • Counseling and guidance programs, support groups for students with relationship, parent communication, substance abuse problems
  • Services for teenage parents, including cost-free day care and training in child development, parenting skills, prenatal care, and childbirth classes
  • Parental involvement
  • Schoolwide celebration of graduation, including Senior Celebration Dinner for students and their families, teachers, and staff
  • Announcement over intercom when a student completes graduation requirement, followed by the graduate "walking the hall"—staff and students line the hallways and cheer as the student walks through
Cooperative Alternative Program (CAP)

Coleman, TX

Rossi, R. J., Vergun, P. B., & Weise, L. J. (1997). Serving rural youth at risk: A portrait of collaboration and community. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 2(3), 213-227.

Has kept at-risk students in school longer than area sites with similar students

Raised grades of students

Designated as a model at-risk and drop-out recovery program by TEA

Strategies have been replicated in other rural areas

  • Pooled material resources from several jurisdictions
  • Ambition vision
  • Site-based decision-making opportunity and authority
    Strong sense of community among administrators, teachers, and students; teachers and principal care about students on a personal and academic level
  • Innovation and risk-taking in planning and delivering program activities
  • Serves students from eight districts in four counties; superintendents of the districts make up governing board
  • Principal has authority for day-to-day planning and implementation of program; door always open to students, staff
  • Transportation provided for all students
  • Staff came with open minds and understood the challenge and the opportunity of working at the school; hiring decisions shared by entire staff; all teachers certified in their fields
  • State-licensed day care center
  • Seclusion of campus maintains safe, supportive environment for learning
  • Small classes, individualized instruction, school-to-work link, flexible scheduling, individual and group counseling, vocational training, paid work experience, innovative educational practices
Central Kansas Dropout Recovery Centers

Counties of Barton, Rice, Harvey, Marion, Reno, and McPherson

Bland, P., Church, E., Neill, S., & Terry, P. (2008). Lessons from successful alternative education: A guide for secondary school reform. Eastern Education Journal, 37(1), 29-42.

Students surveyed had all been former dropouts from regular schools who had since graduated from one of the centers

  • Caring atmosphere
  • Mutual respect, teamwork, responsibility for learning
  • Lack of competition
  • Individual student support, small class size
  • New start in neutral environment
  • Independent learning, self-paced; self-motivation
  • Flexible, expanded hours
  • Study one subject for extended period of time
  • Technology allowed accommodation of different learning rates, immediate feedback
Mat-Su Alternative School
Wasilla, AK

Paglin, C., & Fager, J. (1997). Alternative schools: Approaches for students at risk. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Lab.

80% graduation rate

90% are employed one year after graduation

  • Students attend by choice
  • School operates year-round, from 7:00 A.M. to 9:30 P.M. to accommodate work schedules
  • Services include day care, good bank, clothing bank, AA support group
  • Networks with more than 59 local, state, and federal agencies
  • Students must attend at least 3 hours a day on campus; any time missed must be made up
  • Small classes, self-directed studies, tutor always available
  • Online tutorial program for remote and homebound students
  • Heavy school-to-work emphasis; high school students must work at least 15 hours a week; middle school students must do community service
  • Teen parents must take life skills and parenting classes
  • All teachers serve as advisors and call students who do not show up for class
Black Canyon Alternative School
Emmett, ID

Paglin, C., & Fager, J. (1997). Alternative schools: Approaches for students at risk. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Lab.

Most students do not want to return to the mainstream high school

  • Hire teachers who are patient, tolerant, consistent, humane
  • Students have a voice in school policies
  • Located separately from the regular high school
  • Students study one subject at a time for 70 class hours and work at their own pace
  • Small classes, flexible scheduling, closed campus
  • Junior high students do not mix with older students
  • Parents involved in some of the disciplinary strategies
Eastern High School
Beaver, OH

Schomburg, G., & Rippeth, M. (2009). Rethinking virtual school. Principal Leadership, 10(4), 32-36.

All virtual lab students earned credits toward graduation, compared to 30% of students who attempted to earn credits working from home or the library

Student rating of the virtual lab was 93% positive

  • Time provided within the school schedule to work in the virtual lab
  • Counselor and aide in the room provided motivation and support
  • Subject-area specialists (regular education teachers) available throughout the day
  • Intervention teachers available to help with IEP students
  • Provided seniors with a last chance to make up credits for graduation
  • Students work at their own pace
Tonasket Alternative High School

Tonasket, WA

Paglin, C., & Fager, J. (1997). Alternative schools: Approaches for students at risk. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Lab.

Attendance is good

Program grew from 9 students first year to 34 the second year

Students have matured, gained social skills, and have better self-image and self-confidence

  • Located in separate building
  • Students choose to attend; a student with a behavior problem must maintain 4-6 weeks of acceptable behavior to demonstrate motivation to attend the school
  • Active, hands-on approach; reliance on community resources; credit may be earned through independent study program
  • Feeling of family identity and community
  • Group discussions and individual counseling
  • High expectations
  • Hire staff who love working with teenagers
(Undisclosed school)
South Carolina

Bates, J. T. (1993). Portrait of a successful rural alternative school. Rural Educator, 14(3), 20-24.

Improved attendance and performance

  • Usually fewer than 15 students per class
  • Focal point is on academic achievement
  • Counselor calls or goes to home of students who are absent; parents required to come in if there is any kind of problem
  • Students have access to counselor at all times; immediate and long range plans developed to ameliorate difficulties
  • Principal is pivotal force; has had training in counseling and administration; maintains open channels of communication with parents, students, and staff
  • Ongoing assessment of students and program
  • Professional development for staff based on individual/group needs
  • Discipline and respect integral part of the program; dress code enforced
  • Parents required to accompany student to entry interview and must agree to remain involved
  • Representative from business, industry, and community serve as mentors (includes mayor, college faculty, school board members, industry executives, others)
  • Diagnostic program helps individualize student reading plans
  • School board, superintendant show support through funding and mentoring; many businesses support financially
  • On Fridays, school ends after lunch for students who have been productive during the week
  • Field trips to museums, zoo, cultural and historic sites
  • "Gotcha Cards" for outstanding performance; recipients are taken to lunch at school's expense


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