ALC Combines Academic with Social-Emotional Learning

San Diego Union Tribune
Feb 20, 2013

A three-year-old alternative education program in the Oceanside Unified School District is demonstrating how to meet both the academic and social-emotional needs of students who have struggled in regular high schools and put them back on a successful path.

The Alternative Learning Center (ALC) opened to provide schools a better option than expelling students who had gotten in trouble and needed to be removed from traditional schools. Using APEX Learning, an online program, the school provides rigorous instruction with restorative practices so students can learn from their mistakes and make amends for their behavior.

"They're just the greatest group of kids in the world but wherever they were before just wasn't working," says Principal Barbara Higgins. "We push [the students] really hard. But we celebrate with them twice as hard."

Students also receive individual and group counseling and have opportunities for internships so they can develop college and career readiness skills.


In this video, ALC students share openly how the school has changed their outlook toward school and toward themselves.

Since the program began, almost 450 days of out-of-school suspension have been avoided.

The program has been so successful that Higgins has been invited to speak at several conferences, and schools both in and outside of OUSD are beginning to implement the model. In this piece for EdSource, Paul Meyers, the superintendent of the Standard School District, near Bakersfield, writes about how theATS - Alternative to Suspension program in his district is having positive results among middle school students.

"In the first five months of the program, suspensions had decreased 55 percent compared to the same time period in the previous school year," he writes. "In addition, only 7 percent of the students have had to repeat their involvement in the program."

To read more about the ALC, see this story in theSan Diego Union Tribune.