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Degree in alternative education offered

September 18, 2008

UW–River Falls provides education majors the chance to compliment their bachelor’s with an alternative education major. An alternative education program was approved last year by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, a government organization. The graduate program certifies UWRF students to teach in an alternative education environment.

Alternative education offers students an opportunity to learn outside of traditional instruction methods.

They focus on smaller class sizes and emphasize peer community and close teacher-to-student relationships, Mary Manke, associate dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies said.

Alternative education schools are focused on effectively teaching “challenged students” or students who do not perform well under traditional educational methods, Manke said.

There are currently 14 students enrolled in the alternative education program at UWRF. To apply for the program the student must be a licensed Wisconsin educator.

Completion of the program awards a WI 952 license in alternative education. Courses are offered in the fall and spring, as well as during the summer. All courses are completed online in an open-ended and user-friendly format. Students can log into the system at any time and complete course exercises.

Alternative education options include charter schools, alternative schools, independent schools, and home-based learning.

“Chartering is a radical educational innovation that is moving states beyond reforming existing schools to creating something entirely new,” according to the U.S. charter schools Web site.

A charter school is a nonsectarian public school of choice that operates with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools.

The “charter” establishing each such school is a performance contract detailing the school’s mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment and ways to measure success.

The length of time for which charters are granted varies, but most are granted for 3-5 years.

Salaries for individuals with the alternative education certificate could exceed traditional annual payment.

“Unlike traditional public schools, charters are free to set their own pay scales. They are not subject to collective bargaining agreements and generally are not unionized workplaces”, CharterSchoolJobs.com, a staff recruitment Web service for U. S. charter schools noted.  “Hence, charter schools can and are (usually) more creative in their pay and incentive offerings to employees (i.e. bonuses, merit pay, stock options, etc.).”

According to a fast response survey system (FRSS) District Survey of Alternative Schools and Programs conducted in early 2001, the central U.S has the lowest percentage of Alternative Education programs, at 28 percent.

Rural areas rank lowest for Alternative Education programs offered, at 35 percent.

The FRSS surveys collect and report data on key education issues at the elementary and secondary levels.

The FRSS was designed to meet the data needs of Department of Education analysts and planners in a timely manner, said the National Center for Education Statistics Web site.

“It’s extremely important that students who are not able to succeed in traditional middle and high school programs can access programs that meet their needs,” Manke said. “Training teachers to serve in these programs is part of UWRF’s efforts to be sure that schools have teachers licensed in the areas where they are needed.”