Eleven Year Olds in Alternative Schools???

  • Posted on January 30, 2011 at 12:45 am

As a taxpaying citizen of North Dakota I need an explanation of Senate Bill 2316 that is on the calendar for this week.

A BILL for an Act to amend and reenact sections 15.1-09-33 and 15.1-27-03.1 of the North Dakota Century Code, relating to the provision of alternative schools and alternative school programs to students in grades six through twelve; to provide an effective date; and to declare an emergency.

I have found no rationale to declare it an emergency to expand alternative schools to include sixth graders. We are talking about kids who are eleven years old.  I gather it has to do with the weighted average system of school districts and the proposed verbiage is as follows:

Weighted average daily membership – Determination

For each school district, the superintendent of public instruction shall multiply by:

14     f.    0.25 the number of full-time equivalent students enrolled in any grade from six through twelve in an alternative high school or alternative school program;

Please excuse my ignorance. Perhaps I have missed something in the educational system we have in place. What exactly is the dire emergency that requires eleven year olds to be placed in alternative schools – by parents or the district?

According to the article, ‘Dropout rate improving; WHS graduation rate still below state average’, Williston Herald, Jan. 20, 2011, State Superintendent, Dr. Wayne Sanstead, is quoted as saying in regards to data collected about drop-out rates in North Dakota: “While the data clearly shows marked improvement, we are dedicated to continue our efforts with state and local school partners to expand alternative education programs and promote quality instruction, centered on keeping at risk students in school.”

I am 100% behind keeping kids in school, ensuring they graduate, and assisting in their academic success. However, I do not see the need to expand the alternative programs to include sixth, seventh, or eighth grades.

In July of 2009, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released their findings from a study on the issue of high school drop-out rates across the country. One of the five promising strategies says:

“Enhance the holding power of schools, with an intensive focus on ninth grade. Many factors affect students’ decision to leave school including, disengagement from classroom instruction, not being promoted, behavior issues, high rates of absenteeism, and poor or failing grades in core subjects. Many students who decide to drop out are met with too little resistance from those in charge of their education.”

I am deeply concerned about the expansion of alternative schools to such a young age of eleven. I realize there is a lot of support for alternative schools and every one of them have had their success stories; but, we also know alternative schools have their down side and students of these schools have stigmas attached to them. It’s an ugly truth that none of us want to talk about openly.

Instead of speculating on the reasoning and rationale behind this ND Senate Bill, I would just like someone to explain it – before it becomes law in July.


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