Report gives positive review to alternative education programs

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A new report on alternative education programs highlights the state’s alternative education programs featuring “targeted services” for some K-8 students as a model that serves at-risk students with positive results. 


At-risk students who attended extended-time programs featuring targeted services increased scores on five of six standardized tests more than other students.


Such programs generally offer students more personal attention focused on math and reading skills and other student needs. Other groups of alternative education students not receiving such services made less progress than traditional students.


Judy Randall, evaluation manager with the Office of the Legislative Auditor, called the findings “meaningful and encouraging,” and recommends the Legislature allow all school districts to offer targeted services regardless of whether they provide other alternative programs. She estimates the cost of extending such services statewide between $12 million and $30 million annually.


Assistant Education Commissioner Karen Klinzing said the department has included the targeted services model in its Race to the Top application to the federal government for grants that could add $175 million to the state’s education coffers to boost the state’s lowest performing schools.


Alternative education programs are available in about 75 percent of the state’s school districts and enroll about 150,000, or 17 percent of its public school students. The programs range from full time “regular day” schools that substitute for traditional schools to “extended time” summer- and after-school programs and are offered to students who struggle in traditional schools and meet certain eligibility criteria, including chemical dependency, limited English proficiency, being pregnant or a parent, or having experienced recent homelessness.