The need for quality alternative and special education programs has never been greater. An increase in the number of students with special education needs, rising dropout rates and mounting economic pressure from state and local funding sources are forcing public school districts to find creative solutions that accomplish their goals with limited resources.
According to the National Center on Secondary Education and Transition (NCSET), a child drops out of high school every nine seconds1. ESA’s alternative school programs help communities combat the staggering social and economic costs of high dropout rates.
More than half of U.S. public school districts refer at-risk students and nontraditional learners to alternative schools and programs in order to improve graduation and dropout rates. Still, there is a clear need to expand these programs as indicated by U.S. Department of Education data2, including:
- In the 2007–08 school year, 64 percent of districts reported having at least one alternative school or program for at-risk students that was administered either by the district or by another entity.
- There were 646,500 students enrolled in public school districts attending alternative schools and programs for at-risk students in 2007–08.
- Among districts that administered alternative schools and programs during the
2007-08 school year, one-third (33 percent) reported an inability to enroll new
students in those schools and programs due to staffing or space limitations.
While public schools have historically been the primary operators of alternative schools, many now find that partnering with specialist providers is often more cost-efficient and effective in improving graduation rates, a key component in maintaining and receiving federal funding.
Public schools can also access part of the $12 billion allocated by the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus package for Title I services, which includes programs authorized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), to fund ESA programs.
Public schools are required by law to provide special education services for students with special needs. Some schools and districts determine they are not equipped to provide these services, which presents an opportunity for them to partner with specialist providers to serve their special needs populations.
Historically, these services have largely been provided by small, independent operators, but as demand increases, parents and school districts are turning to larger, experienced providers with a record of national best practices.
According to a recent report published by the The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network and the CDC, one out of 88 children ages three to 17 has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).3
With increased diagnosis and awareness of autism spectrum disorders comes increased enrollment in special education programs and increased resources for public schools educating students with special needs. The number of special education students who require specialized services and curriculum increased from 8.3 percent in 1977 to 13.4 percent in 2008.4
Customized solutions created by specialists such as ESA can help public school districts address the complex academic and financial realities they face today.