Overcoming academic alienation: The impact of an alternative high school on secondary students at-risk of school failure
The number of secondary students who make poor academic progress and are at risk of school failure poses a sobering challenge to American public schools. Increasingly, these students are fleeing or being forced out of traditional schools and are either dropping out of high school altogether or are enrolling in alternative schools or programs. One by one, they have failed to thrive in the traditional school settings and have often taken refuge in an alternative high school. To address concerns raised by administrators and patrons of an urban school district, a study was undertaken to determine the impact of the district's alternative high school on its students.
Although the educational and social implications of the problem of students leaving school prematurely have been extensively researched, this study differed from the preponderance of previous research by giving voice to students who had either dropped out, stopped out, drifted out, or been kicked out or pushed out of traditional secondary schools before enrolling at an alternative high school. They represented a full academic spectrum, from students who had participated in gifted and talented programs, to those who had received resource room and Chapter 1 services---factors relating to being 'differently abled' that are increasingly recognized as contributing to risk.
As a management-oriented formative evaluation of an on-going alternative high school program, this study was an examination of outcomes, specifically related to the students' achievements and their impressions and evaluations of their school experiences. The first phase of the study involved gaining the students' perspectives, through a survey that included assessment of the need for and design of the program, its implementation and outcomes. In the second phase, past and present staff at the school were surveyed; and a number of staff were also interviewed to identify both positive and negative policies and practices at the school in order to provide information useful in making modifications to further enhance the strength of the program. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)