Many of the 6,000 Maryland students that officially drop out of school each year are under the age of sixteen. However in the 2016-17 school year, this statistic will change as the state compulsory school age—the age in which children must legally attend school—increases from 16 to 18 years old.
While increasing the compulsory school age is a step toward addressing the student dropout rate, Maryland needs a concerted effort in all of the school districts to keep youth from opting out of school. Advocates for Children and Youth released a set of dropout prevention policy strategies in 2014 entitled Graduate Maryland. This initiative solicited feedback from parents, students, and key stakeholders around the state regarding the barriers to graduation that many youth encounter and suggested solutions for eliminating those barriers.
One key issue was alternative education and programming. The case for providing alternative pathways to graduation is necessary as not all students will excel in traditional learning environments. This circumstance is especially true for high school-aged youth who often have family responsibilities and financial challenges that make the traditional school environment next to impossible.
This white paper will define the meaning of an alternative program, provide an overview of alternative options and enhancements as well as share examples of promising and successful practices in Maryland and around the country