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Race and Alternative Schools

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2006
38 pages
This study examined the relationship between the percentage of racial/ethnic minorities in a school district and the presence of at least one alternative school, as well as the traits/focus of these schools.
Using data from the U.S. Department of Education’s alternative school survey, this study found that the presence of an alternative school in a district was related to the percentage of minority race in a school district. Also, alternative schools are more likely to be present in suburban/urban areas, which are also areas with high concentrations of minority students. In addition, the findings show that most students are sent to alternative schools for disruptive and/or maladaptive behaviors, namely, weapons-carrying, drug/alcohol abuse, fighting, and chronic truancy. The alternative schools to which these students are sent offer structure and programming different from traditional schools in providing smaller classes, academic counseling, remedial instruction, and other types of counseling and programs tailored to specific needs that impede educational and social development. Alternative schools attempt to collaborate with other community agencies that have also intervened in the lives of the students due to their problematic behaviors and needs, including law enforcement agencies, juvenile justice agencies, social services agencies, child protective services, and mental health agencies. There is less collaboration with organizations that could help students structure their leisure time in positive ways and become involved in constructive community activities. Many alternative schools allow students to return to their district’s public schools. These exit plans tend to depend on a number of factors, such as improved grades and better behavior and attitudes. Approximately 10 percent of alternative schools do not allow students to return to their home school. In alternative-schools literature there is no consensus on what is meant by “effective.” 10 tables, 1 figure, and 34 references

Date Published: February 1, 2006