Alternative Schools--How They Can Help Children

When it comes to the ways students learn, one size does not fit all. The traditional classroom setting doesn’t always work well for all students.

Alternative schools have been developed to create a good learning environment for students who may have challenges that a traditional school can’t address. An alternative school may be a valuable option for a student with a behavioral problem or a mental health challenge. Students that are good candidates for alternative education commonly challenged by:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Reactive attachment disorder
  • Asperger’s Syndrome or students on the Autism Spectrum
  • Attention deficit disorders
  • Obsessive/compulsive disorders
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorders

A good alternative education program works with school districts to develop instruction that helps all students be successful. In the short term, alternative education works to meet the needs of at-risk students. Over the long-term, the goal is to identify successful alternative education strategies and use these strategies as a basis for improving the learning opportunities for all children.

Programs range from early intervention for at-risk learners that help the student stay on the right track, to programs for students who have lost their way entirely. For the student who has lost his or her way, this might include detention-based education, credit acceleration or a behavioral health program. The alternative school can give the student an opportunity to go back to the traditional school and graduate.

Successful Alternatives

There are several successful alternative education examples in Wisconsin. One is Kradwell School in Wauwatosa, Wis. Kradwell is located on the campus of Aurora Psychiatric Hospital and is supported by Aurora Health Care.

The school’s student enrollment  is typically around 100 students. The student body is made up of high school and middle school students.


The schools 5 to 1 student-to-teacher ratio allows the state-certified educators to work closely with the students to provide academic, social and emotional support in a safe environment.

The school’s art therapy program engages students in a curriculum that helps advance the school’s approach to teach problem solving, coping skills and simply how to get along with others.

The school operates on a half-day schedule that gives students the opportunity to work on curriculum that is individualized to their needs and strengths.

Under the guidance of their teacher, students work at their own pace to earn high school credit and ultimately a high school diploma. Students who are credit deficient have an opportunity to get on track for graduation.

First-time visitors to the school may be surprised at how quiet it is. You’ll find the students focused on their studies or quietly working with teachers to receive instruction and guidance.

Parents are an important component of the success of Kradwell. Weekly communication keeps parents up to date and involved in the student’s progress.

Kradwell provides education opportunities to students in many Southeast Wisconsin Counties. School districts may refer a student with documented special education needs to Kradwell. Students also come to Kradwell without special educational needs due to being unsuccessful in the traditional school setting.

Meet the Author

Karen Boeckmann is a Middle School Teacher at Kradwell School in Wauwatosa, WI. Kradwell is located on the campus of Aurora Psychiatric Hospital and is supported by Aurora Health Care.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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