What alternative schools get right: Lessons from the field

Michael Bonagura, Wendy Wilkinson, and Dr. Laura Pardo, Department of Education, Hope College, 41 Graves Places, 49423

Currently, there is a negative stigma toward alternative schools. The purpose of this research project is to examine alternative schools through the lens of good schools. Research suggests that relying solely on numerical data does not provide a complete picture of good schools; rather, parents, adolescents, and teachers use different criteria to determine a good school; things such as climate in the school, available resources, a focus on students, and a strong and engaged staff.  The current study will use qualitative methods of observation, survey, interview, and focus groups of teachers, students, and administrators who currently attend or work at alternative schools. Because schools and classrooms are complex organizations, having multiple voices from several data sources will give us a deeper understanding of what occurs in alternative schools. Data will be analyzed using both grounded theory - a process involving collecting and analyzing data concurrently so that we leave open the possibility of uncovering new hypotheses or theories - and deductive methods of qualitative research so that we might test our hypotheses of good schools. Finally, we will use a simple statistical analysis to understand some of the qualitative data. Given that we want to know the extent and value of the four characteristics of good schools; numerical data will provide a focus for the analysis of the qualitative data. Our hypothesis asserts that alternative high schools enact practices that demonstrate the characteristics of good schools. We hope this data will show that the stigma of alternative schools is misunderstood and that alternative schools provide valid and valuable educational opportunities for students who attend alternative high schools.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenters: Michael Bonagura, Adolfo Magarin -

Institution: Hope College

Type: Poster

Subject: Education

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 5
Date/Time: Tue 12:30pm-1:30pm
Session Number: 4164