Alternative Education


Alternative education is a program operated as a subdivision of the regular K-12 program. It is designed for students who can be better served in an alternative delivery system. Students served include those who have specific needs and are often at risk of not graduating. Alternative education programs seek to provide added flexibility and alternative instructional models. These often include expanded services from the traditional setting such as online learning, institutional programs, counseling, childcare, and transportation in an effort to help students overcome barriers and meet the goals of the Michigan Merit Curriculum. Alternative education pupils are funded under the K-12 foundation rate.

Alternative Education is a separate, non-traditional program within a K-12 public school district or a public school academy established to provide personalized educational services for students who:

  • are at risk of not graduating with their class; and/or
  • have individual needs not being met in a traditional setting.

MDE Contacts

Alternative Education/Innovative Programs Reduction of Hours and/or Days Waivers

The state School Aid Act, section 101(9) [MCL 388.1701], permits the state superintendent to waive the minimum number of hours and days of pupil instruction for alternative education programs or other innovative programs approved by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). This waiver is limited to alternative education or innovative programs and is not intended for individual students, or groups of students within an existing program.   

Per this section of state law, the state superintendent may consider applications for programs that waive the required 1,098 hours and/or the required 180 days during the 2021-22 school year.

Additionally, section 101(3)(f) allows a district to apply for an attendance waiver for the district. This waiver allows for 50% of students to be in attendance on a daily basis. The following criteria must be met in order to apply for the 50% attendance waiver:

  • The district offers the minimum hours of pupil instruction as required under this section.
  • For each enrolled pupil, the district uses appropriate academic assessments to develop an individual education plan that leads to a high school diploma.
  • The district tests each pupil to determine academic progress at regular intervals and records the results of those tests in that pupil's individual education plan.
  • The district does not operate full K-12 programming.

The application for waivers for alternative and innovative programs can be completed online. Submission instructions are included in the application. Please use the rubric provided as a guide when completing the application. Applications must be submitted prior to July 23, 2021, at 11:59 p.m.

By completing this application and participating in the waiver of minimum number of hours and days of pupil instruction for alternative education or other innovative programs, districts agree to comply with the reporting requirements established by MDE.

For entities that received an alternative education/innovative programs (hours and days) waiver in 2020-21, the end of year report form can be completed online. The reporting deadline is July 16, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. The report is only required for entities that were approved for the waiver in 2020-21.

Additional Resources

Section 388.1701 Michigan Law

Information on Teacher of Record for Online or Computer-based Instruction

Alternative Education: Classroom Teacher Placements
Teacher Certification questions: or 517-241-5000

Education Development Plan (EDP) Fundamentals

Section 21f Expanded Virtual Learning for Course Providers

Section 21f allows districts, intermediate districts, community colleges, and the Michigan Virtual University (MVU) the opportunity to publish courses in a statewide catalog of virtual courses for consumption by pupils located throughout Michigan. Follow the link for further information and requirements.