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Examples of Alternative Schools and Programs

Examples of types of schools and programs that may be established as Alternative Schools and Programs of Choice under California Education Code sections 58500 to 58512.

Alternative Schools of Choice

  • Early College High Schools are small, autonomous schools that blend high school and college into a coherent education program. They are designed so that all students can achieve two years of college credit at the same time they are earning a high school diploma (within four to five years of entering ninth grade). These schools are designed for young people who are underrepresented in postsecondary education.
  • Middle College High Schools are high schools located on a community college campus. These schools offer students at risk of educational failure when they enter high school the opportunity to take high school classes as well as college classes and increase the likelihood of qualifying for college upon graduation. The Middle College National Consortium External link opens in new window or tab. has more information.
  • Magnet Schools are designed to attract students from their schools of residence by providing special curriculum opportunities. Magnet schools are often oriented around a special interest area, career education, or vocational skills training.
  • Metropolitan Career and Technical (MET) High Schools feature a strong advisory program, small school size, and community-based learning. Find out more about these schools through Big Picture Learning External link opens in new window or tab. .
  • New Technology High Schools External link opens in new window or tab. emphasize access to technology through project-based learning.
  • Open Classroom Schools provide learning activities that are individualized and organized around interest and learning resource centers. These schools may feature multi-grades classrooms.
  • Schools Without Walls utilize community facilities and resources for learning activities and may offer internships or project-based learning.
  • Thematic schools are organized around a curricular theme such as the humanities, the arts, international relations, or health careers.

In addition to the schools listed above, alternative schools of choice also include schools that offer:

  • A different educational philosophy, such as Montessori, Waldorf, and Fundamental schools.
  • A different instructional strategy, such as independent study, dual language immersion, multi-age classrooms, or online learning.
  • Specialized programs for targeted student populations, such as street academies and newcomer centers.

Alternative Programs of Choice

  • Internships are designed to give students direct experience in fields of possible future employment, with a core curriculum adapted to those areas and interests.
  • Magnet Programs are designed to attract students to particular schools by offering educational features attractive to students and their parents, such as various types of specialized instruction.
  • Parent Participation Programs are designed so that parents and guardians provide classroom assistance and other support that is integral to the program. Typically, parents are heavily involved in setting the goals, objectives, and direction for the program. These programs are more common for students in the elementary grades.
  • School-Within-a-School (SWAS) is a “minischool” or identified unit within a traditional school with a focus on a special interest area or learning style. This option provides one approach to achieving a smaller learning community.
Questions: Dan Sackheim | | 916-445-5595 
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, July 28, 2015

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