What happens when a student loses the heart and desire to go to school? How can these students be motivated to stay in school? Tahlequah Public Schools knows part of the answer might be Central Academy Alternative Education. Alternative Education is an outstanding educational process incorporating appropriate structure, curriculum, interaction, and reinforcement strategies to stimulate learning with students who have not utilized their capacity to do so within traditional educational settings. TPS is so fortunate to have the alternative education program because we are able to focus on struggling students who have the ability to refocus and gain hope of graduating; these young people are going to be an important part of our community in the future.
Alternative education programs serve students identified as at-risk because their present or expected academic status indicates they might fail to complete their secondary education for reasons which may include academic deficiency, behavioral difficulties, excessive absences, pregnancy or parenting, family issues, substance abuse, financial issues, physical or mental health issues, juvenile justice involvement, etc. The alternative setting has smaller teacher/student ratio, more individualized instruction, and closely monitored academic progress. Students are engaged in a Life Skills program, participating in relevant curriculum and project-based learning, connecting their experiences to the outside world in areas such as job skills, budgeting, home skills, and etiquette.
Another program located on the Central Academy campus is the Cherokee County Regimented Education Academy (CCREA), under the direction of retired Command Sergeant Major Marcus Sams. This court-ordered behavioral and academic program serves students in a more structured and disciplined environment. Certified teachers individualize, differentiate, and monitor students, helping them with class assignments both traditionally and online, incorporating reading comprehension, fluency, and math facts. Students are encouraged to begin the road to school success, with the ultimate goal of being integrated back into regular school on grade level.
After school every day from 3:00-7:15pm is the Short Term Alternative Placement Program (STAP) for both middle school and high school students begins. The STAP program offers students the evening supper program as well, so students are able to eat each day they attend. There are certified high school and middle school teachers who collect student work daily from classroom teachers. The STAP staff provide instruction and supervision during the off-campus discipline assignment. There are also available resources such as computers, headphones, calculators, and textbooks. Students should be able to complete assignments in a timely manner and re-enter their classes without being behind in school work.
Another form of alternative education is the Adult Basic Education program (ABE). This program offers area residents instructional preparation for a High School Equivalency (HSE) exam, both at Central Academy and at Oklahoma Works. Within the ABE program, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes are available for students. There are now evening classes offered for both the HSE and ESL programs along with a concurrent Family Literacy program held during each of the night classes so parents can learn while their children have the opportunity to have fun in the Literacy Program.
Tahlequah Public Schools understands the importance that Central Academy makes in the lives of many students attending this district. Last year, 24 alternative education students proudly walked across the stage, becoming Tahlequah Tiger graduates! When a student needs another chance, plan, or direction to achieve academic success, alternative education might be the solution. However, before any education can take place, one key part must be addressed according to Dalai Lama, “When educating the minds of our youth, we must not forget to educate their hearts.”