What is alternate curriculum?
In California, the discussion about an “alternate curriculum” can surface early because some classes are labeled “core” and some are labeled “alternative.” Sometimes it comes up in third grade, when standardized state testing starts. In fact, Dr. Caitlin Solone, special education advocate and faculty at UCLA, tells us there are some special day class (SDC) or non-public school (NPS) programs that label a child “certificate-bound” even earlier.
But according to the TIES Center, there should be no such thing as an alternate curriculum. As they put it in this brief, “alternate curriculum” should not mean that the student has alternate content standards: “U.S. Department of Education regulations explaining how IDEA should be implemented state that the general education curriculum is ‘the same curriculum as for nondisabled children’ (300.320(a)(1)(i)). In other words, “all instruction [should start] from the same content standards, regardless of the student’s disabilities. However, the expectations for how much a student will master of the grade-level general education curriculum can be modified.” The difference between best practice and reality, however, can be unfortunately large.
For more, see our article Building a Goal-Oriented Future: Earning a Diploma or a Certificate of Completion.