Program Profiles

These profiles provide a snapshot of the strong instructional framework offered in Fairfax County Public Schools by providing relevant facts and the area of focus for each program. Use the drop down menu, pick a program, and start exploring the innovative programs offered in this world class school division.

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Name of Program or Service:  Alternative Learning Centers (ALC)            print-friendly version

Contact Person:   Kathryn Salerno

Program Overview:



The Alternative Learning Centers (ALC) are designed to provide continued educational services for students who have been recommended for expulsion, exclusion or reassignment. Students who are experiencing behavioral or academic difficulties as well as pregnant and parenting teensmay also be referred to an ALC by school teams consisting of counselor, administrator, parent and/or student, for additional support and intervention. Transportation is provided for all students.


ALCs offer full-day programming, including electives (or specials for the elementary-age students) with bell schedules being closely aligned with the host schools to allow for dual enrollment on an individual basis. This full-day programming allows students to maintain academic progress and earn equivalent credits to those they would have possibly earned at a traditional school.


The school culture, climate and instructional practices at ALCs are the main reason for high student success. During SY 2013-2014, 50% of hearing office placed ALC students met their placement conditions as defined by the hearings office and returned to regular schools, or remained enrolled at an ALC as an electively-placed student. With the primary focus on student learning, and a continual open enrollment, ALCs pre-test each student upon enrollment in core areas to gain an understanding of each student’s ability and progress in the Program of Studies (POS) in order to individualize each student’s coursework. Teachers employ instructional best practices to engage students in learning. Small class size and low student to teacher/staff ratios allow teachers to customize instruction for each student. Secondary ALCs are staffed with seven full-time teachers including teachers certified in core content areas and two special education teachers. Each secondary program offers Language! a research-based reading program offered by the FCPS Office of Special Education Instruction (OSEI) designed for students with special reading needs. The Read Well program is offered at the elementary level. In addition, English Language Learners (ELL) are supported by an itinerant ESOL teacher on a regularly scheduled basis. Ongoing collaboration between the ESOL teacher and ALC teachers provides critical support to ELLs. Students at the high school level that are pregnant or parenting have the opportunity to participate in Project Opportunity, an extracurricular informative forum for pregnant and parenting students.  Project Opportunity provides resources and tools to help strengthen student’s parenting skills through group and individual counseling, parenting classes, life skills training, mentoring and child care assistance.    


ALCs are committed to the use of technology in the classrooms.  Research has proven that student engagement and student learning increases with its usage. ALC teachers and staff use SMART boards/Mimios and its related software, interactive response systems (electronic clickers), and Learn 360 video clips to enhance the learning experience.  With a continued increase of students having access to personal electronic devices, the ALCs are committed to ensuring that teachers seek opportunities to utilize these devices within the classroom supporting instruction in an interactive manner. 


ALC staff seeks to develop and build strong relationships with students and families by focusing on student strengths and commitment to moving forward towards improved behavior and academic success. ALC students (and parents) begin a “restorative” process upon enrollment by partnering with teachers and other members of staff to create a clear pathway back to the larger school community. Restorative justice practice is a way of thinking and responding to those that have been harmed by conflict and wrongdoing, and provides an opportunity for the students to understand that their actions impact others. Students in the ALC learn to be accountable for their decisions, and also learn that it is possible to make amends for past mistakes and move on. This practice and philosophy serves as the framework throughout enrollment as students develop and monitor, with the support of ALC staff, academic, behavioral and personal goals. Restorative dialogue is used whenever the student is sent out of the class due to behavior in an attempt to encourage a student to take responsibility for his/her actions in class, modify the identified behavior and repair their relationship with their classmates and teacher. 


ALC staff members employ research-based Positive Behavior and Intervention Supports (PBIS) to assist students in developing patterns of appropriate academic, behavior and social skills. Classrooms are structured for success. Administrators facilitate on-going professional development opportunities for ALC staff members to develop and maintain-a proactive approach, rather than traditional discipline-a reactive approach.  Through the support of school counselors, social workers and psychologists, ALCs teach students pro-social behavior, rather than control anti-social behavior on an on-going basis. Each site utilizes a point system or student contracts to reinforce, recognize and incentivize desired behaviors, as opposed to punishing negative behaviors. As students demonstrate patterns of appropriate academic, behavior and social skills, they are recommended to exit from the program, and typically return to their neighborhood school.


The approach to instruction and behavior in the ALC is informed by research in the field. A brief listing of research studies and texts providing information regarding best practices related to working with at-risk adolescents includes the following:


Amstutz, L.S. and Mullet, J.H., (2005). Restorative Discipline for Schools. Good Books; Intercourse, PA. 

 Barr, R.D., and Parrett, W. H. (2001). Hope Fulfilled for At-Risk and Violent Youth; K-12 Programs That Work. Allyn and Bacon; MA.

 Bowen, Elizabeth; (2008). Research Supporting the Structure and Design of the Alternative Learning Centers: Student Engagement

Bradshaw, Catherine P.; Koth, Christine W.; Bevans, Katherine B.; Ialongo, Nicholas; Leaf, Philip J. (Dec 2008) School Psychology Quarterly, Vol 23(4), p 462-473.

Chase, Elaine (2009). Supporting Young Parents: Pregnancy and Parenthood among Young People from Care. London: Jessica Kingsley.

Crawford, Adam, and Tim Newburn. (2003) Youth Offending and Restorative Justice: Implementing Reform in Youth Justice. Cullompton, Devon, UK:

 Kessler, Rachael, (2000). The Soul of Education: Helping Students Find Connection, Compassion, and Character at School. ASCD Publications: Alexandria, Va.

 Maiese, M. (2003).  Intractability: Restorative Justice, The Aims of Restorative Justice. The Conflict Information Consortium; Boulder, Co.

 Marzano, R.J., (2003). What Works in Schools: Translating Research into Action. ASCD Publications: Alexandria, Va.

 Mills, M.S., (2003). Educating Language Minority Students, Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation; Bloomington, In.

 Noddings, N. (2005). The Challenge to Care in Schools: An Alternative Approach to Education. Teachers College Press: New York, N.Y.

Phillips, Vicki (1998). Empowering Discipline: The Approach That Works With At-Risk Students. Personal Development Publications: Camel, CA.

 Ruzzi, Betsy B. and Kraemer, Jacqueline; (2006). Academic Programs in Alternative Education:  An Overview. National Center on Education and the Economy.

 Tallerico, M., (2005). Supporting and Sustaining Teachers’ Professional Development: Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, California.

 Tomlinson, C.A., (1999). The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners. ASCD Publications; Alexandria, Va. 


The 2014 Approved budget for the program is $4,665,054 million.  The budget information can be found at the following link: