Students served in Oklahoma's Alternative Education programs are at risk for high school failure for a variety of reasons which may include academic deficiency, behavioral difficulties, excessive absences, pregnancy or parenting, adjustment problems, or juvenile justice involvement. Alternative Education programs are specifically tailored to meet the needs of students who may be struggling with poverty, substance abuse, family dysfunction, or psychological or physical trauma. Some of the unique features of many Alternative Education programs include:
- Flexible scheduling
- Small class sizes
- Youth and family involvement in goal-setting
- Learning activities based upon students' interests and abilities
- Career skills training
- Service learning opportunities
- Innovative instructional techniques
- Open communication and positive relationships with faculty
- Assistance with entrance to college or vocational training
Definition: At Risk Student
At-risk children and youth are individuals whose present or predictable status (economic, social-cultural, academic, and/or health) indicates that they might fail to successfully complete their secondary education and acquire basic life skills necessary for higher education and/or employment. More specifically, children and youth may be deemed at risk if:
- They are a member of a household or family whose income is at or below the poverty level under criteria used by the United States Bureau of Census; or
- They have not made substantial progress in mastering basic skills that are appropriate for students of their age; or
- They have grades that consistently indicate major underachievement; or
- They have been determined to be at risk based on assessment by school staff familiar with the students' health, social, or family status as these influences may be impairing the students' success in school. Influences may include but are not limited to:
- Evidence of abuse of the student;
- The students' use of alcohol or drugs;
- Pregnancy; or
- Attempted suicide.
All of Oklahoma's Statewide Alternative Education Academy Programs must provide the following 17 Research-Based Components according to 70 O.S. § 1210-568:
- Student-teacher ratios conducive to effective learning for at-risk students;
- Appropriate structure, curriculum, interaction, and reinforcement strategies for effective instruction;
- An intake and screening process to determine eligibility of students;
- Appropriately certified teaching faculty;
- Teaching faculty with experiences or personal traits that qualify them for successful work with at-risk students;
- Collaboration with state and local agencies;
- Courses that meet the curricular standards adopted by the Oklahoma State Board of Education and additional remedial courses;
- Individualized instruction;
- Clear and measurable program goals and objectives;
- Counseling and social service components;
- Graduation plan for each student;
- Life skills instruction;
- Opportunities for arts education;
- A proposed annual budget;
- An evaluation component including an annual written self-evaluation;
- Service to students in Grades 6-12 who are most at risk of not completing high school for reasons other than disability; and
- Opportunities for student participation in vocational programs and extra-curricular activities, such as athletics, band, and clubs.
70 O.S. § 1210-568
- Beginning with the first semester of the 1996-1997 school year, the State Board of Education shall implement a statewide system of alternative education programs which shall be phased-in within seven (7) years. The statewide system shall include but not be limited to Alternative Approaches grant programs, funded pursuant to Section 1210.561 of this title, and alternative academies or alternative programs implemented pursuant to this section.
- Beginning with the first semester of the 2002-2003 school year, all school districts of this state shall provide alternative education programs that conform to the requirements of statutes and rules applicable to alternative education. A program shall:
- Allow class sizes and student/teacher ratios which are conducive to effective learning for at-risk students;
- Incorporate appropriate structure, curriculum, and interaction and reinforcement strategies designed to provide effective instruction;
- Include an intake and screening process to determine eligibility of students;
- Demonstrate that teaching faculty are appropriately licensed or certified teachers;
- Demonstrate that teaching faculty have been selected on the basis of a record of successful work with at-risk students or personal and educational factors that qualify them for work with at-risk students;
- Reflect appropriate collaborative efforts with state agencies and local agencies serving youth;
- Provide courses that meet the academic curricula standards adopted by the State Board of Education and additional remedial courses;
- Offer individualized instruction;
- State clear and measurable program goals and objectives;
- Include counseling and social services components with the provision that providers of services are not required to be certified as school counselors;
- Require a plan leading to graduation be developed for each student in the program which will allow the student to participate in graduation exercises for the school district after meeting the requirements of the school district as specified in the individual graduation plan for that student; provided, for students who enter the ninth grade in or prior to the 2007-08 school year, the plan shall specifically address whether the student is required to meet the graduation requirements established in Section 11-103.6 of this title;
- Offer life skills instruction;
- Provide opportunities for arts education to students, including Artists in Residence programs coordinated with the Oklahoma Arts Council;
- Provide a proposed annual budget;
- Include an evaluation component including an annual written self-evaluation;
- Be appropriately designed to serve middle school, junior high school, and secondary school students in grades six through twelve who are most at risk of not completing a high school education for a reason other than that identified in Section 13-101 of this title; and
- Allow students in the alternative education program, who otherwise meet all of the participation requirements, to participate in vocational programs and extracurricular activities, including but not limited to athletics, band, and clubs.
- The alternative education program of a school district shall be operational and serving students by September 15 of each school year.
- Each alternative education program of a school district shall receive funding based on the combined number of dropouts and students within the district who have been referred to a county juvenile service unit, a county juvenile bureau, or who have been committed to the custody of the Office of Juvenile Affairs. Each alternative education program shall receive incentive funding as follows:
- For the first year of operation, One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) per student;
- For the second year of operation, Seven Hundred Fifty Dollars ($750.00) per student; and
- For the third year of operation and each year thereafter, Seven Hundred Dollars ($700.00) per student.
Statewide alternative education funding shall not be used to supplant existing school district resources or to support programs that do not meet all the criteria for the statewide alternative education system. No alternative education program shall receive less than a total of Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00) per school year.
- By September 15 of each school year, all statewide alternative education funds received and expended for students participating in an alternative education program shall be reported to the State Department of Education by major object codes and by program classifications pursuant to the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System as adopted by the State Board of Education pursuant to Section 5-135 of this title.
- Elementary school districts, as defined in Section 5-103 of this title, may request a waiver from the State Board of Education from the requirements of this section to implement and provide an alternative education program. Any elementary school district that has not received funding pursuant to the provisions of subsection D of this section shall be automatically granted a waiver. If a school district is granted a waiver, no statewide alternative education funding shall be allocated to the district.
- The State Board of Education shall contract for technical assistance for operation of an Alternative Education Technical Assistance Center. The technical assistance provider shall be an entity located in Oklahoma that has been officially recognized by the United States Department of Education to assess and facilitate dissemination of validated educational programs in Oklahoma. The technical assistance provider shall have priority, if its operations are deemed satisfactory by the State Board of Education and if funds are available, for annual renewal of the contract.
- The duties of the technical assistance provider shall include, but shall not be limited to:
- providing initial and ongoing training of personnel who will educate at-risk populations through alternative education programs,
- providing technical assistance to school districts to enhance the probability of success of their alternative education programs,
- evaluating state-funded alternative education programs,
- reporting to the State Board of Education the evaluation results of state-funded alternative education programs, and
- providing in-depth program analysis and evaluation of state-funded alternative education programs.
- The State Board of Education shall not provide funding to an alternative education program that does not receive a recommendation for continued funding in the evaluation provided for in this subsection. Provided, any school district not receiving such a recommendation for continued funding may request a hearing before the Board with a review of the evaluation prior to the Board’s final determination.
- All alternative education programs shall be subject to statutes and rules applicable to alternative education, including any exemptions from statutory or regulatory requirements authorized by statutes or rule.
- An alternative education program may be offered by an individual school district or may be offered jointly by school districts that have formed interlocal cooperative agreements pursuant to Section 5-117b of this title. Any school district submitting a plan for an alternative education program serving fewer than ten students shall enter into a cooperative agreement with another school district to jointly provide the program unless the program has been granted a waiver from this requirement by the State Board of Education.
- Any materials or equipment purchased by a school district with revenue received for students participating in an alternative education program shall be used only in or directly for the alternative education program offered by the district or any subsequent alternative education program offered to students enrolled in that district. Such materials and equipment shall be made available exclusively to alternative education students during the hours that the alternative education program is operating; provided, the material or equipment may be used for other purposes when the alternative education program is not operating.
- Upon implementation of this subsection as provided for in subsection M of this section and contingent upon the provision of appropriated funds designated for such purpose, all school districts in the state providing alternative education programs as required in subsection B of this section shall expand the programs to include middle-school-grade students. The program shall conform to the requirements of subsection B of this section.
- Upon implementation of this subsection as provided for in subsection M of this section and contingent upon the provision of appropriated funds designated for such purpose, each urban school district identified by the State Department of Education as having a high population of elementary grade students who are at-risk and in need of alternative education shall provide elementary level alternative education programs. The State Department of Education shall establish requirements for the programs. For purposes of this section, "urban school district" means a school district with an average daily membership of thirty thousand (30,000) or more.
- Implementation of subsections K and L of this section shall be delayed until the current expenditure per pupil in average daily attendance in public elementary and secondary schools in unadjusted dollars for the 1998-99 school year or any school year thereafter for Oklahoma, as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics annually in the Digest of Education Statistics, reaches at least ninety percent (90%) of the regional average expenditure for that same year, and funds are provided. For purposes of this subsection, the regional average expenditure shall consist of the current expenditure per pupil in average daily attendance in public elementary and secondary schools in unadjusted dollars for each of the following states: Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, averaged together. By January 1 of each year, the State Board of Education shall report whether or not the ninety-percent expenditure level has been reached based on information reported annually in the Digest of Education Statistics by the National Center for Education Statistics. Subsections K and L of this section shall be implemented on July 1 after the first January 1 report verifies that the ninety-percent expenditure level has been reached and funds have been provided for the specific purposes of this section.
Student Data Form
Interlocal Yearly Contract
ST Data Form
Alternative Education Program funding is provided to 454 school districts in the state of Oklahoma. If you are interested in placing a student in the local alternative education program, please contact your high school principal's office for specific program information in the school district where you reside.
Oklahoma State Department of Education, Jennifer Wilkinson, Director of Alternative Education, (405) 522-0276