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Alternative Programs for SIFEs

To meet the needs of students with an interrupted formal education (SIFEs), some school districts establish an alternative education program.  Alternative education programs are comprehensive educational programs designed to address the individual learning, behavior, and health needs of students who are not succeeding in the general education program.  When establishing an alternative program for over-aged and under-schooled students who come from other countries, school districts must obtain board approval according to N.J.A.C. 6A:16-9.1(a) (p.71).  District boards of education do not, however, have to submit an application to the New Jersey Department of Education. N.J.A.C. 6A:16 also outlines program requirements as follows:

  • A maximum student-teacher ratio of 12:1 for high school programs;
  • A maximum student-teacher ratio of 10:1 for middle school programs;
  • An Individualized Program Plan (IPP) shall be developed for each student each student;
  • Individualized instruction to students shall address the Core Curriculum Content Standards;
  • Instructional staff shall be appropriately certified;
  • Academic instruction sufficient to fulfill graduation requirements shall be provided to high school students;
  • Comprehensive support services and programs shall address each student's health, social and emotional development and behavior; and
  • A minimum student enrollment period of not less than two complete marking periods shall be required.

In addition, here are a few statements regarding alternative SIFE programs from the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education.

http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-el-201501.pdf (page 18)

The Departments recognize that students with interrupted formal education (SIFE students), especially in the higher grades, may be below grade level in some or all subjects when they enter a school district, and that some school districts provide appropriately specialized programs to meet their needs. The Departments would not view such programs as offering inappropriately watered-down instructional content where the program is age-appropriate, the content of the instruction relates to the core curriculum and is credit-bearing toward graduation or promotion requirements, and SIFE students have the opportunity to meet grade-level standards within a reasonable period of time. However, it would be inappropriate for a district to place high school-aged SIFE students in middle or elementary school campus programs because this would not permit SIFE students to meet high school grade-level standards and graduation requirements within a reasonable amount of time and the placements would not be age appropriate.

http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-el-201501.pdf (page 23)

Some districts use newcomer programs as a bridge to general education classrooms. Districts operating newcomer programs or schools should take particular care to avoid unnecessary segregation. For example, it is unlikely the Departments would find a violation in the area of EL student segregation by a school district that offers a voluntary newcomer EL program with self-contained EL programs for a limited duration (generally for one year) so long as it schedules the newcomer EL students' nonacademic subjects, lunchtime, and recess with non-EL students; encourages newcomer EL students to participate in integrated after-school activities; and evaluates their English proficiency regularly to allow appropriate transitions out of the newcomer EL program throughout the academic year.

Some examples of when the Departments have found compliance issues involving segregation include when school districts: (1) fail to give segregated EL students access to their grade-level curriculum, special education, or extracurricular activities; (2) segregate EL students for both academic and non-academic subjects, such as recess, physical education, art, and music; (3) maintain students in a language assistance program longer than necessary to achieve the district's goals for the program; and (4) place EL students in more segregated newcomer programs due to perceived behavior problems or perceived special needs.