Date of Award

Spring 3-20-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Executive Ed.D. in Education Leadership Management and Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Anthony Colella, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Barbara Strobert, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Timothy Blackwell, Ed.D

Committee Member

Mary Hancock, Ph.D


student perceptions, educational pathway, at-risk, non-traditional school


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore how students ages 18-21 who are currently enrolled in a non-traditional educational setting articulate their educational pathway. The narrative inquiry method of research allowed the research participants to tell “their stories” in “their own” words. The research participants could articulate their views and perceptions on the factors that affected their educational pathway. Thirteen participants participated in the focus groups sessions and in-depth, semi-structured interviews.

Bronfenbrenner’s social systems theory (1979), environmental factors, educational experiences, excessive discipline infractions, and legal problems were dominant themes in the study. The study examined the at-risk social, at-risk school, and at-risk student/family factors that may impact a student’s educational pathway. The study found that even though each research participant had a different educational pathway, many of their social, school, and family experiences were similar. The perspectives of the factors impacting each research participant’s pathway varied as well as his or her perception of the level of support received from individuals throughout his or her educational pathway. Participants in the study were motivated to continue to pursue their secondary educational credentials despite obstacles, setbacks, and adversity.

This study identified the need for the local school district to continue providing alternative educational settings to students that need a different learning environment. There is also a need to evaluate the current student supports and interventions offered in the traditional school setting. There is also a need to address the impact of community and neighborhood factors that may affect students while in school. Policies designed for school improvement are recommended.