Carolyn Jun


Alternative education programs were designed to meet the needs of at-risk students who were not succeeding in a traditional classroom environment. This mixed-methods study examined a particular type of alternative education program—a secondary independent study program—in six charter alternative schools in Los Angeles County, California. The data included student records, field notes, and semi-structured interviews from 24 current students, their parents, and 12 teachers—selected by a stratified random sample of the population at the six sites. This study examined the participants’ perceptions of the purpose of the program, their motivations to be at an alternative school, change in GPA from past to present school, the school’s organization, any desired changes to the program, and their satisfaction with the independent study program. The findings revealed how at-risk students benefit from alternative educational programs. Located at a site different from traditional schools, these schools were small, storefront spaces. They were redesigned with classrooms for these students, catered to different learning styles and interests, operated with small classes, had flexible hours, and provided for high academic requirements. All students reported and data supported that they were doing better at their current school than at their previous school: their mean GPA changed from 2.03 to 3.33. All students interviewed expected to complete a high school diploma, and 68% indicated a desire to continue to college. Due to the low teacher to student ratio of 1:6, both students and parents were able to have a close relationship with the teachers. Ninety-two percent of the students and ninety-six percent of the parents stated that they felt that their current teachers genuinely cared about them. Students and parents were satisfied with these independent study programs. All parents expressed that they would choose their student's current school as their school of choice. In addition, these schools focused on engaging the students through various extra-curricular activities. Students, parents, and teachers unanimously agreed that extra-curricular activities, especially student council, were an important component to these programs. Through school academics and extra-curricular activities, these students gained confidence and were motivated to perform at a higher level to graduate.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Alternative education -- California -- Los Angeles; Children with social disabilities -- Education (Secondary) -- California -- Los Angeles; Educational evaluation -- California -- Los Angeles

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Hiatt-Michael, Diana B.;