BPS Alternative Education Working Group: Spring 2019


Overall Objective

Alternative Education Working Group will work toward designing a portfolio of schools and programs in BPS that: 1) has the seat capacity to serve the different populations of students seeking an alternative pathway to graduation,  2) understands the unique needs of students, meets them where they are, and takes them to where they want to be, and 3) is responsive to not only the current demands of students in BPS, but the projected needs of students who are seeking an alternative pathway to a high school diploma.  Specifically, the group aims to address the following questions:

  1. What are the current strengths and challenges of the BPS Alternative Education Network?

  2. Is the constellation of schools and programs comprising the BPS Alternative Education Network designed to meet the specific needs and profiles of the students classified as Young & Far, Old & Far, Old & Close, Overaged Late-Entrant English Learners?

  3. What are the success indicators for alternative education schools and programs?

  4. How are students experiencing the transition into alternative education programs, and how can BPS better facilitate this process to ensure successful outcomes?

  5. How should the alternative schools and programs within Network 9 and at other high schools be redesigned in order to more effectively serve the students of BPS?

Members of the working group will review recent reports and related documents that call attention to the challenges and opportunities that relate to the constellation of alternative education schools and programs in BPS, the programmatic design of the options within the portfolio, and the population of students who may be “off-track.” The group expects to identify priority areas that warrant attention for possible short, mid, and long term recommendations. Possible priority areas might include:

  • Setting a clear communication plan to effectively market or share the offerings available in the portfolio of alternative schools and programs

  • Establishing alternative education accountability measures by leveraging an Early Warning Indicator dashboard and a gains-based approach to school improvement

  • Leveraging the Re-Engagement Center as a key entry point for overage, under-credited students who are new to BPS, students who are currently not enrolled or chronically absent, and students transferring from traditional schools to the alternative network


Discussion Notes from the 4/30 Shah Family Foundation Event

Key Questions and Insight for the Alternative Education Working Group’s Consideration

  • How do alternative high schools brand and market themselves in a way where students and the broader community don’t perceive them as “schools for bad kids?”

  • How can we address the needs of students who fall off-track in high school without branding them as being “off-track students?” How do we make sure that they don’t internalize those labels?

  • How can alternative high schools partner with traditional high schools to share their wisdom about how to keep students from dropping out in the first place? Our alternative high school educators have some of the keenest insights on serving these students effectively. How can we position them to support the work of educators in traditional high school programs?

  • What can we learn from the Early Warning Indicator data of current alternative high school students that might give us better information about who may be at risk of dropping out of traditional high schools?

  • What are some best practices for counseling students on their options in the alternative high school network? What kind of support do school counselors need to help them understand how to make the best matches for students who are transferring into this network out of traditional high schools?

  • How do we make sure that this working group is capturing and reflecting students’ voices in any recommendations that are made to change policy or program? It is critical that we understand the full context of why students disengage or drop out of high school, and that wisdom needs to be reflected in the action steps of this working group.  


Additional Questions or Ideas?

Tommy Welch, Academic Superintendent

(857) 753-5514

twelch@bostonpublicschools.org