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Integrating research and practice to improve programming in a community-based alternative school

26 July 2013


The purpose of the present study was to evaluate a local alternative high school education program, assess areas of need, and make recommendations to strengthen programming as well as to support greater student success. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected to determine the needs of the Progressions Alternative School System (PASS) program, an alternative high school education program in suburban Oregon. The study utilized student attendance, standardized testing performance, and graduation rates to evaluate student outcomes compared to state and national averages as well as outcomes from other regional alternative programs. A review of best practices as well as information collected through surveys and interviews within the PASS program and other regional alternative programs was used to identify recommendations for improving student outcomes within the PASS program. Three regional programs were utilized as a comparison group. Data indicated that the PASS program fell below regional, state, and national averages for student attendance, testing scores, and graduation rates. Themes of relationships, teacher involvement in curriculum development, limited availability of resources and communication with students’ families emerged from teacher group interviews across regional programs. Strong-student teacher relationships and inflexibility of the current curriculum were particularly emphasized within the PASS program. Regional comparisons revealed both areas of weakness as well as a few areas of strength for the PASS program. Recommendations for improving student outcomes within the PASS program included the development of a curriculum utilizing direct instruction, the establishment of a stronger support system for students, the expansion of incentives for student participation, and a renovation of the program’s physical space. In addition to having particular relevance for the PASS program, the present study has implications for understanding characteristics of effective alternative school programming. Further, this study helps to inform the process of evaluating the success of an alternative program in the absence of state or federal data that are specific to alternative schools.


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