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Alternative Education

About Alternative Education

Massachusetts Alternative Education Definition

Alternative Education is an initiative within a public school district, charter school, or educational collaborative established to serve at-risk students whose needs are not being met in the traditional school setting.

For the purposes of this definition, Alternative Education does not include private schools, home schooling, General Educational Development (GED) services, or gifted and talented programs. Alternative Education may serve some students with disabilities but is not designed exclusively for students with disabilities.

Alternative Education may operate as a program or as a separate self-contained school:

  • Alternative Education programs may function within a single school or be a program affiliated with one or more schools or school districts. Alternative Education programs must be affiliated with at least one school that has a school code assigned by the Department.
  • Alternative Education schools that operate as self-contained public schools must comply with Massachusetts laws and regulations that guide the operation of schools in the Commonwealth and must be assigned a school code by the Department.

Students enrolled in Alternative Education programs or schools shall be taught to the same academic standards established for all students in the Commonwealth. Alternative Education programs or schools shall employ highly qualified teachers as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. At the secondary level, Alternative Education programs or schools shall not limit student access to the opportunity to earn a high school diploma. All students enrolled in an Alternative Education program or school must be reported in the Student Information Management System (SIMS) as an enrolled student and assigned the designated Alternative Education code.

Students who may benefit from an Alternative Education include those who are pregnant/parenting, truant, suspended or expelled, returned dropouts, delinquent, or students who are not meeting local promotional requirements.

Last Updated: March 26, 2018

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149

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


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