Title

The Stories of Students Who Attend an Alternative High School

Location

Harborside Center

Strand #1

Social & Emotional Skills

Relevance

Students who attend alternative school have typically had a greater number of factors in their lives that put them at risk for failure in school than do their peers in traditional schools. (Fulkerson, Harrison, & Beebe, 1997). These students have a variety of stories about their experiences in school and life that contributed to their attendance in an alternative setting.

Brief Program Description

In this presentation the researcher will present qualitative and quantitative data regarding the personal stories of students attending a therapeutic services school as well as data regarding their sense of school membership, perspective of teacher-student relationship, and perspective of locus of control.

Summary

Research often examines the behavior and academic performance of students who attend alternative schools but rarely does it ask students about their experiences. The purpose of this Mixed-methods study is to elicit a detailed account of the participant’s life experiences, personal identity, and expectations; and to find similarities and differences in students who attend this alternative school.

The participants for this Mixed-methods research study include 8 high school students attending an alternative/therapeutic high school. Data was collected through a phenomenological approach to qualitative research using a three interview series of in-depth phenomenological interviews (Seidman, 2012). This method of interviewing combines life history interviewing with focused in depth interviewing which is informed by assumptions drawn from the phenomenology, using primarily but not exclusively open-ended questions. There were three 90-minute interview sessions with each participant. In interview one I asked each participant: Tell me about your life before you came to the alternative school, go as far back as possible. In the second interview I asked each participant: Tell me what your day looks like at the alternative school you currently attend. In the third interview asked each participant: Based on the information you reconstructed in the last two interviews, where do you see yourself in the future? How much control do you have over this?

Quantitative data will be collected using a demographic survey, Psychological Sense of School Membership (Goodenow, 1993), the Gehlback’s Teacher-student relationship scale: Student Survey (Gehlbach, Brinkworth & Harris, 2011), and the Nowicki-Strickland Locus of Control Scale for Children (Norwicki & Strickland, 1971). It will take about an hour for students to complete all surveys and they will be completed after the third interview.

A systematic, qualitative analysis of the interviews will be conducted. First, all of the interviews will be electronically transcribed and the text will be entered into the computer for coding. Next, two researchers will construct a codebook using the coding of important information that emerges from the transcribed text. Next, researchers will review the codes to identify themes and patterns and to develop a conceptual model.

Evidence

Alternative schools are often the last chance oppertunities for students who have been unsuccessful in traditional schools to be successful (Foley & Pang, 2006; Leah & Lange, 2003; Lehr et al., 2009; Tobin & Sprague, 2002). Leah and colleagues (2009) suggest that secondary students who attend alternative school are often either at risk of dropping out, have a history of truancy, physical abuse, substance abuse, homelessness or disruptive behavior. Also, Foley and Pang (2006) stated that students attending alternative schools have higher rates of suicide attempts, sexual activity, and pregnancy. In addition, there is research that suggests that most students attending alternative schools have not met the academic standards at their traditional schools (Kim, 2006; Beken, Williams, Combs, & Slate, 2009). These students have a variety of stories and experiences that led to their transition to alternative schools. The research does not reveal what might be done as an early intervention to prevent students from being at risk of school failure early in their education experience. Students attending alternative schools have stories to share about their journeys through school and life. Research needs to be conducted to gain information from these stories that may make it possible to find ways to prevent students from dropping out, having high rates of truancy, being disruptive in the classroom, abusing substances or partaking in other risky behavior, and maybe even reduce the risk of suicide attempts. Research often examines the behavior and academic performance of students who attend alternative schools but rarely does it ask students about their experiences.

Format

Poster Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Carrie Kane is a PhD student in the Educational Psychology, Special Education, and Communication Disorders department at Georgia State University. Her research focuses on students with disabilities in alternative school settings.

Keyword Descriptors

Alternative Education, Therapeutic Schools, Qualitative, Phenomenology, Student Stories, School Belonging

Presentation Year

2016

Start Date

3-8-2016 4:00 PM

End Date

3-8-2016 5:30 PM

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Mar 8th, 4:00 PM Mar 8th, 5:30 PM

The Stories of Students Who Attend an Alternative High School

Harborside Center

In this presentation the researcher will present qualitative and quantitative data regarding the personal stories of students attending a therapeutic services school as well as data regarding their sense of school membership, perspective of teacher-student relationship, and perspective of locus of control.