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Defining Alternative Education in Colorado

There are 47 alternative schools in Colorado …

What is the future of alternative education? And, what is the future of education in general? Is all public education destined to become alternative? 

Economically Disadvantaged: Students in schools determined to be eligible to participate in the Free Lunch Program under the National School Lunch Act[1]


Graduation Rate:

State Dropout Rate: Calculated using the annual event school dropout rate for students leaving a school in a single year determined in accordance with NCES CCD guidelines.

Migrant: A student may be considered to be a migrant student if either the parent or guardian, or the child or child’s spouse, have been employed within the past three years (or are any of the aforementioned currently employed) in some form of temporary or seasonal agricultural or agricultural-related work such as: planting or harvesting crops (vegetables, fruit, cotton, etc.), transporting farm products to market, feeding or processing poultry, beef, or hogs, gathering eggs or working in hatcheries, working on a dairy farm or a catfish farm, or cutting firewood or logs to sell. [2]


–          Students who have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)
–          Students who have been committed to the Department of Human Services following adjudication as juvenile delinquents or who are in detention awaiting disposition of charges that may result in commitment to the Department of Human Services
–          Students who have dropped out of school or who have not been continuously enrolled and regularly attending any school for at least one semester prior to enrolling in this school
–          Students who have been expelled from school or who have engaged in behavior that would justify expulsion
–          Students who have documented histories of personal drug or alcohol use or who have parents or guardians with documented dependencies on drugs or alcohol
–          Students who have documented histories of personal street gang involvement or who have immediate family members with documented histories of street gang involvement
–          Students who have documented histories of child abuse or neglect
–          Students who have parents or guardians in prison or on parole or probation
–          Students who have documented histories of domestic violence in the immediate family
–          Students who have documented histories of repeated school suspensions
–          Students under the age of twenty years who are parents or pregnant women
–          Students who are migrant
–          Students who are homeless


–          Students who have a documented history of a serious psychiatric or behavioral disorder, including but not limited to an eating disorder, suicidal behaviors or deliberate, self-inflicted injury[3]



Homeless: Individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence…; and

B. includes —children and youths who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing,economic hardship, or similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement;

ii. children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings…

iii. children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings; and

iv. migratory children who qualify as homeless for the purposes of this subtitle because the children are living in circumstances described in clauses (i) through (iii).[iv]

Alternative School: Criteria that a Public School must meet to be designated an Alternative Education Campus includes the following:  

–          Having a specialized mission and serving a special needs or at-risk population;

–          Being an autonomous Public School, meaning that the school provides a complete instructional program that allows students to proceed to the next grade level or to graduate;

–          Having an administrator who is not under the supervision of an administrator at another public school;

–          Having a budget separate from any other Public School;

–          Having nontraditional methods of instruction delivery; and

–          One of the following:

  • Serving a student population in which more than ninety-five percent of the students have either an individual education program pursuant to § 22-20-108, C.R.S. or meet the definition of a High-Risk Student; or
  • Serving students who attend on a part-time basis and who come from other Public Schools where the part-time students are counted in the enrollment of the other Public School; except that the results of the assessments administered pursuant to § 22-7-409, C.R.S., of all part-time students and High-Risk Students shall be used in determining the levels of attainment on the performance indicators for the Public School for which the student is counted for enrollment purposes.[v]


  • In total, Colorado school districts identified 12,302 children and youth experiencing homelessness
  • There are 47 alternative schools in the state of Colorado.
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