The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) is calling on members of the community to participate in a survey about the alternative elementary school program it is offering. The Board is looking to determine interest and possible participation in the alternative programming offered at several Ottawa-area schools.
A document released by the OCDSB in September 2012, outlines the philosophy of its’ alternative programs. The document explains “the program provides students opportunities to meet Ministry expectations with flexibility to allow greater concentration in areas of their own interest and aptitudes.”
Although not a unique concept –alternative schooling programs are offered around the world-alternative school programs are often seen at the high school level and believed to increase student engagement. For example, the MET school model follows a similar premise proposed by the OCDSB in that students are encouraged to pursue curriculum that is of interest to them. On its’ website the MET school model purports to be “the model for 80 schools across the [United States]. It is the leader in school reform and is consistently identified by a sweeping range of education leaders as one of the most effective models in the country.”
Interestingly, a recent article published in the Journal of School Effectiveness and School Improvement has found the opposite is true when the alternative school model is employed at the elementary level. Researchers measured both student enjoyment and independent participation to evaluate the level of student engagement in alternative programs between kindergarten and grade 3. The findings showed that students of alternative schools were less independent, and thus engaged, when compared to students of traditional schools.
In its’ year-end report, the Alternative Schools Advisory Committee (Ottawa) noted that the alternative program still needs to work on several issues. These include, anecdotal reporting, standardized testing, staff accreditation, communication with parents, and equal program access across the school district.
Those interested in completing the survey with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board have until midnight March 31, 2013.