Alternative Learning

The Minnesota Department of Education alternative education mission is to provide viable educational options for students who are experiencing difficulty in the traditional system. The first legislated State-Approved Alternative Programs (SAAP) began in 1988 with four sites serving 4,000 students.  Today, more than 162,000 students access alternative education on a part-time or full-time basis.  This represents about 17 percent of Minnesota public school students.

Alternative education is designed for students who are at-risk of educational failure.  State-Approved Alternative Programs are classified as Area Learning Centers (ALC), Alternative Learning Programs (ALP), Contracted Alternatives, and Targeted Services for students in kindergarten through grade 8.  They are learning-year programs and are funded with General Education Revenue. Students are eligible to generate up to 1.2 average daily membership (ADM) for their district.

There were 263 Area Learning Centers, 61 Alternative Learning Programs, 16 Contracted Alternatives and 259 Targeted Services programs during the 2010-11 school year.  Alternative programs are year-round and may be offered during the day and after school. They are characterized by smaller class sizes and using a hands-on/experiential approach to learning.

Instruction is designed to meet individual student learning styles as well as their social and emotional needs.  Teachers build connections with students and focus on vocational and career skills, including independent study options. Community, county and state partnerships provide additional support and resources.

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 State-Approved Alternative Program (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.

  • 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.
  • List of State-Approved Early/Middle College Programs 2019-20 - 10/23/19
  • 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