Policy Research Brief: Alternative Schools and the Students They Serve - Perceptions of State Directors of Special Education

Part of the Policy Research Brief series.
Camilla Lehr, Cheryl Lange, Eric Lanners
Managing Editor(s)
Mary Hayden, Vicki D Gaylord
Christen L Opsal


A brief reporting on findings from interviews conducted with 49 state directors of special education (or their designees). Recent data collected from a national survey estimates that about 12% of all students in alternative schools are students with disabilities. Yet we know very little about the nature of the instructional programs offered, special education processes and procedures in place, accountability practices, and outcomes for these students. In addition, we do not have complete descriptive information on the kinds of alternative schools and programs currently in operation. The brief describes their perceptions of (a) basic characteristics of alternative schools, (b) major issues for alternative schools, (c) major issues for state education agencies, (d) major issues for students with disabilities, and (e) educational reforms impacting alternative schools. The brief concludes with a discussion of trends that require further study.

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January 2003 
Volume 14, Number 1
Research and Training Center on Community Living (RTC-CL)


  • Education practices (K12 and transition)
    • Dropout prevention and student engagement
  • Specific life stage
    • Children
    • Adolescents and young adults
  • Educational accountability and assessment
    • Evaluation of education programs
  • Specific disability
    • Emotional/behavioral disorder (EBD)