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Relearning alternative education in the new normal: Nassau BOCES helps inform perspectives, remove stigmas

Nassau BOCES helps inform perspectives

Relearning alternative education in the new normal:
Nassau BOCES helps inform perspectives, remove stigmas


All too often, alternative education is seen as a dumping ground for at-risk students who cannot cut it in a traditional classroom. As schools put into action new teaching and learning strategies to adapt to the COVID era, Nassau BOCES is leading the charge to disillusion people of long-held misconceptions about the value and purpose of alternative education.


“The public often views alternative education students as ‘those kids’ — discipline problems, truants, and kids who don’t belong in the mainstream,” noted Kellie McLaurin, Principal of Nassau BOCES Specialized Schools, during a focus presentation on the agency’s Alternative Education programs. “But there are powerful stories behind who they are.”


The same goes for the programs that serve these students. Nassau BOCES Twilight High School alternative education programs are held in-district and provide small class settings, with more individualized teacher attention, in which students work toward traditional Regents-based high school diplomas or equivalency diplomas. One of the innovative partner school districts even has the added benefit of sending students to Nassau BOCES Barry Tech, one of the agency’s premier career and technical education programs.


There are seven diverse programs under the umbrella of Nassau BOCES Twilight High School programs. While some of these programs focus on addressing immediate challenges, others are designed to help students develop their abilities and work toward the future.


The High School Equivalency (HSE) program helps students to prepare for the New York State Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) exam to earn an HSE diploma. Work-Based Learning supports career and college readiness by providing real-world work experiences and helping students to earn the NYS Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) credential.


“Twilight programs are the collaborative result of the commitment of each of our participating school districts to meeting and supporting the diverse learning requirements of their students,” said Principal McLaurin. “If it weren't for districts’ awareness of and sensitivity to their students’ needs, there would be no Twilight programs.”


The proof is in the numbers. Out of 233 graduates in 2019, more than 50 percent earned Regents Diplomas, nearly a third earned the CDOS credential, and 39 earned HSE Diplomas. Since its inception in 2008, the program has grown exponentially, with plans for continued expansion and enrollment for the 2020-21 school year at 800 students.


“We have a lot of success stories,” Ms. McLaurin has attested. “Our students want to be here. They come to us because they want to learn, and because our staff members are dedicated professionals who truly care. When students see that you care about them, they will soar. And now, with the uncertainty that pervades our nation and our world, the security our program provides is more important than ever to those students who so desperately need it.”


Photo caption: Students graduate from the Baldwin Twilight program. A brainchild of Baldwin UFSD’s Superintendent, Dr. Shari Camhi, the program is a partnership between Nassau BOCES and the district.