Practice Guide for Improving Alternative Schools Issued by National Dropout Prevention Center

Offers clear and actionable process for school leaders for improving graduation rates of alternative schools 

Anderson, SC—(February 10, 2020)—The National Dropout Prevention Center announces the release of a new guide for improving the effectiveness and the graduation rates of alternative schools. This practice guide offers a clear and actionable process and guiding questions that school leaders can use to analyze their alternative schools and programs and to make changes to improve student outcomes.  

There are approximately 10,000 alternative schools and programs in the nation. These schools typically serve the most at-risk students of local school districts, serve a disproportionate number of students of color, students of poverty, and trauma-impacted students. Alternative schools typically have lower graduation rates, are often expensive and challenging to operate, and often rank lower on accountability measures than other schools. Improving student achievement in these settings is of increasing importance since districts are now accountable for closing achievement gaps among underperforming subgroups that often populate alternative schools.

The practice guide, Effective Strategies for Alternative School Improvement, was developed from over 30 years of research and direct involvement with hundreds of alternative schools. It utilizes recommended standards suggested by the National Alternative Education Association and school improvement models such as Dr. Bill Daggett’s Rigor and Relevance Framework for School Improvement. The practice guide recommends five specific areas that should be the focus of alternative school improvement, 32 target areas that should be considered, and offers guiding questions that school leaders can use to determine improvement action steps. Because alternative schools are very different and require different actions to improve, the guide allows school leaders to identify and focus on those areas that are most likely to improve specific need areas within local contexts.

The practice guide was written by Dr. Sandy Addis who is Director of the National Dropout Prevention Center, Dr. Kathie Greer who is Director of Alternative Programs for the School District of Greenville County (SC), and Lynn Dunlap who is Assistant Director of Research at the National Dropout Prevention Center. The guide was developed in collaboration with Dr. Bill Daggett who is Founder of the Successful Practices Network and Ray McNulty who is President of the Successful Practices Network and of the National Dropout Prevention Center.

Effective Strategies for Alternative School Improvement is offered at no cost to states, school districts, and local schools. It is available for review or download from the National Dropout Prevention Center’s website, The authors of the practice guide and the staff of the National Dropout Prevention Center are available to answer questions about the use of the practice guide and are also available to guide school leaders to additional alternative school resources.  Inquiries may be emailed to ndpc@ or requested by phone at 864-642-6372


About the National Dropout Prevention Center (NDPC)
Begun in 1986 to serve as a clearinghouse on issues related to dropout prevention and to offer strategies to increase school graduation rates, the NDPC is also a national resource for sharing solutions for student success. The organization’s website——is the nation’s leading resource in providing effective, research-based solutions to engaging students and reducing dropout. By promoting awareness of successful programs and policies related to dropout prevention, the NDPC impacts education from the local to the national level. In 2018, NDPC joined Successful Practices Network and continues to deliver its mission and services under SPN’s guidance.         

About Successful Practices Network 

Successful Practices Network (SPN) is a not-for-profit organization that works with schools and districts globally. The organization is dedicated to bringing the most up-to-date resources and assistance to practitioners and others to achieve success by design, specializing in the areas of Dropout Prevention, Trauma Skills, Career and Technical Education and Literacy. 

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