Alternative high schools for at-risk students
- Alternative high school programs aim to increase the likelihood that students at risk of academic failure receive either a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) diploma.
- Programs take many forms and may be delivered in schools or alternative community facilities affiliated with an accredited school.
- Programs may have a single focus, such as mentoring, or they may include multiple services such as regular academic instruction, counseling, behavioral services, social skills and support, and career education.
- Many school districts provide services in collaboration with the justice system, community mental health agencies, child protective services, substance use clinics, and crisis intervention centers.
- Referrals to alternative schools are often based on recommendations from school staff; committees of teachers, administrators, and counselors; district-level administrators; or parent requests.
Strength of evidence
Evidence level: Proven (highest tier)
Proven (highest tier)
Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps
High school-aged children
$1,700 to $12,900 per student
Outcomes and impact
- Strong evidence of improved high school graduation rates
- On average, improved graduation rates among high-risk students by 15.5 percent
- Studies show that all types of prevention strategies have success in reducing school dropouts
Keys to successful implementation
- Note: This content is under review
- Track student progress through unified databases.
- Improve teacher effectiveness by providing specialized training and professional development.
- Prioritize physical space and sufficient staffing in order to allow for a larger student capacity.
- Follow the models of charter schools, career-focused schools and dropout-recovery programs by providing small classes staffed by caring professionals and offering career counseling. These are more successful than alternative high schools that closely resemble highly disciplinary correctional programs.
- Hold high academic standards for students and set clear learning goals.
- Programs that foster a close internal community and connect with outside organizations and the local business community successfully give students a sense of safety and connection, and provide them with further opportunities.