The creation of an alternative school setting and the personal impact on three ninth grade students
This action research presents an overview of the steps taken to create an alternative school for ninth grade students. It highlights the voices of three students, young ladies who were able to exit the alternative setting at the semester break. Their voices provide a perspective of the strategies which allowed them to be successful in attaining the required criteria, as well as their experiences in moving to a new campus, a traditional high school, in the middle of their ninth grade year. For many years educators have sought to develop alternatives for students who do not meet current grade standards. The practice of passing students to the next grade on the basis of age and attendance, rather than academic achievement, has been known as social promotion. This means students make progress in school without meeting the required progress in learning. School policies have been criticized for failing to effectively educate students. Discouraging findings from studies and standardized test reports have created an emphasis on accountability, standards, grade-level expectations and the passage of reform proposals, which deal directly with issues of school accountability and retention. Now, educational systems are addressing the issue of accountability and standards by setting fixed criteria which students need to meet in order to be promoted to the following grade. The district examined, created an alternative school for students who did not meet the minimum requirement to attend their local comprehensive high school. This new school focused directly on students' academic deficits, extended the school day, lowered class size, and individualized the academic program to address students' areas ofneed. The findings indicate the three girls experienced an academic setback in their grades when they moved mid-year to the traditional high school. They each repeatedly voiced their doubt about having the abilities to meet the requirements of their new classes. The ethnographic part of this study recorded perceptions of the girl which indicated feelings of frustration, struggle, doubt, and resistance to a new school which lacked three important features which were strengths at the alternative school: longer days; smaller classes; and individualized attention by teachers I support staff. The girls believed these were key elements to their success in exiting the alternative setting.