over 2,000 students from 102 districts in eight states during 1995-96, Ombudsman
Educational Services is among the largest private providers of alternative education under
contract with the public schools.48 Established in 1975 to provide alternative
education to students who have either dropped out of school or are at risk of dropping out
or being expelled, Ombudsman averages an 85 percent student retention rate. Per-pupil cost
of the program: $20-$25 per dayabout half the cost of educating a student in a
regular public school.
Ombudsman seeks to increase student achievement enough to enable the student to return
to his or her home school prepared to graduate. Students may also graduate directly from
Ombudsman with a diploma or GED (General Equivalency Diploma).
Teachers in Ombudsman schools are state certified and most Ombudsman programs are
accredited by the North Central Association. Ombudsmans approach involves self-paced
instruction with low pupil-teacher ratios (less than ten-to-one). Students attend
Ombudsman schools for three hours a day, five days a week, working at their own pace with
computer-based instruction on basic skills. Says Boyle, "You can never fool kids.
Unless they see something worthwhile, theyll stop coming."49
Said one 12th-grade student about Ombudsmans concentrated approach, "I
learned more in these four hours than I learned in a week at my old school. You learn
about three or four subjects a day and spend about 45 minutes on each subject, so
its like a classroom. . . . Four hours is long. By the end of the day, youre
Said another student, "They do tests so you start with what you dont know
and you dont redo the things you already know. You dont get bored. You go at
your own pace."51
Don Gossett, superintendent of the 2,400-student Libertyville High School in
Libertyville, Illinois, contracts with Ombudsman for twelve students. "Were
pleased with what they provide. Its truly an alternative program. Its very
individualized and designed around technology. We use it as a last chance type of thing
for students who are highly at-risk."52 At a cost of $3,000 per student,
Gossett says the program is cost effective. "We could not provide a program on campus
for what they do it for."