In the sociocultural turmoil of the late 1960s, a movement emerged to create alternatives to conventional schooling and democratize public education through parental choice in schooling. This first detailed history of the public alternative schools movement reveals its links to progressive education theory and practice, describes the influences of humanistic psychology and Sixties Era radical critique on early alternative educators, and explains the movement's impact on the educational system. In addition to establishing school choice in the language of public education, the movement produced many examples of schools operating as democratic communities and contributed substantially to the reform idea of school-based management. The movement has also done much to inform educators, parents, and policy-makers of the benefits of small school size on student learning, the quality of human relationships in school, and school life in general. Once considered a marginal collection of small educational experiments, the movement has proven to be an avant-garde force in American education.