Date of Award

Fall 9-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Dr. Susan Isenberg

Second Advisor

Dr. Stephen Sherblom

Third Advisor

Dr. Graham Weir

Abstract

Alternative education has become an integral program, in one form or another throughout most school districts in the United States. Alternative education is a very complex and controversial issue that is best understood through the stories of former alternative education students looking back on their lived experiences. Children in the alternative education program studied here were generally those who did not fit into a general education program due to behavior problems or lack of academic success. The purpose of the study was to investigate alternative education primarily through in-depth interviews and case studies of 18 previous alternative education students who were voluntary participants and secondarily through interviews of current alternative education professional staff. The main research question was: In what ways has the study program been meeting the needs of students in the alternative education program, and in what ways may it be improved? The sub questions were the following: (a) Which aspects of this alternative education program are effective or ineffective and why, according to former participants? and (b) Which strategies utilized in the alternative education program may be useful in general education classrooms, according to the participants? Results revealed that the majority of students viewed the alternative education experience as positive if there was a patient, supportive, caring adult in their school life. The study program was effective in meeting the needs of the iii students through low student-to-teacher ratios, highly structured classrooms, school and community mentors, and high quality academic instruction. However, more of the following is needed: funding for some students who need services outside the school, initial and continuing education for staff to counter teacher burn-out and stereotyping of students, space to alleviate overcrowding, parent involvement, and leadership. Ten themes emerged from the data: anger, victim mentality, neglect, abandonment, apathy, self-doubt, bullying, academic struggles, unequal prospects, and most important—a relationship with a caring adult.

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