Alternative Learning

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) alternative education mission is to provide viable educational options for students who are experiencing difficulty in the traditional system. In fiscal year 2018, 137 districts in the state of Minnesota offered services to 146,336 individual students. This number represents about 16 percent of Minnesota public school students.

Alternative education is designed for students who are at-risk in the traditional education environment. All programming is stated to be optional for students and families. State-Approved Alternative Programs (SAAPs) include the following classifications (updated legislatively in 2009):

  • Area Learning Centers (ALC),
  • Alternative Learning Programs (ALP),
  • Contracted Alternatives, and
  • Targeted Services for students in kindergarten through grade eight.

These programs are defined as learning-year programs and are funded with General Education Revenue. Students are eligible to generate up to 1.2 average daily membership (ADM) when enrolled in an SAAP.

There were 248 area learning centers, 50 alternative learning programs, eight contracted alternatives and 257 targeted services programs during the 2017-18 school year.  Alternative programs operate year-round and may be offered during the day and after school. Programs are characterized by smaller class sizes and use personalized learning strategies to approach and provide individualized learning experiences.

State-Approved Alternative Programs are governed by these statutes:

  • Graduation Incentives Criteria used to identify at-risk students (Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.68).
  • Continual Learning Plan (CLP) developed annually for each student to outline the steps necessary for grade promotion and/or graduation (Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.128, subdivision 3).
  • Information to students and families regarding alternative education options (Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.68, subdivision 6).
     
State-Approved Early/Middle College Programs
Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) State-Approved Early/Middle College Programs allow eligible students to earn a high school diploma while also earning postsecondary credits or conferring a degree or credential including a certificate, diploma or an associate’s degree. Students are considered eligible if they are enrolled in a core school day SAAP under the graduation incentives program as defined by MDE. Access a list of currently approved PSEO State-Approved Early/Middle College Programs in Minnesota below.


  • List of State-Approved Early/Middle College Programs 2019-20 - 1/24/20
  • State-Approved Alternative Programs Resource Guide - 1/22/20
    A resource guide designed to provide guidance and information necessary for starting and/or augmenting current alternative programming.
  • Scan of Credit Recovery Practices in Minnesota Public Schools - 11/19/19
    This report presents the findings of a recent scan of credit recovery practices in Minnesota public schools. The Minnesota Department of Education and REL Midwest collaborated on this study.
  • Credit Recovery Practices in Minnesota Public Schools - 10/3/19
    This infographic highlights the major findings of a recent scan of credit recovery practices in Minnesota public schools. The Minnesota Department of Education and Regional Education Laboratory (REL) Midwest collaborated on this study.
  • State-Approved Alternative Programs Reference Glossary - 12/8/16
  •  - 11/23/16
  •  - 10/16/14