Good Marks For Alternative Education Programs

The Twin Cities are getting good marks on their alternative education programs. The Minnesota-based cities are featuring targeted services for at-risk students in kindergarten through eighth grade and have found that these alternative education programs can serve as a positive education model for these kinds of students. In a recent review of these services, findings were cited showing that Twin Cities' at-risk students taking part in extended-time programs featuring the targeted services were found to have increased their scores on five out of six standardized tests as compared to other students' scores.

Personalized Attention

In general, these programs enable the students to receive more personalized attention in terms of math, reading skills, and in other areas of difficulty. The control groups of alternative education students who did not receive such personal attention failed to make similar progress and in fact made a great deal less progress than did students in traditional educational programs.

The evaluation manager for the Office of the Legislative Auditor, Judy Randall said that these findings are both, "meaningful and encouraging," and suggests that the legislature permit every school district to offer these targeted services no matter whether or not they provide other types of alternative programs. Randall believes the costs for extending these services to the entire state would come to somewhere between $12 million and $30 million on a yearly basis.

Boost Scores

Karen Klinzing, Assistant Education Commissioner says that the department has added the targeted services model in its federal Race to the Top application. The federal government might award grants of up to $175 million to Minnesota's education budget in an effort to boost the scores of the schools in this state whose students are giving a sub-par performance.

In Minnesota, alternative education programs are available to around 75% of the school districts. Enrollment is somewhere in the neighborhood of 150,000 students or 17% of all Minnesota public school students. Such programs run the gamut from all day regular schools that stand in for traditional schools to extended time after-school and summer school programs. The programs have been made available to students who have a hard time succeeding in traditional schools and who meet specific criteria for eligibility, for instance those having a limited proficiency in English, a chemical dependency, those who are pregnant or are already parents, or for those who have been homeless in the their near past histories.

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