Master of Education: Alternative Education

About the Program

The term 'alternative education' is used to describe education delivered outside of the traditional school setting. Alternative education programs began to develop in the late 60's and early 70's. Alternative education initiatives developed as parents, students and professionals in the field of education began to realize that new and varied approaches to education for students would better meet the needs of students. The alternative education movement grew exponentially during the 80's and 90's as a direct result of, and in response to, high dropout rates, truancy, school failure, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency and other factors. Alternative education continues to thrive as social problems including school violence and family dysfunction create new challenges for communities across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the nation.

The aim of alternative education is to provide students who did not thrive and succeed in the traditional school setting with another opportunity to receive an education. Most state adopted definitions of alternative education include components such as location, instructional methodology, and desired outcomes.

The program is designed to be completed in two years by taking two courses per semester including summers. The program may be completed earlier by taking additional courses beyond the two per semester, however, participants not completing within seven years may be required to repeat coursework.


The Alternative Education program makes it possible for education professionals to engage in reflective practice while improving teaching and program development skills. The program encourages exploration of methods, research, and epistemologies that focus on both the learner and systemic changes that will benefit all students. Students will develop skills, knowledge, and competencies that will benefit them in their work in alternative and/or regular education settings.

Goal Statement

The goal of the Alternative Education program is to prepare graduate students with the knowledge and skill base required to work with at-risk youth in non-traditional school settings. Teachers, social workers, counselors, and administrators in alternative settings, correctional settings, urban schools and regular education settings will find the Masters program to be an asset in their work and of value to the students they serve.