Perceptions of Mexican American at-risk students in the completion and non-completion of school in alternative learning environments

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Barrera, Hector Rangel

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This dissertation evolved as a result of the expansion of alternative educational environments serving at-risk students – especially the disproportioned number of minority students. The study attempts to understand the perceptions of Mexican American at-risk students’ experience in the completion or non-completion of a high school diploma in the alternative educational environment. The study found that non-completion participants had previously dropped out or were disconnected from the regular school before attending the alternative learning environment while completion participants had made the transfer without a break between the two educational environments. The study suggests that the educational system separates students to the alternative learning environment in order to improve academic and behavioral performance but, because of the lack of physical and academic resources, unintentionally establishes low-expectations, creating a second class separate educational environment. The study further suggests that the intention to separate, support, and nurture has consequently evolved into a separate educational experience for at-risk students that fringes on past educational practices of separate but equal.