Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Shin, Eui-kyung

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Curriculum and Instruction (CI)


The testing an accountability system that plagues the current educational atmosphere has done little to improve outcomes for the general population, rather, it has increased harm to our nation’s most vulnerable populations. As districts grapple with accountability mandates and pressures to improve test scores the number of students excluded from traditional schools and sent to alternative programs continues to grow. Research shows that the majority of programs for at-risk youth are little more than graduation factories that do not adequately prepare students for active participation in democratic society.

This study used a mixed methods design to explore an alternative program that uses a social justice orientation to education, implementing a whole child framework and self-regulated learning instructional practices. T-tests were used to assess the changes students experienced in their self-efficacy, behavior, grade point average and credits earned. Students’ rated their beliefs about the self-regulated learning strategies on a survey and the students’ perceptions of the program were discussed during interviews.

Results from this study demonstrate that students experienced significant changes in each of the four learning indicators assessed after only four months of attending the alternative program. The students attribute these changes to the SRL strategies, the programs ability to flexibly respond to their needs and the relationships they developed with their teachers. The majority of the students agreed that the program promoted authentic learning, increased focus, responsibility, motivation and confidence.

The findings of this study contribute to the existing research on the whole child, confirming that when schools focus on holistic development, efficacy, behavior and achievement improve. Findings also contributes to the body of evidence on the positive effects of self-regulated learning strategies on confidence, behavior, motivation and achievement. As a result of this research it is recommended that schools incorporate a social justice orientation to education by holistically preparing students to be active participants in democratic society before they are excluded and pushed to alternative programs, and extensively when alternative programs are needed.


153 pages




Northern Illinois University

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