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Alternative Schools & Programs of Choice Summary

Information on program purpose, services, outcomes, funding, students served, and results.


California Education Code (EC) sections 58500 through 58512 External link opens in new window or tab. provides that school districts may establish and maintain alternative schools and programs of choice. These EC sections provide a definition of alternative schools of choice, declare the purposes of alternative schools of choice, and stipulate the requirements that alternative schools of choice must meet. Among these requirements are:

  • Both the teachers and the students must be volunteers.
  • Alternative schools of choice must be maintained and funded at the same level of support as other educational programs.
  • Alternative schools and programs of choice must meet the same standards for curriculum, instruction, and student performance as traditional schools.
  • The school district must annually evaluate such schools and programs.

The premise behind alternative schools of choice is that “one size doesn't fit all.” In other words, not all students will thrive or reach their full potential in the traditional comprehensive school. Alternative schools and programs of choice can offer a different structure, learning philosophy, or academic emphasis to accommodate different student needs, interests, and learning styles. The effective use of such instructional strategies as independent study, community-based education, focused or thematic education, and flexible scheduling increases attendance and improves performance while fostering student engagement.

Districts may apply to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) for waivers of sections of the EC on behalf of alternative schools of choice. A goal of alternative schools and programs of choice is that they be “operated in a manner to maximize the opportunity for improvement of the general school curriculum by innovative methods and ideas.” (EC Section 58507) The SSPI may grant waivers of specific provisions of state law, on request, to provide alternative schools and programs of choice the flexibility to innovate.


The goals of alternative schools and programs of choice, as outlined in EC Section 58500, are the following:

  • Maximize the opportunity for students to develop the positive values of self-reliance, initiative, kindness, spontaneity, resourcefulness, courage, creativity, responsibility, and joy.
  • Recognize that the best learning takes place when the student learns because of his or her desire to learn.
  • Maintain a learning situation that encourages student motivation, time-management, and the ability to follow their own interests.
  • Maximize the opportunity for teachers, parents, and students to cooperatively develop the learning process and its subject matter. This opportunity must be a continuous, permanent process.
  • Maximize the opportunity for students, teachers, and parents to continuously react to the changing world, including, but not limited to, the community in which the school is located.


General Fund apportionment based on average daily attendance.

Questions:   Educational Options Office |
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, February 27, 2024