Alternative School Students' Perceptions of Past [Traditional] and Current [Alternative] School Environments

The opening of a new alternative school in a suburb of a small midwestern city in 1995 provided the opportunity to elicit student perceptions of their past and current school environments. Students were asked at two different times to complete three short scales that characterized teacher, counselor and administrative responsiveness to them: the first time they were surveyed they were asked about their former school; the second time they were surveyed they were asked about their experiences in their new alternative school. The students were also asked to rate the overall experience of their past and current school and explain their responses. The responses to these scales clearly point to a perception among the alternative school students that their new alternative school experience-- including interactions with teachers, counselors and administrators-- was significantly better than the schools they left. An examination of the reasons they gave for these differences is illustrative of the needs of these at-risk students and suggests intervention strategies to keep them in school.