Background and Overview
Public Act 13-122 required the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) to conduct a study of alternative school programs offered by local and regional boards of education and produce a report to the Connecticut General Assembly that examined:
- enrollment and discharge criteria;
- methods to obtain parental consent;
- enrollment by gender, race and ethnicity;
- curriculum offered;
- the length of school day and year;
- attendance and truancy rates;
- graduation rates;
- student academic performance;
- program effectiveness in meeting the needs of students enrolled; and
- program compliance with Connecticut General Statutes (C.G.S.) Sections 10-15, 10-16 and 10-16b.
Data were collected for four types of alternative school programs: alternative elementary and secondary programs; expulsion programs; dropout diversion/credit recovery programs; and districtwide special education and transition programs. One hundred and ninety-five school districts were surveyed, including local and regional boards of education, unified school districts, Regional Educational Service Centers and charter school districts. In total, 322 programs were reported by 100 school districts via an online survey. The results did not include Homebound (N=3) and expulsion only (N=20) programs. Based on this analysis, it was determined that there are 55 alternative programs and seven alternative schools across Connecticut accounting for approximately 4 percent of student enrollment. Approximately 90 percent of the alternative schools/programs served students in Grades 9 through 12. More than half of the students served (56.5 percent) were African American/Black or Latino. Almost two thirds were male (61.7 percent) and eligible for free lunch (58.5 percent).
The study determined that CSDE only had partially accounted for alternative school programs offered by districts. To that end, CSDE issued a May 29, 2014, memorandum to Superintendents of Schools notifying them of data collection needed to further inform the work of alternative schools. After consultation with internal and external stakeholders and the State Board of Education (SBE), the CSDE implemented a policy that required all programs under the purview of a district to request a unique organization code. This included off-site locations, multisite programs, and programs that run after school hours. Additionally, all programs had to report staff assignments; and students had to be reported in these programs through CSDE data collections. Students attending the public school during the regular school day and a separate program after school hours must have both education locations in the Public School Information System (PSIS).
As a next step to develop guidelines and best practices to support the operation of alternative school programs offered by local and regional boards of education, the CSDE established an Alternative Schools Committee in July 2014. The committee met over the course of a year in developing draft guidelines.
Subsequently, Public Act 15-133, An Act Concerning Alternative Education, required the CSDE to develop guidelines for the provision of alternative education. The statute required that such guidelines shall include:
- Description of the purpose and expectations of alternative education;
- Criteria for who is eligible to receive alternative education; and
- Criteria for how and when a student may enter or exit alternative education.
These guidelines are designed to support the operation of alternative education settings (schools or programs) offered by local and regional boards of education. The purpose of the guidelines is to ensure improved program designs and greater outcomes for students in alternative education settings. The Alternative Schools Committee then worked collaboratively to develop the draft guidelines to meet the requirements of the statute.