ORCID Identifier(s)


Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Graham Casey Brown


In 2013, just over two-thirds of students graduated from high school in the prescribed four years. Some students continued to attend traditional high schools for a fifth year; others entered an alternative high school and earned a high school equivalency certificate, qualifying them as completers. Some joined the workforce or dropped out of school altogether. Other students enrolled in an alternative high school during the prescribed four years and either graduated on time, graduated in their fifth year, or dropped out. In this phenomenological study, deciding factors for school disengagement and reengagement were explored, via self-determination theory, by examining how former students perceived that their alternative high school experiences affected their autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Interviews were conducted with 10 former students (five graduates and five dropouts), three alternative education teachers, and two alternative school administrators. The themes that emerged from the data included: (1) relationships rather than programs led to the success of an alternative high school, (2) students blamed push-out factors at the traditional high school for their disengagement, (3) students exercised autonomy in their choices of whether pull-out factors would impact their decision to graduate or drop out, (4) personalized instruction supported student learning, and (5) one-on-one advising supported students’ curricular and life decisions. Further studies are needed to examine whether increasing the capacity of alternative campuses would assist in student success, or if part of the success of alternative high schools comes from limiting the number of students served on a campus.


Student disengagement, Reengagement, High school dropout, Alternative high schools, Self-determination theory


Education | Educational Leadership


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington