This study provides an overview of similarities and differences in how states and state education agencies define alternative education, as well as which states have alternative education standards and what those standards entail.
The study reviewed information on alternative education definitions and programs from state and federal websites and from local school system websites in Maryland. Findings show that 43 states and the District of Columbia have formal definitions of alternative education and seven states—Kansas, Maryland, New York, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming—do not.
The most commonly cited target population for alternative education is students with behavioral problems. The most common services listed in state definitions and policies regarding alternative education programs are regular academic instruction, counseling, social/life skills, job readiness, and behavioral services (e.g., anger management, conflict resolution).
The literature suggests that the definition of alternative education should include the target population, services offered, setting (e.g., in school, stand-alone schools), and scheduling (e.g., during school hours, outside of school hours).
The report also describes how states differ in whom the programs serve, where they operate, what they offer, and how they are structured. It also examines how states have developed alternative education exemptions to compulsory attendance laws.