Showing More Promise Than Performance: Assessment of a First Year Alternative Program

By Tara Shepperson, Michele Reynolds and Lynn Hemmer.

Published by The International Journal of Assessment and Evaluation

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

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

International Journal of Assessment and Evaluation, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp.1-8. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 283.325KB).

Dr. Tara Shepperson

Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky, USA

Tara Shepperson focuses her research on innovative and alternative educational programs that serve diverse groups of students and researching the teaching of research in educational leadership. She is particularly interested in a mixed methods and qualitative approaches to assist in evaluating educational programs, school culture, and organizational structure. She has a background in educational evaluation and currently teaches graduate classes in research, ethics, and leadership.

Dr. Michele Reynolds

District Assessment Coordinator, Assessment and Data Services, Fayette County School District, Lexington, Kentucky, USA

During her career in education, Dr. Reynolds served as a middle school teacher, middle school principal, and as a Highly Skilled Educator. She is currently employed as the Associate Director of Assessment and Data Services for Fayette County School District in Kentucky and is a part-time faculty member at Eastern Kentucky University.

Dr. Lynn Hemmer

Assistant Professor, College of Education, Texas A & M Corpus Christi, Corpus, Texas, USA

Dr. Hemmer has a 15 year background in public schools as teacher, and school and district administrator. Her areas of specialization include policy implementation, educational equity, special populations, and dropout prevention programs. She currently teaches at Texas A & M University, Corpus Christi.