Student academic success and persistence to graduation : a study of an alternative high school
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] There has been growing concern regarding students identified as at-risk of non-persistence to graduation. Students may be considered to be at-risk because they fail to meet educational milestones, may have learning disabilities, exhibit behavior which results in chronic disciplinary issues and/or have high rates of absenteeism. Eventually, some of these students are referred to alternative education programs (AEPs). While a variety of alternative education models have been developed out of the necessity to serve the local needs of school districts, the most common form of alternative education program currently operating is one designed to serve at-risk students and operates as part of a school district's comprehensive dropout prevention program. Therefore, this research study sought to address this problem by evaluating an existing alternative educational program located in a rural Southeast Missouri school district, designed to assist high-risk students. The outcome objectives of the program were to ensure students persist to graduation, increase opportunities for students to earn credits, return students to the regular education program, and increase attendance in school, increase grades, and decrease poor behavior. A purposive sample population of 76 students, 49 males and 27 females, from 9th through 12th grades, who were enrolled in the alternative school during the 2005-2006 through 2010-2011 school years, was used as the study sample population. Outcome data collected from the study sample of students who attended the alternative education program were compared to outcome data collected from a comparison sample of students with matching descriptive and demographic characteristics who did not participate in the program. Purposive sampling was used to select the study sample (AEP Sample) and stratified random sampling was used to select the comparison sample (Matched Sample). A quantitative non-experimental research design used to collect data. When the descriptive and demographic characteristic variables of the study sample and the comparison sample were statistically compared, there were no significant Student Academic Success differences on the descriptive characteristic variables of cumulative GPA, attendance rate, and OSS rate. When demographic characteristic variables of the study group and comparison group were statistically compared, there were no significant differences in grade level, ethnicity, gender, Individualized Education Plan (IEP) status, and Free and Reduced Lunch FRL) status. Results showed differences in the total number of disciplinary referrals and attendance rates between the AEP Sample population and the Matched Sample. Additionally, students in the Matched Sample exhibited better behavior at the posttest phase compared to their peers who were placed in the AEP. Data from this study supports research that administrators and key personnel need to do a more comprehensive job in communicating the goals of the program to regular school day and AEP staff to ensure additional measures of support are available to students. Additionally, a formative evaluation of the program every three to five years should be developed to assure objectives for success are carried out in the program.
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