Giving Compass’ Take:
• The National Dropout Prevention Center calls for significant improvements to alternative schools in an effort to reduce dropout rates and help at-risk students.
• Why are alternative schools so often overlooked in the scope of K-12 education? How can you help support awareness for these schools and their students? What could your help mean for at-risk kids across the United States?
• Learn more about measuring student performance in alternative high schools.
In many school districts, and in some states, alternative schools are ground zero for dropout prevention and efforts to meet the needs of at-risk students. Alternative schools serve disproportionately high numbers of students with multiple risk factors, students of color, students of poverty, and trauma-impacted students (Gordon, 2017; Kim & Taylor, 2010; McNulty & Roseboro, 2009). Alternative schools typically have lower graduation rates, are often expensive and challenging to operate, and rank lower on accountability measures than other schools (Fresques, Shaw, Vogell, & Pierce, 2017; Sliwka, 2008). Improving student achievement in these settings is of increasing importance as districts are now accountable for closing achievement gaps among underperforming subgroups that often populate alternative schools.
Since 1986, the National Dropout Prevention Center has studied, analyzed, and consulted with hundreds of alternative schools of varying types and has reached three conclusions.
- Some but not all alternative schools produce surprisingly high levels of academic gains, behavioral improvement, and graduation outcomes for even the most atrisk students.
- There are strategies, approaches, and solutions that, if implemented properly, will significantly improve the effectiveness of existing alternative schools.
- When districts improve effectiveness and outcomes of alternative schools, system accountability ratings improve.
In Effective Strategies for Alternative School Improvement, the National Dropout Prevention Center offers a workable practice guide that school, district, and state leaders can use to analyze, modify, and improve their alternative schools, both to better serve their most at-risk students and to significantly improve graduation outcomes.
These schools and programs typically serve
our most at-risk youth, often have lower
academic success rates and lower graduation
rates than other schools, and are often the
most difficult schools to manage, lead, and