Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Educational Policy and Leadership

Content Description

1 online resource (vi, 145 pages) : 1 color illustration.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Heinz D Meyer

Committee Members

Alan Wagner, Jan Hammond


Alternative Education, At Risk Students, Discipline, Disrupting the Pipeline, Alternative education, School discipline, Discrimination in education, Right to education, Rewards and punishments in education, Student expulsion

Subject Categories

Educational Administration and Supervision | Educational Leadership | Education Policy


Conventional punitive detention- and suspension-based correctional approaches to student disruptive behavior are widely considered ineffective and counterproductive. Instead of offering opportunities for change and growth, they punish students they deem incorrigible by excluding them from instruction. While effective alternative approaches and programs exist, their use is far less widespread than would seem indicated. The purpose of this study is to explore how schools with successful alternative educational and disciplinary programs manage to overcome resistance to change and create settings that sustain the education for these students who through repeated disruptive behavior tend to fail in conventional punitive disciplinary programs. Three school districts in New York which sustained successful alternative education programs were studied. How the programs were formed and overcame resistance to change, how educators define success beyond improved graduation rates, and how educators have maintained that success over time were the focus questions of the study. By investigating how these three programs came into existence and have sustained their success over time, this study attempts to shed light on why there are not more alternative education programs to educate disruptive youth who are at risk for dropping out of school. The findings suggest that most Alt-Ed programs succeed in idiosyncratic ways with high, perhaps complete, dependence on committed charismatic leadership, and little in the way of generic evidence that could be easily scaled up.