Contrary to long-held beliefs, the group in need of quality alternative education is neither marginal nor small. Nationally, 1.2 million youth drop out of high school each year. Many others continue to attend school but make little progress, eventually finding themselves far from the expected goal of graduating within four years. The proportion of these struggling students is greater in low-income, black, and Hispanic communities, and it is especially concentrated in high-poverty high schools.
Today's off-track students are tomorrow's out-of-school youth. Some of these students will benefit from planned improvements now under way in traditional high schools, but others will require creative alternatives in significantly different settings. Unfortunately, there are far too few effective alternative programs to meet the need, and a dearth of effective state policies that would change that situation. State policy must promote Back on Track options that reengage off-track youth and help them graduate ready for college and career.
With the right policies in place, states can create pathways to graduation for this significant group of youth. To analyze whether and how quickly states are creating the conditions to improve alternative education programs, Jobs for the Future examined the alternative education policies of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. JFF has identified seven model policy elements that define a new alternative education policy set (described in detail under the Elements link at left). The elements are based on the most recent research and expert thinking in the field, as well as JFF's research for this report and our on-the-ground experience with effective alternative education policies and programs.
The map at right shows the extent to which each state has put these model policies in place. State pages, accessed by clicking a state or using the State Profile menu at left, provide more detail for states where at least one model policy element is in place. The full research methodology is described under the Methodology link at left. To ensure the information on this site remains accurate and up to date, we invite the public to contact us with updated information or feedback.
Read the accompanying report, Reinventing Alternative Education: An Assessment of Current State Policy and How to Improve It.
Back on Track is the term JFF uses to describe schools and programs that serve the off-track and out-of-school student population and put them on a path to success in postsecondary education. Back on Track schools combine challenging academics that prepare students for postsecondary success with a high degree of academic, social, and emotional support, often offered through community partnerships. Back on Track schools are designed to meet the needs of students at different points in their academic trajectory and help all young people make successful transitions to postsecondary education and careers.