Alternative Education

Frequently Asked Questions and Promising Practices

I. General Questions

6. What are the benefits of Alternative Education programs/schools?

Many school districts use engaging and effective teaching strategies to meet the needs of particular students whom they are serving in Alternative Education programs/schools. For at-risk students, Alternative Education has the potential to offer a smaller and more personalized environment in which to learn and form strong connections with school staff and peers. Alternative Education may present a different pathway in which to achieve educational success and to earn a high school diploma.

Alternative Education programs/schools may also enable districts to maximize their use of teachers who are skilled in and dedicated to educating at-risk students. Furthermore, school districts are able to better meet the needs of their community, to the extent that Alternative Education programs and schools assist students who need smaller, more structured environments to address challenging behavior by utilizing, for example, positive behavioral supports.

The benefits of Alternative Education are currently most clearly documented among the grantees of the state Alternative Education grant program. The following is a brief summary of outcomes from the 11 Alternative Education grant recipient programs/schools from school year 2006-2007 (Fiscal Year 2007):

  • 533 'at-risk' students were enrolled.
  • Approximately 84% of the students passed the MCAS while enrolled in the program/school.
  • The average attendance rate was 84%, while the average student attendance prior to enrolling in the grant program was approximately 67%.
  • 89 students that had previously dropped out of school were re-enrolled in the Alternative Education program/school.
  • Enrolled students report increases in the following: interest and achievement in school, connection to caring school staff, and expectations for completing high school and entering higher education.
  • Based on interviews, students often report that they would have dropped out had it not been for enrolling in the Alternative Education program/school.

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

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


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