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News & Views - Jan, 2002 Issue #89

Alldredge Academy Evaluation

(The June order to close Alldredge Academy issued by a Department of Human Resources Secretary was reversed by a judge three days after it was issued. Now, the academy and the state have developed a good working relationship, which includes drafting pertinent regulations that will protect children and still allow quality schools and programs to help children without unreasonable restrictions. The following is an independent evaluation by a respected psychologist after spending more than a week and a half in the field with the program. - Lon)

[Brent D. Slife, PhD is currently Professor of Psychology, with joint appointments in Clinical Psychology and Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology at Brigham Young University. His entire curriculum vitae is posted on this web site]

October 12, 2001

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing an unsolicited letter on behalf of the Alldredge Academy. It has come to my attention that questions have been raised about the Academy’s safety, integrity, and effectiveness. Having visited the campus recently (September 2001) and extensively evaluated its programming, I believe I have a perspective that could prove helpful to those making decisions about the validity of these questions.

First, allow me to describe the context in which I evaluated the academy. I am a Professor of Psychology at Brigham Young University (with joint appointments in Clinical Psychology as well as Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology). I am well-known to have extensive experience conceptualizing and evaluating therapeutic and educational systems.

For this reason, the administration of the Alldredge Academy sought my critical assessment of their programming. Although they paid for my services, it was quite clear at the outset that they wanted my CRITICAL evaluation, so as to improve their work with their students. My point is that I had (and have) no reason to provide anything but an honest and objective “outsider’s” assessment of the Academy – for its administration and staff and for whomever might read this letter.

My week long evaluation left me with the most positive assessment I have ever made of an educational institution of this type. After over 20 years in the field, I was frankly amazed at the process and product of this exemplary institution. Not only is the Alldredge Academy doing astoundingly positive things with some of the most troubled youth of our nation, but it is also doing these things with some of the most innovative and creative interventions in the discipline. Indeed, I predict the Academy will become a training ground for similar institutions across the country.

When I speak of innovation and creativity, I hasten to add that nothing the Alldredge Academy is doing is out-of-line or dangerous in any sense. That is, the innovation of this of school is by no means avant-garde in the negative sense. If anything, the creative nature of the Academy moves in the other direction entirely, because the Academy’s system and programming allows its staff to truly and authentically LOVE these kids.

Part of the secret, in my view, is the extensive training and intensive supervision of the staff. Unlike many educational institutions that pay lip service to “going the extra mile,” this unusual staff actually does it. I repeatedly witnessed – in all phases of the program - the type of care and caring that is, in my experience, several standard deviations above the norm for similar educational or therapeutic systems.

I am not completely clear why questions have been raised about the safety of the Alldredge Academy, but I can assure the reader that it is extremely unlikely that the cause of these questions was the neglect of the staff for their students. There are just too many structural, motivational, and supervisory safeguards in place for this to be true.


Brent D. Slife, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology

PO Box 1671 | Bonners Ferry, ID 83805 | 208-267-5550
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