Frequently Asked Questions and Promising Practices
I. General Questions
8. What should be avoided in Alternative Education programs/schools?
Alternative Education programs and schools not observing best practices may in effect operate as "dumping grounds" for students with behavior problems or who are perceived as difficult to educate. Students are typically transferred into such schools involuntarily, perhaps as a "last chance" before expulsion. In order to avoid creating a "dumping ground," it is essential that students fit the target profile for which the Alternative Education program or school has, involvement been designed with community. Further, the implementation of the design must reflect a genuine effort to keep students in school and to educate them in ways that are consistent with statewide academic standards reflected in curriculum guidelines.
A number of Alternative Education programs and schools in the Commonwealth employ innovative practices with teachers who are committed to educating students who, for a variety of reasons, do better outside the traditional classroom. Demand for seats in these "choice" programs and schools often exceed supply.
Effective Alternative Education programs/schools realize a match between the student population that the district seeks to reach and those students actually referred and admitted. See Section #20 and Section #21 for more information on promising practices related to the enrollment and exit processes.
Success with the targeted population requires that the Alternative Education program/school does not function as a substandard educational placement. Students must not receive the message that they have been marginalized. Districts should recognize that at-risk students need intensive services in a positive environment to succeed. Facilities, transportation services, non-core courses, and extra-curricular activities must be comparable to the traditional program of studies.
The curriculum must be as challenging as that offered to students in traditional classrooms. Research demonstrates that the best approach toward students with learning deficits is to raise expectations. Challenging students academically communicates faith in their capacity to learn and inspires engagement in the process.
The "culture" of the Alternative Education program/school must be instilled with a sense that all students are valuable and can succeed. Program/school policies should be written to help students pursue their academic goals. Alternative Education programs/schools should address behavior as an educational matter and establish positive protocols short of disciplinary exclusion. Discipline must be integrated into the curriculum as part of the learning process.
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