Legislation enacted in 1995 established the requirement that, at the time an expulsion of a student is ordered, the governing board of the school district shall ensure that an education program is provided to the student during the expulsion period. The same legislation authorized school districts to establish community day schools (CDS) to serve these, and other at-risk/at-promise students. Subsequent legislation, in 1998, extended the authorization to also allow county offices of education to establish community day schools.
Students are expected to participate in academic programs that include high-level expectations from staff and students, and that are comparable to those available to students of similar age in the school district. The 360-minute minimum instructional day includes academic programs that provide challenging curriculum and individual attention to student learning modalities and abilities. CDS programs also focus on the development of pro-social skills and student self-esteem and resiliency. CDS is intended to have low student-teacher ratios. Students benefit from learning support services that include school counselors and psychologists, academic and vocational counselors, and student discipline personnel. Students also receive collaborative services from county offices of education, law enforcement, probation, and human services agency personnel who work with at-risk youth. Laws specific to CDS are in Education Code (EC) sections 48660-48667.
The desired outcome is fully engaged students who are learning in a manner best suited to their needs. This will also result in:
- Closing the achievement gap
- Decreasing the dropout rate
- Increasing the graduation rate
CDS serves: expelled students, students referred by a School Attendance Review Board or probation,and other high-risk youth, referred through a district-level process, who need a separate setting that is better matched to their academic, social, and emotional development needs than what can be provided in a traditional school setting.
Although the Educational Options, Student Support, and American Indian Education Office does not have specific reports on the efficacy of CDSs, it has prepared a research paper and compendium of resources entitled Zero Dropouts for California. This paper contains information regarding the dropout crisis; recommendations for the State, counties, districts, and the California Department of Education; and an extensive bibliography of resources.