Maryland Alternative Education

Updates/News You Can Use!

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The NAEA Annual Conference was October 28-30, 2019 in Tampa Florida. For those from Maryland who attended, thank you for attending. Maryland had one of its largest group in attendance compared to past conferences. That is a great sign we are growing and our network is expanding.

If you did not get a chance to attend, please start planning now to attend next year. The Conference will be held again in Tampa at the same location. The dates of the Conference is October 21-23, 2020. Josh Shipp and Jose Enriquez are already scheduled to be keynote speakers with more to be added soon.

The conference is a great opportunity to see and hear what others are doing throughout the nation along with even present some of the great things that are being done here in Maryland. We had several Maryland Alternative education professionals presenting this year and I hope we can get even more next year. Be sure to stay in touch with the NAEA webpage and look for the call for proposals.

Also, this year at the conference, Mr. D. Tim Morrow, from Antietam Academy in Washington County Maryland, was elected as the NAEA Region 2 Director. He will represent and be the liaison with the NAEA for the states of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and the District of Columbia. One of the immediate goals is look at each state to organize into an association which Maryland is well on their way to doing and also holding a NAEA Regional Symposium in the Region. This symposium was resemble a smaller version of the NAEA National Conference. He will be reaching out to folks very soon to start this process.

With his role now with the NAEA, it is important that others look to step forward and continue the mission of moving alternative education forward in Maryland and finishing the organization of an association within the state. In simple terms we need you!!!

Again, please start planning for the conference next year. Just ask those who attended, it is an awesome experience.


Over a year ago, a work group was formed under the leadership of Mrs. Kimberly Buckheit, Specialist School Completion & Alternative Programs for MSDE. This group consisted of several alternative educational professionals along with professionals from MSDE, professionals from the University of Maryland, and even a student from an alternative educational program. This group was task with developing a guiding document for alternative education in Maryland. After numerous meetings and a large amount of discussion, the group produced the original document which was then sent to others at MSDE for review, edits and recommendations. After a thorough review and numerous edits, the document was approved for release to local school districts and also to be shared with folks involved in this great work.

Below is the document for your reading:

Guidance for Best Practices

in Alternative Education in Maryland

(Grades 6-12)

Issue date: October 2019


Alternative education is a nontraditional pathway to support students in accessing the instruction needed to complete graduation requirements. Historically, alternative education has been utilized as a reactive and punitive response to student behavior. The intention of this document is to provide clarity and direction as alternative education shifts to a more proactive and supportive response for students. The range of alternative education program options for students across the state of Maryland varies greatly and therefore guidance in best practices within these settings is beneficial. The importance of these settings in providing adequate supports to meet the needs of Maryland’s most challenged students cannot be understated. A workgroup comprising experts identified by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) from across the state collaborated during the spring 2019 to define best practices for alternative education.

This document is designed to inform and guide local school systems (LSSs) and alternative education staff serving Maryland students learning in nontraditional classrooms and schools. The following definition of alternative education was developed for the purpose of the workgroup.

Nontraditional, alternative education is broadly defined as intensified practices that are designed to increase a student’s capacity for academic success through:

Structured opportunities to engage with others as a means of developing the capacity to manage relationships, feel positive about the ability to contribute to the community, and define aspirations for the future.

A staff-to-student ratio that allows for social-emotional learning through which students and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. (based on CASEL’s definition,

Instructional, social-emotional, and behavioral approaches that are individualized for each student to ensure academic and behavioral success in and out of school.

Innovative 21st Century approaches to teaching and learning which provide students with the opportunity to meet graduation requirements, engage in college and career readiness, and participate as productive members of the

communities. (National Alternative Education Association [NAEA] definition, 2014.pdf)

Common characteristics of alternative settings which support student success are:

● Low student-to-teacher ratio, allowing for individualized support.

● Easy access to mental health and social-emotional support from adults.

● Individualized instructional and behavioral interventions.

● Easy access to drug and alcohol counseling and prevention support.

Environment Conducive to Learning and Growth

The learning and teaching environment in alternative settings requires distinct best practice elements that lead to students and staff feeling respected, safe, and valued despite the student’s personal history and existing obstacles. Students and staff have an active voice in the day-to-day operation of a school with a focus upon equity. The following three areas include distinct practices that create and maintain this type of environment.

I. Routines & Expectations are clear and consistent. They are modeled and communicated respectfully to, with, and about all stakeholders. Expectations for student conduct and learning align with LSS expectations to help facilitate the return of students to a comprehensive school. However, there must always be flexibility within these expectations to meet individual student needs. Students and staff are transparent about the reason why a student is engaged in the alternative setting and work collaboratively to minimize existing barriers to learning.

II. The learning Climate is deliberate and reflects core values that are communicated to and enacted by staff and students. These core values include a high regard for the development and nurturing of positive relationships among all members of the school community. Interactions between staff and students place value on learning from mistakes and embracing a “not there yet” mentality. The climate must be one that allows for immediate responsiveness to the needs of the individual as well as the collective community.

III. Frequent Progress Monitoring of goals occurs in a comprehensive, neutral, and inclusive way. Students are actively engaged in the monitoring of personal growth through specific procedures and data. Students should be given opportunities to share growth with meaningful members in their life during

student-led experiences. Staff engage in continuous assessment methods to inform instructional decisions and student goal setting. Progress should be regularly communicated with all members of the student’s learning circle, including the comprehensive school staff. A continuous improvement model is used for all stakeholders to celebrate successes and set future goals.


The transition of students into and out of alternative settings requires specifically defined practices and procedures to ensure staff are prepared to meet student needs, and students are prepared to meet program expectations.

Best Practices for Program Entry: Alternative settings are intended to provide opportunities for students with varying needs. Best practice involves multiple means of entering an alternative setting, which may include student choice, home school referral, and for mandated placement. Each LSS should develop clearly defined criteria for entry into the program and use a committee of varied stakeholders to review, discuss, and make recommendations for entry. A consistent protocol for each type of enrollment should be in place to: 1) ensure all relevant information about the alternative setting is made available to the student, family, and school staff; 2) ensure all pertinent

information related to the student’s success is made available to the alternative education staff; and 3) ensure that the student, family, and school staff know the type of placement, the student’s goals, and the anticipated timeline/exit plan.

Best Practices for Program Exit: While a small number of students will be most successful in an alternative setting for an extended time, the goal for all students should be to increase knowledge and skills that allow them to successfully return to a comprehensive school. Each student transitioning back to a comprehensive school should have an individualized transition plan that closely involves staff from both the comprehensive school and alternative education setting, while also including direct communication between the student and staff in both settings. It is best practice to ensure key stakeholders from the comprehensive school remain in contact with the student for the duration of time in the alternative setting so as to maintain the relationship and connection.

LSSs should consider establishing defined times during the school year as entry and exit windows to maximize the academic and behavioral success of new and existing students, as well as allowing staff to appropriately manage transition procedures. Coinciding with these intervals, the alternative setting should establish smaller time frames to monitor student progress to help inform transition.


Staff working in an alternative setting possess unique talents and characteristics. The staff support students in interacting with adults in a way that foster respect for their potential while also providing an individualized experience for each student. It is best practice that staff are hired specifically for the alternative setting.

Characteristics of staff (teachers, leaders, support staff) that successfully meet the unique needs of marginalized students include:

● Patient, non-judgmental, emotionally self-aware, and controlled

● Good communicator

● Culturally aware/sensitive

● Growth mindset and flexible thinker

● Team oriented and resilient

● Knowledgeable about content

● Passionate about working with marginalized youth

Administrators in alternative settings must possess additional characteristics to effectively lead and support students, families, and staff within these highly unique learning environments. These characteristics include:

● Tenacious, visionary, trustworthy, reliable, inspirational, and confident

● Advocate who has earned the respect of students and staff

● Student focused

● Experience working within a variety of settings

● Strong coach

Alternative settings can be an appropriate option for LSSs as they seek to meet the more intensive needs of a smaller subset of students. It is essential that LSSs recognize the importance of placing specially trained student support staff in each alternative setting who are able to meet a wide variety of student needs. Adequate support staff should be available so that students can access assistance when needed. The services provided by a school psychologist, social worker, school counselor, pupil personnel worker, school nurse, and/or substance abuse counselor are the types of specialized supports often required for success in the alternative setting.

It is best practice for staff working with students in an alternative setting to be provided Professional Development that affords an opportunity to implement the instruction and assessment guidelines expected of a general education teacher, as well as meeting the unique social-emotional and behavioral needs of marginalized students. Best practices include using job-embedded approaches from relevant data reviews as well as peer coaching models that allow for the differentiated acquisition of skills by staff. The alternative education classroom includes students with a variety of educational needs who may require extensive differentiation and multiple methods of instructional delivery. It is best practice for professional development to be well planned and purposeful, with focused attention on topics such as trauma, restorative approaches, equity, cultural proficiency, wellness, and personal health (of both students and staff).

Collaboration with Stakeholders

The varied needs of students in an alternative setting make it necessary for the adults to collaborate with one another in ways that facilitate the integration of support. Parents and adults of importance in the student’s life should be provided multiple opportunities

to celebrate successes and collaborate in goal setting for future success. Barriers to adult participation, such as transportation or childcare, should be mitigated as much as possible by school officials.

Alternative education staff should remain aware of, and develop partnerships with, local resources so that students can access services during and outside the school day. Services, activities, and/or resources offered by or through, for example, local care teams, local management boards, local police officials, state agencies, and

community-based mental health professionals are all important connections. Staff should be ever mindful of changing student needs within a school year, and from one year to the next, and seek to build new community partnerships that address these specific needs. The use of an alternative education advisory board should be considered as a best practice for assisting staff in seeking and obtaining community resources. This board can also advocate for the unique needs of alternative education to school officials and the broader community.

Alternative education staff are a resource for comprehensive school staff and community members as they seek to better understand the complexity of supports

required for marginalized students to succeed. This collaboration builds the capacity for students to be successful in multiple settings prior to and after graduation from high school. Ongoing collaboration with individuals at the comprehensive school in support

of the instructional and behavioral needs of students helps facilitate future success as these students prepare to return to the comprehensive school.

Instruction and Assessment

High quality instruction and assessment practices are essential for students in alternative settings. Students in alternative settings often have learning gaps that can impact behavior and prompt a student’s view of themselves as a struggling learner.

Project-based and inquiry-based learning activities that are hands-on and allow

students to make connections between content knowledge and real-life experiences are recommended as a frequent practice in the alternative learning environment. Acquiring knowledge through inquiry provides valuable motivation for students who may have become disengaged from the learning process. In addition, it is best practice for staff to encourage students to seek leadership opportunities and demonstrate their knowledge and skills by providing a service to others in need. These moments provide authentic feedback to students and enhance personal growth. Instruction should be personalized to respond to the student’s specific needs and provide for flexible instructional practices that consider the time of day, where learning happens, and the learning methodology. Best practices indicate that procedures that allow for blended scheduling between the comprehensive and alternative learning environments are more effective in facilitating successful transitions and increasing the student’s ability to access curricular options.

Monitoring progress toward the achievement of behavioral, social-emotional, and academic goals should occur at a high frequency in the alternative setting. Assessment should be used as a source of data that is ongoing and occurs in “real time,” informing next steps for staff, the student, and the student’s family. Engaging in purposeful assessments upon transition to and from the setting can serve to better inform a high quality personalized learning plan. Personalized information about the student’s current level of performance, credits obtained to date, learning strengths and gaps, and career aptitudes should be gathered and packaged in a way that allows the student to transition smoothly into any classroom or other learning environment.


I. Alternative Education

National Alternative Education Association (NAEA) exemplary practices: df

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL):

II. Environment Conducive to Learning and Growth Growth mindset:

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Random House Books.

Student-led conferencing:

III. Staffing and Professional Development Staff wellness, the Self-Care Wheel:

Job-embedded professional development: elopment.pdf

IV. Collaboration with Stakeholders

Maryland Governor's Office for Children, Local Care Team Coordinator contacts by county:

V. Instruction and Assessment

Project-based learning:

Inquiry-based learning:

Berger, W. (2014). A more beautiful question: The power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. Berryville, VA: Berryville Graphics Inc.

Formative Assessment

Wiliam, D., & Leahy, S. (2015). Embedding formative assessment: Practical techniques for K-12 classrooms. West Palm Beach, FL: Learning Sciences International.

Work Group Members

Mrs. Kimberly Buckheit, Specialist School Completion & Alternative Programs Maryland State Department of Education

Mrs. Denise Childers, Virtual Academy Teacher Charles County Public Schools

Mr. James Fazzino, Supervisor eLearning Baltimore County Public Schools

Mr. Brad Engel, Director Student Services (2018-2019 school year) Queen Anne’s County Public Schools

Dr. Peter Leone, Professor of Special Education University of Maryland, College Park

Mr. D. Tim Morrow, Coordinator Antietam Academy Washington County Public Schools

Regional President, National Alternative Education Association

Mrs. Kelley Morris-Springston, Director School Climate & Safety Wicomico County Public Schools

Mrs. Kim Muniz, Supervisor of Student Services & Special Programs Carroll County Public Schools

Ms. Laurie Namey, Supervisor of Equity and Cultural Proficiency (2018-2019 school year) Harford County Public Schools

Ms. Lindsay Owens, Transition Specialist Mary Moss Academy Anne Arundel County Public Schools

Mr. Dylan Payne, Graduate Antietam Academy Washington County Public Schools

Mrs. Elizabeth Stiffler, Principal Heather Ridge School Frederick County Public Schools

Mrs. Kami Wagner, Coordinator Student Support Programs Howard County Public Schools

Mr. Curry Werkheiser, Principal Robert E. Stetham Education Center Charles County Public Schools

Mr. Bryan Wetzel, Principal Gateway/Crossroads School Carroll County Public Schools

Ms. Doncella Wilson LMSW, Systems of Care Coordinator Kent County Local Management Board

Adhoc Members:

Dr. Marone Brown, Lead Specialist for School Safety Maryland State Department of Education

Ms. Djuna Craig, Resource Teacher for Student Support Programs Howard County Public Schools

Ms. Paula Gonce, Access, Equity & Progress Specialist Maryland State Department of Education

Mr. Kevin Kintop, Program Administrator ARISE Academy Queen Anne’s County Public Schools

Mr. Andrew Turner, Training Administrator Prevention & Intervention Maryland Center for School Safety

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Updating our Membership and Growing our Membership-YOUR HELP IS NEEDED!

As mentioned above, one of the goals of the BOD is to increase our membership(capacity) and to do this, we need everyone's help. With that said we need to update our membership rolls and add to them. As we know in alternative education, people go and new people come in.

So everyone on the current email list will get an email regarding this too and EVERYONE will be asked to re-register through an updated Google Form. The process is simple. You can also share the form with your colleagues. Future emails and information will utilize the new membership roles and those who do not re-register (by choice or not) will no longer receive emails and updates.

There are multiple purposes and needs for such a group to exist. We need to have a network of like educators who can work together for the best interest of the students we serve. It will provide a means to develop and provide relevant and useful professional development opportunities. Additionally, it will provide a network of like-minded professionals who can reach out to each other for advice and solutions to situations that can only be found in an alternative education environment.

So below is the new registration link. Click on it now and register yourself to start and THEN I ask you to copy and share the link with at least 5 other alternative education colleagues in the state of Maryland. If everyone does this we will reach everyone.

Click here to Re-Register or Register for the First Time. Membership is FREE!

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MAEA is on Twitter

That is right! We now have a Twitter page and eventually we would like to start some professional Twitter chats among colleagues. So if you are on Twitter please be sure to follow as at MAEA_Hope and if you are not on Twitter, what are you waiting on. Sign-up, it is free and make the MAEA as one of your first people you follow and along with the NAEA which is NAEA_Hope Looking forward to chatting soon!

Join the Conversation at the new NAEA BLOG

Come join colleagues in vibrant and relevant discussions on hot topics at the NEW NAEA BLOG!

We need you to join us to make it more than a just a BLOG. We want it to be a powerful PLC for NAEA members and a resource for all!

So go to:

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NAEA APP-Get It Now!

If you are not familiar with the NAEA (National Alternative Education Association), you need to be. It is free to join and each year they hold an annual conference which is filled with outstanding speakers and information to support those involved in alternative education. I would strongly encourage you to visit their website.

Additionally, they have developed an APP for your personal device and you can get it at no cost from the Google Play store for Android users and the Apple App store for Apple users. The App contains so much information simply at your fingertips. You will find resources right there that can help you even in a discussion with someone about the impact of a student dropping out on your county and state. Additionally, if you scroll down you will find a "button" with the state of Maryland shown. Once you push that button, you will currently find 6-7 buttons. Those buttons, when pushed, will lead you to additional information including registration forms for both the MAEA and our upcoming conference.

It would really be cool and a great way to stay in touch if we could get a "button" on this page for each alternative program/school in Maryland. As you can see Antietam already has a button along with Wicomico County. If we could get someone from each program represented send a link to your website to then we can add them to the App.

I would also encourage you to look at a way to send at least one person to the National Conference each year. If you can send more that would be awesome too. One program recently sent 10% of the staff to the conference and that group included the school bookkeeper and school nurse. Some may asked why those people? Well it is fairly simple, it is about having a solid team and everyone understanding not only their role on the team but truly understand what the team does. Brilliant idea and thinking.

Again, I encourage you to get involved and get others involved and one way to do so is getting involved with the NAEA. Heck it is free so what do you have to lose?

NAEA Twitter Chat-Join Us!

Just a reminder that the last Tuesday of every month, the NAEA host a Twitter Chat around the Exemplary Practice Standards. Please join the conversation and make connections.

No Twitter? No problem, just sign up and then for your first follow, choose @NAEA_HOPE

Hope to see you there.