Alaska’s Alternative Schools (defined as those serving high-risk students) provide a broad spectrum of critical educational and health-enhancing services to, arguably, Alaska’s most vulnerable youth. While the state’s Alternative Schools serve a diverse student population including students from all backgrounds, their student composition profiles differently than the student body that typifies Alaska’s traditional schools. Alaska’s Alternative Schools primarily serve youth who have been unable to achieve academic success in traditional school environments for one or more of a constellation of reasons. Examples of the identified student barriers to learning include homelessness, poverty, untreated mental health issues such as depression and social anxiety, teen parenting, substance use and abuse, and unaddressed health needs.
The Alternative School Coalition is currently funded through a collaboration with Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Division of Behavioral Health. This new 4-year intradepartmental state agency partnership, born out of the understanding that health and learning are interdependent, will provide vital mental health enhancing services and training to 11 alternative schools operating in 7 school districts across the state. The primary goals of the Alternative School Coalition are to simultaneously increase student health and academic achievement.
The Alaska Alternative School Youth Risk Behavior Survey results, from 2009 to present, provide additional insight into the self-reported myriad of social, psychological, and behavioral challenges that must be addressed before students can maximize their academic potential. For example, Alaska’s Alternative School high school youth reported disproportionately elevated levels of victimization; they were twice as likely to have acknowledged being the victims of domestic violence as well as of sexual assault, indicated higher levels of hopelessness, and reported lower levels of community support/connectedness than their traditional school peers. Indeed, the 2013 Alternative School YRBS results reveal a nearly universal pattern in Alaska’s Alternative School students of heightened involvement in the risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of premature death, disease, injury, and social challenges in the United States.
The following documents contain the analysis of the 2013 Alaska Youth Risk Behavior Survey results for Alternative Schools and Traditional Schools: