Alternative Education Programs

Alternative Education Pathways

Alternative Education Programs

Alternative education programs that address gaps for students with unique needs

CES has several programs providing alternative instruction directly to students. These students are not special education students, but for one reason or another, have not been successful in more traditional settings. (Special Education alternative programs are also offered by CES, but enrollment in those programs is driven by students' IEPs.)

For students needing a different setting or type of support in order to be successful, we have developed programs that address diverse students in different ways.

Mount Tom Academy: an Alternative Learning Program for High School Students

Located on the campus of Holyoke Community College, Mount Tom Academy is designed for 11th and 12th grade students who have not been successful in a traditional high school setting. The program identifies the strengths, talents, and unique abilities of its participating students. Qualified high school students may pursue dual enrollment options to earn both high school and college credit.

This innovative program encourages independent study using computer-assisted coursework, study and mastery goals that are customized weekly, vocational assessment, and counseling. Students are encouraged to explore and appreciate the personal freedom and responsibility of attending high school on a college campus. The staff to student ratio is 1:5. Support is provided to each student in an effort to develop a clear pathway to the completion of a high school diploma or a GED. Success is measured by each student passing the MCAS and graduating from high school. Many graduates are accepted into area colleges.

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Perkins Consortium

Four member districts participate in the Perkins Consortium to provide vocational training and funding for students enrolled in high school occupational or vocational programs. Participating districts are South Hadley, Amherst, Gateway, and Easthampton.

Each school receives specific allocations for assistance and services to improve performance in Mathematics, Language Arts, and vocational classes towards high school completion and graduation. Perkins occupational and vocational programs receive assistance in the following areas:

  • Setting goals
  • Measuring competencies in occupational skills
  • Upgrading programs
  • Developing new programs and entrepreneurship opportunities
  • Understanding high skill/high demand/high wage opportunities in Western Massachusetts
  • Developing local support and advisory boards; and develop internship, mentorship, and work study opportunities for students.

Through the program, hundreds of students from these schools receive occupational training and academic support in coursework offerings such as Graphic Design, Computer Applications, Culinary Arts, Child Care, Allied Health, Welding and Metal Fabrication, Commercial Art, and Carpentry and Woodworking.

Special focus is given to improving MCAS scores, improving graduation and completion rates, and providing pathways for students to identify high wage/high demand/high skill occupations. Programs receive professional development opportunities for staff members and financial support for upgrades and startup of new programs.

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Connecting Activities

Connecting Activities (CA) is a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education initiative that leverages a statewide infrastructure to support "college and career readiness" for all students. The program establishes public-private partnerships through the 16 local workforce investment boards to connect schools and businesses by providing structured work-based learning experiences for students that support both their academic and employability skill attainment.

Connecting Activities enables staff to recruit employers; prepare and place students in brokered work-based learning opportunities; and structure those experiences through the use of the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan. 

CES promotes school-to-career activities by partnering with schools to find and utilize resources to support internship programs for students. The goal of this program, whose office is located at 97 Hawley Street in Northampton, MA, is to boost school capacity to serve young people, and improve their education and career preparation by incorporating real life and work experiences into their schooling.

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