Date of Award

7-23-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)

Department

Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Valeri R. Helterbran, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

George R. Bieger, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Kelli R. Paquette, Ed.D.

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine graduates' perspectives of factors that contributed to enrollment in and the completion of a public high school alternative education program and the benefits that have persisted beyond graduation. This study examined graduates' perceptions of their experiences in a traditional school setting and an alternative education program as well as their perceptions of experiences following graduation from an alternative education program. The theoretical perspectives such as school as a caring community, resilience, and persistence served as body of framework for developing the research. A mixed methods protocol was utilized to examine graduates' perceptions. The data collection consisted of a survey which was administered to graduates in a quantitative phase, followed by individual interviews which were conducted with eight graduates in a qualitative phase. Results from the quantitative phase of this study showed that graduates had more favorable perceptions of the alternative education program than the traditional school setting, and that graduates had positive perceptions of the benefits of the alternative education program that persist following graduation from the program. The qualitative phase results indicated that graduates' perceptions of the traditional school setting were negative due in part to large classes, a large school, and a lack of connection with adults in the traditional school. Findings from the interviews revealed that the main reason graduates preferred the alternative education program and were successful in the program was because of the connection graduates were able to form with the adults in the program. Moreover, this study identified these aspects of the alternative education program that contributed to graduates' accomplishments: increased attendance, academic achievement, smaller class sizes, and a caring and nurturing environment. This study concludes that alternative education programs are effective in meeting the needs of students at risk.

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