Understanding Student Disaffection through the Lens of Alternative Education FINAL REPORT – DECEMBER 6, 2011 THE LINCY INSTITUTE FELLOWSHIP RESEARCH AWARD GWEN C. MARCHAND ASSISTANT PROFESSOR DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, COGNITION, AND DEVELOPMENT Project Introduction What is this project all about? Partnership between Student Support Services Division (SSSD) in Clark County School District (CCSD) who administer to alternative schools and UNLV Grew from desire to know: More about the demographics and academic history of alternative school population being served by SSSD Student perspectives of educational experience leading to alternative school placement How to better identify needs and target current and early intervention services Alternative Education in Clark County Alternative Education in Clark County Behavior Schools – 9 weeks Continuation Schools – 18 weeks Also called consequence schools Alternative schools served 5,690 students in 2009- 2010 30% received multiple referrals 18% had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Need for Project Alternative school may be last stop before dropping out entirely Some alternative schools have dropout rates exceeding 50% (www.nevadareportcard.com) Why focus on special education students in alternative education? Students in alternative education are predominately male, minority, and a substantial percentage are eligible for special education services. Students of color are overrepresented in special education (Shealey & Lue, 2006 & Ferri, & Connor, 2005) Many students placed in special education also face other challenges, such as few economic resources (Shealey & Lue, 2006) Taken together, special education students may have increased risk for academic disaffection leading to alternative education. Relevant Literature Alternative education Deficit-thinking paradigm dominates limited literature on alternative education Suggests individual factors, rather than systemic factors, are responsible for student failures and disaffection Alternative settings may offer caring environment but lack academic rigor (Kim & Taylor, 2008) Limited research on student trajectories to alternative education and student educational experiences in alternative education Relevant Literature Student disaffection Disaffection is characterized by active withdrawal from academic activities and is reflective of maladaptive motivational states (Skinner, Furrer, Marchand, & Kindermann, 2008) Negative emotions, disruptive or unproductive behavior, reduced cognitive engagement Transactions between the individual and the educational system may contribute to disaffection Dearth of information about systemic factors, such as provision of services, teacher quality, transition plans, curriculum continuity, school culture, etc. that may contribute to disaffected behaviors leading to alternative enrollment Relevant Literature School transitions Transitions may be a period of vulnerability for academically at-risk students Scheduled transitions Students may be unprepared for increased demands of middle and high school and may lack appropriate structure to help them succeed Unscheduled transitions Frequent mobility associated with achievement loss (Alspaugh, 1998; Engec, 2006) and high school completion (Rumberger, & Larson 1998) Project Goals Research Use existing data sources to identify patterns of academic life leading to enrollment and recidivism in alternative education for students receiving special education services. Conduct a series of interviews to understand student experiences in general and alternative education, particularly during transition periods. Partnership Develop partnership with the Clark County School District (CCSD) Student Support Services Division (SSSD) staff responsible for serving alternative education schools. Support SSSD in developing capacity for understanding and using data to… better target existing services establish evidence and guidance for early intervention programs Research Activities Design Mixed Methods Sequential Explanatory Design (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007) Quantitative Qualitative Cohort-Sequential Longitudinal Design Investigate Student Experiences Secondary Data In-depth Student Interviews Quantitative Methods Secondary data sources: Count day file 2009-10 = demographics Enrollment history Annual discipline counts Annual attendance State standardized testing data (CRT; Grades 3, 5, 8) Academic Year Data Source 06-07 07-08 08-09 09-10 Annual Attendance X X X X Annual Discipline Counts X X X X CRT (3, 5, 8) 03-04 X 04-05 X 05-06 X X X Quantitative Methods Participants – all 8-12th grade students designated as having a learning disability or other health impairment (ADHD) enrolled and showing evidence of attendance as of 2009 count day (September 2009) AND having available enrollment history data Quantitative Descriptive Findings Frequency of alternative enrollment 665 students (61.7%) = 1 enrollment 217 students (20.1%) = 2 enrollments 196 students (18.2%) = 3 or more enrollments Within-year mobility during elementary school Alternative group: Average of 1.17 transitions (SD = 1.53) Non-alternative group: Average of .63 transitions (SD = 1.16) Academic Performance Academic performance history 80 70 Percentage 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Alternative Emergent Non-Alternative Emergent Alternative Approaches Non-Alternative Approaches Gr3 Reading 49.2 52.4 47.7 43.4 Gr5 Reading 64.2 56.6 33.6 39 Gr8 Reading 49.6 31.4 46.8 59.2 Gr3 Math Gr5 Math Gr8 Math 56.9 50.2 38.4 42.4 44.3 37.9 48.6 53.3 71 59.5 25 32.3 Attendance Average annual absences from 2006-07 thru 2009-10 Excused Absences Unexcused Absences Days Enrolled n Mean (SD) Mean (SD) Mean (SD) Grade 8 Alt 114 14.44 (8.23) 7.95 (6.89) 170.72 (8.84) Grade 8 Non-alt 1403 6.08 (5.29) 4.52 (5.10) 173.92 (9.75) Grade 9 Alt 230 15.74 (9.26) 11.53 (9.53) 169.69 (15.89) Grade 9 Non-alt 1560 6.82 (6.40) 6.07 (7.89) 174.51 (13.03) Grade 10 Alt 331 17.69 (12.12) 11.76 (9.87) 170.51 (15.97) Grade 10 Non-alt 1664 7.06 (6.41) 6.76 (7.74) 174.62 (12.43) Grade 11 Alt 219 16.69 (11.01) 9.64 (7.34) 170.12 (16.22) Grade 11 Non-alt 1240 7.12 (6.70) 5.86 (6.82) 174.20 (13.32) Grade 12 Alt 171 15.21 (10.22) 8.44 (8.01) 170.72 (17.52) Grade 12 Non-alt 1040 7.26 (7.01) 4.90 (5.62) 175.23 (12.89) Discipline 9th Grade Student Discipline Data for Grades 6, 7, and 9 3.0000 Average Number of Referrals 2.5000 2.0000 1.5000 Alternative 1.0000 .5000 .0000 Non-Alternative Discipline 10th Grade Student Discipline Data for Grades 7, 8, and 10. 3.0000 Average Number of Referrals 2.5000 2.0000 1.5000 Alternative Non-Alternative 1.0000 .5000 .0000 Quantitative Summary and Next Steps Consistent pattern of negative adjustment indicators for students who eventually enroll in alternative programs At what grade do these indicators begin to diverge? Are there threshold points of increased vulnerability? What role does elementary mobility play as a risk factor? Middle school may be a time of increasing disparity Receipt of additional data and more in-depth analyses of existing data to investigate Student trajectories Statistical differences and effect sizes between groups Predictors of risk Qualitative Methods Purposeful sampling with following criteria: Students with learning disabilities Students enrolled in behavior or continuation school for initial interview Students recidivated into alternative education 11 student participants enrolled in one of 4 alternative schools (2 behavior; 2 continuation) 10 males 2 8th graders; 2 9th graders; 3 10th graders; 1 11th grader; 3 12th graders Qualitative Methods Interview protocol loosely based on Seidman’s (2006) life history approach In-depth interviews Open ended and conversational style Questions based on general topic areas 2 interviews of each child Interview 1: during alternative school enrollment Interview 2: following transition back to comprehensive campus Interview last between 20 minutes and over an hour Interview one Focus on student experiences since first enrollment in CCSD General motivation and engagement; support systems; school behavior; experiences during transitions Interview two Student reflections and meaning-making of recent experience of alternative and general ed settings and transition between the two Qualitative Findings 5 general themes/domains emerged from analysis of coded data Personal attributes Perceptions of social relationships Problem solving activities Processing of school environment Processing of school events Personal Attributes Student behavioral proclivities, beliefs, perceptions of reasons for engaging or disengaging in school, emotional orientations toward school Emerged from discussions of factors that facilitated or inhibited school adjustment and behavior issues Interest and activities and peers commonly discussed as reason for coming to school and stay out of trouble Personal Attributes Student negative emotional orientations, such as anger or boredom, common source of problems I: You said that you threw scissors at a teacher, what made you do that? S: Like my anger and stuff like that. Like when I get angry I use to get angry and there was no stopping me. Like anything you told me not to do, I would do. Beliefs about self and behavior leads to conflicts in academic situations I: How would you describe yourself as a student? S: …I’m a good student, but it’s just I’m just here because like I feel like whenever somebody disrespect me I gotta disrespect them back… Social Relationships Specific discussions related to interactions with social partners, such as teachers or peers Emerged from discussion of facilitative and inhibitive factors Peers both source of school engagement as well as source of problems Students insightful as to role of peers in behavioral influence Example from student describing experience during new school transition I: Do you think that the curriculum was easier? Was there anything that you could attribute to your better performance? S: It was easier but then I ain’t have no friends there so I was just like going to class on time doing my work. Social Relationships School staff interactions featured heavily in discussions Some students felt alternative teachers were more attentive but others did not; non-classroom teachers often mentioned as supports: coaches, counselors, sped Example of when interactions with teacher influenced behavior When I ask for help, they ignore me; but when I raise my hand, like, they’re <like> “put your hand down, I’m not answering no questions right now.” Like, when teachers they’ll get mad like before they get to school and like, they take it out on the students....or they like come over there like "what you want" or something like that. Like, when they get all in my face like "what you want," I won't even ask 'em for nothing anymore. I won't ask them a question for like a week. How Students Approach Problems Students discussed how they dealt with challenging situations, such as transitioning to new school or with academic challenges Strategies and awareness of resources Differences in student willingness to use problem solving strategies in classroom and knowledge of strategies General low level of how to access help or even when help needed Extreme end – student comes to school for social reasons, gets by through copying from smart people, does not participate and avoids situations to expose her to failure Other students more positive and mention going to teachers, special ed facilitators, classmates for hellp Environment Processing Theme emerged from discussions about how students understand specific school settings, such as alternative schools Focused heavily in transition discussions Apprehension toward alternative school based on past experience common theme Fear of getting further behind due to curricular differences or environmental challenges S: These kids…<they interfere with the education the student is trying to get>…’cuz they always disrupting the teacher or something, yelling or something, doin’ some stupid thing…and then like the teacher get disrupted and she gonna deal with them and that’s takin us out of hour. Environment Processing Change in environment and school culture often helpful in forming new relationships or academic adjustment S: …they some fun teachers because they like to do activities and stuff in the class…and they teach a lot too. I: …and was it easy for you to get to know teachers <at the new school>? S: Yes. I: Okay good. What made them easier to approach? What was it about their demeanor? S: Cuz like the other school I was going to, <old school>, it’s like a ghetto school…and <the new school> is like a corny school…like lame. (student continued to divulge how the teachers kept the students on track at this “corny” school and that helped him) Event Processing Students reflected on important life events that influenced school experience and illustrated student behavioral and psychological adaptation Change in belief about school importance stemming from scheduled school transitions S (02): It’s high-school, like it counts…all your credits and stuff like you’re not just doing all your work for nothing. Like middle school and elementary, it’s like you’re doing work for nothing..So that’s why I think like most people don’t really try. S (S03): …So when I finally did start asking for the help and getting what I needed, it kinda made it easier to transition into high school, ya know, to understand that now you have to have not this kid set of mind, but more of a mature, teenage-adult mind; you have to set your standards higher; you have to put the bar up there; “you have to think about the next step before you just do it this time,” (chuckles) ya know, ‘cuz now you’re thinking “there’s a consequence for everything soooo now that I know that (chuckles,) I may want to think about this before I do it;” Event Processing Student responses to life events, such as parental divorce or within-year mobility, was that this is “just the way things are” and seemed to become the status quo for many students Revised expectations for school and behavior downward Not a big deal if not having a positive experience or doing well, because that is not the expectation for self Students form beliefs about why others respond to them in certain ways after attending alternative school Students discussing experiences with teachers at gen ed campus S: They don’t talk as much to you as other people because I think they like know that I’m a fighter and stuff, yeah. Qualitative Summary School supports and student personal resources and perceptions interact to influence student adjustment in school Students may not have sufficient knowledge of problem solving strategies to succeed and may not view the system as open for assistance This is one avenue for possible intervention School staff and peers are key partners in facilitating or inhibiting adjustment History of negative or null experiences contribute to downward revision of expectations of self and others Qualitative Next Steps Things to consider Curricular coherence School climate More overlap Distinctions/similarities between school types Transitions Supports for effective within-year transitions Different structural transitions may have different meanings Where have students remained engaged? Where have they withdrawn? Qualitative Next Steps Continue to collect data for initial and follow-up interviews Refine coding scheme and search for new themes Develop narratives: For common and disparate history of experience For common and disparate meaning-making over alterative to general ed transition For individual stories spanning both events Research Summary Preliminary results from mixed-methods study are intriguing and ripe for follow-up Both quantitative and qualitative components indicate that early school experience influences subsequent student behavior leading to alternative school placement Middle school may be a time of increased vulnerability due to lack of supports, decreased monitoring, low academic competence Student mobility may be important indicator for early intervention services Partnership Activities Completed Activities Ongoing meetings to share findings and discuss ways to use data Work together to devise materials for collection of behavior plan data to improve service provision SSSD perceptions of partnership: “As part of a proactive process the Student Support Services Division will be able to work with students to identify patterns that will potentially lead to future behavior difficulties and eventually to student disaffection if they are not addressed…. The benefits of having this information are unlimited for how to prevent students from eventually being referred to a consequence school. School decision making teams will have less of a disconnection when determining supports for students. Currently when students are sent to a consequence school, the referring school has very little understanding of how this impacts the student educationally and emotionally. The information gained from this project will be beneficial for future training to make teachers at all levels aware of how the decisions that are made for students at all levels can impact their future educational success.” Ongoing Activities Developing training partnership to assist behavior mentors at schools in consistently collecting and using data about information in behavior plans No-cost evaluation of new program provided by SSSD to alternative schools Continued development of research activities to provide SSSD with useful and relevant data to guide decision making and determine effectiveness of services Conclusions Moving Forward Project will continue past Lincy Award thanks support from Shulman Family Foundation The APA Division 15 Early Career Award A great CCSD partner Preliminary results from the interview portion of the project already committed to publication in book chapter in 2012. Acknowledgements Lincy Institute staff Joanne Vattiato, Stephanie Simmons, Katja Hermes, Kamille Bryner at SSSD Participating schools and students Tireless UNLV student assistants: Kayana Sanders, Christie Higgins, Kyle Kaalberg COE and Department of Educational Research, Cognition, and Development Questions????