For a school to be classified as an alternative school, it must meet at least the following criteria:
- The organizational entity (for example, a complete school or a separate class group within a school) must be within the state public education system.
- Students and teachers must be selected from among volunteers.
- The educational program must be a total program or essentially a total program that is significantly different from the standard programs offered in the district.
- The learning environment must be such that it allows students to achieve their maximum potential.
- Alternatives must be offered in addition to, rather than in place of, the traditional program.
An alternative program is a special program that a student may elect to take as a part of his or her regular program. An alternative program does not meet the criteria of an alternative school because it does not comprise the student's total programs or the major portion of it.
* California Department of Education Website May 28, 2006 <http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/eo/as/aeoverview.asp>