Bad kids gone good: a narrative inquiry study of alternative education graduates

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Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Education.
The purpose of this narrative inquiry study was to conduct an in-depth exploration of the perceptions of two students who graduated from an alternative education program. Perceptions of the students were focused on what they attributed to as contributing reasons for their graduation from the program. This qualitative study was conducted with purposeful and criteria-based sampling selection. Participants selected belonged to a population of students who were labeled as at-risk and transitioned to an alternative education program from a traditional high school. Narrative inquiry was used as a framework to understand the participants' experiences prior to being in the alternate education program, their experiences within the program, and their reflections about the program after graduation. Participants' narrative construction was influenced by the bildungsroman structure of storytelling to depict coming of age and character development. Findings indicate that at-risk students may experience limited access to alternative education programs due to a false binary relationship between traditional and alternative education. Findings also indicate that while the students are in an alternate education program, they are less likely to behave in manners that contributed to their at-risk status, and demonstrate intrinsic motivation and perseverance to complete their coursework. Additionally, findings reveal that upon graduation, participants were able to utilize various skills learned in the alternative education program while attending community colleges. Such skills included time management, focused attention, and balancing work and academic responsibilities. This study raises implications about conversations that need to occur between administrators and teachers in traditional and alternate education programs to evaluate the best ways in which students' learning needs can be served. Implications can also be raised for advocating for more resources for alternative education program so that it would be equitable, instead of scarcely resourced. Finally this study raises implications for the importance of the perspectives of students who graduate from alternate education program to not only challenge the negative stereotypes of alternate education, but to also offer a counter narratives to the dominant discourse that paint an inaccurate picture of the types of students who attend and value alternate education.
Educational Leadership, Curriculum & Instruction
College of Education and Human Development

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