Alternative Education Symposium Synthesis
"A Blue Print for Action"
For the purpose of this report the Alternative Education Learning Community ( AELC) is defined as all component school districts, BOCES, State Education Department staff and other partners connected to the operation of Alternative Education programs.
- The Alternative Education Learning Community (AELC) should determine the vibrancy and health of alternative education programs and establish very clear guidance as to regional needs of students and who will benefit most from the alternative education programs that are being provided. The programs have too frequently evolved to a "catch-all" program.
- The (AELC) should clearly define the alternative education program mission and goals, and develop performance objectives and an evaluation strategy to measure the success of the program including the "value added" objectives of the program.
- The AELC should provide guidance and options regarding location, structure and program activities that help to ensure successful programs. The guidance should be attentive to specific populations and ensure the attainment of academic and career and technical education goals of the program. The guidance should identify and promote appropriate public/private and public/public partnerships that bring the expertise and support of multiple providers to bear in creating effective interventions and programs for youth.
- The AELC should identify best practices in the use of staff, students, materials and physical plant to create supportive learning environments that are student friendly. A supportive student friendly environment exists when it encourages positive interactions between and among teachers and learners that promote trust, confidence and safety and help students achieve or complete a task.
- The AELC should identify best practices in the use of staff, students, materials and physical plant in achieving the personalization of instruction. Breaking Ranks provides a working definition that captures many of the elements identified by the participants in this roundtable discussion. "Personalization is a learning process in which schools help students assess their own talents and aspirations, plan a pathway toward their own purpose, work cooperatively with others on challenging tasks, maintain a record of their explorations, and demonstrate learning against clear standards in a wide variety of media, all with the close support of adult mentors and guides." This can be accomplished by reviewing requisites as well as impediments to achieve this status.
- The AELC should develop effective strategies to transition youth to home schools. Many BOCES alternative education programs are designed to arrest existing behaviors and provide social, behavioral and academic remediation to help students realize success. Too often the transfer back to the home school comes without the needed supports required to continue success.
- The AELC should develop creative and effective strategies to provide financial support for alternative education programs. Too often programs lack critical features required for success because of lack of finances. There are a number of successful financial strategies currently in place throughout the state that provide financial assistance to programs. These need to be shared with the AELC and replicated wherever possible.
- The AELC should develop effective educational strategies and identify appropriate therapeutic models that support the clinical needs of behaviorally challenged youth who participate in these programs. Specifically the focus should be on youth who have committed violent acts, for special education and declassified students, for students that scored at level 1 in the 8th grade math and English assessments, for students who are retained in the 9th grade, for students (16-20) with very low literacy levels and/or who have not taken any Regents exams during the first two years of high school, and for students returning from incarceration and institutionalization.
- The AELC should identify major impediments to engaging disengaged populations and develop strategies to rectify these concerns. Three areas that require immediate attention are graduation rate performance standards, NCLB highly qualified provisions and the capping of state aid.
- The AELC should identify established programs and strategies that are supported by rigorous or scientifically based research. These programs should be reviewed for potential replication with care provided to fidelity of implementation.
- The AELC should be acutely aware of current research and practice that has implications for students in alternative education.
- The AELC should identify marketing strategies to ensure that programs are perceived legitimately as customized approaches to learning and not inferior status programs.