and Strategies for Positive Behavior:
Intensive Intervention Programs & Strategies:
Alternative Educational Strategies
Alternative education programs have been used for students from
first grade through twelfth grade.
Alternative education programs are designed to temporarily serve
students who chronically violate school rules or display severe
behavior problems. These programs serve as an alternative to homebound
placements resulting from suspension or expulsion from the school
system. For students in special education who have serious discipline
problems, amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (IDEA) 1997 have stimulated interest in the design of interim
alternative educational programs.
educational programs vary in teacher-to-student ratio, program setting,
emphasis on behavior modification, linkage of school to community
or workplace, the way academic subject matter is presented, the
emphasis on counseling for conflict resolution and anger management,
and the availability of comprehensive support services. Programs
have been created for students as young as elementary age. Some
seek to prepare students to return to their regular schools; others
prepare students to graduate from high school and enter the workforce
or postsecondary education directly from the alternative program.
However, effective alternative educational programs have a number
of traits in common. They place students in a structured academic
setting for a limited period of time, and help them build skills
to succeed in the general education setting. The value of alternative
programs are in the opportunity they provide to support students,
develop necessary skills, and temporarily relieve pressure on teachers
who have been unsuccessful in dealing with challenging students.
Alternative programs hold little value when they are intended as
a punitive measure and a "dumping ground" for certain
research-based alternative education strategies include the following:
ratio of students to teachers. This allows for high quality
instruction, more personal time for each student, and a greater
chance of student behavioral gains.
structured classroom. Within this structure, self-management
skills are taught, and high rates of positive reinforcement are
used. This will lead to more time engaged in academic tasks and
will teach them the self-monitoring skills they will need to succeed
in less restrictive settings.
rather than punitive emphasis in behavior management. A positive
emphasis rewards acceptable behavior and compliance, and directly
reinforces classroom rules that have been taught.
mentors. An adult mentor that takes a special interest in
a student; tracks the student's behavior, attendance, attitude
and grades, and uses positive reinforcement with the student can
make a significant difference in both the academic and the personal
life of a student with behavioral problems.
behavioral interventions based on a functional behavioral assessment.
A complete functional behavioral assessment identifies causes
of the behavior, factors maintaining the behavior, and positive
behaviors to replace the problem ones. Conducting an FBA may be
a crucial first step in the process of implementing positive,
effective behavioral change.
skills instruction. This instruction can include problem solving,
conflict resolution, anger management, and empathy training.
academic instruction. Instruction that is direct and includes
learning strategies; small, interactive groups; and directed responses
and questioning of students keeps them engaged and focused on
the material at hand. Difficulty of instruction must also be controlled
parents. Involving parents entails frequent communication
between the home and the school; parent education programs, provided
either at school or in the community, and other activities designed
to enfranchise parents.
Plan. Designing interventions to ensure that students can
effectively transition back to his/her "regular" classroom
is critical. Prior to reintegration, expectations, rules, and
procedures common in the student's regular classroom should be
implemented in the alternative environment. Behavioral interventions
and external reinforcement should be reduced over time to normal
classroom levels so that the student gradually comes to perceive
it as the norm. Receiving teachers should be involved in planning
Examples of the effectiveness of alternative education programs
include the following:
American Federation of Teachers has estimated that "for the
[$1,750] additional spent on every disruptive student attending
an alternative school, the public gains $14,000 in student learning
time that would have been lost, $2,800 in reduced grade repetition
costs, $1,750 in reduced welfare costs, and $1,500 in reduced
prison costs (Education Daily, 1995). This is a total savings
of $18,300 per student.
1996 study carried out by the Oklahoma Technical Assistance Center
(OTAC) reported that Oklahoma students enrolled in state-sponsored
alternative programs had generally improved their grade-point
averages while lowering their rate of failure, truancy, and discipline
referrals. In addition, 95% of seniors who had entered a program
in September had either graduated or received a GED.
a remedial discipline school in Philadelphia founded in 1994,
includes students aged 11 - 21 in grades 6 - 12. Most students
referred to Shallcross - for weapons charges, assaults, or chronic
behavioral problems - have already been in trouble many times.
However, with the program's combination academic-discipline approach,
Shallcross has todate proven successful. It boasts a 65 to 70
percent success rate, meaning that students and their families
have met all their goals.
& Additional Resources
American Federation of Teachers. (1997). Alternative placement
programs: Criteria for effective alternative placement programs
for violent and chronically disruptive students. Washington,
G., & Denti, L. (1999). Alternative education support for youth
at-risk. The Clearing House, 73(2), 76.
J.D., & Utesch, W.E. (1998). An alternative learning program:
Effects on student motivation and self-esteem. The Journal of
Educational Research, 91(5), 272-279.
M.A. (1998). Small schools: A reform that works. Educational
Leadership, 55(4), 34-39.
knife sets off big debate over right to attend school. (1995, August
8). Education Daily, 166, 1-3.
T., & Sprague, J. (2000). Alternative education strategies:
Reducing violence in school and community. Journal of Emotional
and Behavioral Disorders, 8(3), 177-186.
Department of Education. (1994). To assure the free appropriate
public education of all children with disabilities: Sixteenth annual
report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Author. Available: