Alternative Education

Frequently Asked Questions and Promising Practices

I. General Questions

2. What are the goals of Alternative Education?

The overarching goal of quality Alternative Education programs/schools is to provide options for students who, for a variety of reasons, are not benefiting from the traditional school structure. A more specific goal is to provide an educational environment that helps to prevent students from dropping out of school (or brings back students who previously dropped out), and to accomplish this through flexibility, intensive behavioral supports, self-regulation, social and emotional supports, and intensive instruction and remediation to help students meet state and local graduation requirements. Because students enrolled in Alternative Education programs or schools must be taught to the same academic standards established for all students, Alternative Education provides a different pathway for students to meet the same high education standards as all other students across the Commonwealth.

Alternative Education programs/schools may enroll students based on a particular theme or set of innovative instructional strategies. Alternative Education may also include programs designed to provide students a pathway to earn a diploma, which have been or otherwise might be subject to a long-term suspension or expulsion. Some Alternative Education programs/schools may place a heavy emphasis on behavior modification through positive behavioral intervention. Other Alternative Education programs and schools focus on remediation and social-emotional support for students who may be pregnant/parenting, truant, returned dropouts, transitioning from delinquency placement, and struggling students who are not meeting local promotional requirements. Schools that impose long-term exclusions may transfer students to Alternative Education programs/schools to address behavior as an educational matter and to mitigate the students' loss of education.

Depending upon the nature and purpose of the Alternative Education and the needs of the students being served, Alternative Education can serve students for varying amounts of time. The goal of the Alternative Education program/school may be to retain students until graduation or to transition students back to a traditional middle or high school.

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Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.