Before attending a new 7th–12th grade public alternative school, the aggregate profile of this school’s students showed multiple characteristics of school failure: truancy, discipline referrals, failing grades, and test scores substantially below grade level. By the spring semester of the inaugural year, however, glimpses of improvement could already be found. Daily attendance increased from 83.81% to 91.53%. Per-student discipline referrals dropped from 6.25 to a 0.09 per student average. Student anecdotes suggested previously disengaged students felt connected to the school, specific teachers, and fellow students. This improvement was not evident in standardized test scores. Paired sample t-tests of Measurements of Academic Progress (MAP) tests showed no significant difference in math or reading scores. The study findings suggested that the school's emphasis on relationship building and socialization had improved students' attitude toward school. Literature on preventing drop outs supports increased student engagement as a valuable first step in recovering these youngsters. Instructional strategies focused on projects and real world connections, popular at the school, have also shown support in the research. No doubt there was a palpable enthusiasm and sense of belonging at this new alternative school. What remained unclear is whether teacher performance, academic demands, and the positive culture of the school were sufficient to increase academic rigor. Evaluators praised the hands-on student work, and enthusiasm of the staff. They also recommended that long term support and success of the school depended on quantifiable indications of academic progress as demonstrated in requisite standardized tests.
|Keywords:||Alternative Education, Drop Out Prevention, Academic Progress, School Evaluation, At-risk Students|
Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky, USA
District Assessment Coordinator, Assessment and Data Services, Fayette County School District, Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Assistant Professor, College of Education, Texas A & M Corpus Christi, Corpus, Texas, USA