Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Center for the Advancement of Education


The purpose of this Major Applied Research Project was to (1) conduct an investigation to determine the causes of early withdrawal from high school; (2) design an alternative education program; and (3) suggest an implementation plan for the Hopewell Valley Regional School District to increase the system's holding power of young people and to prevent school dropouts. With an annual dropout rate of two percent, Hopewell Valley school officials believed that an alternative school program needed to be developed to offer a viable and suitable non-traditional educational option to meet special needs, interests, and aspirations of the students. Four basic research questions were examined: 1. Why do students drop out of high school? 2. How can the number of early withdrawal students be reduced? 3. Why are some alternative education programs effective while others are not? 4. What alternative strategies would seem to be most appropriate for implementation at the Hopewell Valley schools? This study employed the case study research methodology. As such, (1) an extensive review of literature was conducted to gather data on the characteristics of dropouts; (2) dropout records of the Hopewell Valley Regional School District were scrutinized and personal interviews conducted to determine causes for learning school prior to graduation; and (3) interviews with personnel from five schools were executed to analyze current practices and procedures utilized in existing dropout prevention programs. Four conclusions were reached as a result of the study. First, students drop out of school for a variety of reasons, however, the reason most prominently identified was dislike of school experience. The second conclusion drawn was that the number of early withdrawal students can be reduced by having a staff that is cognizant of the characteristics of potential dropouts and their reasons for early withdrawal. The need to identify potential at-risk students as early as possible is paramount. In addition, an alternative education program can help deter students from leaving school prior to graduation. Another conclusion made was that there are specific components of successful alternative education programs including small size, quality staff, relevant curriculum, a counseling component, parental involvement, opportunity to gain work experience, and a sense of ownership by staff and students. The final conclusion supported the need for an alternative education program for the at-risk population at Hopewell Valley Central High School. Recommendations derived from this study were that: (1) the proposed program be put into effect as soon as possible; (2) board policies be reviewed to allow the program to be implemented; (3) continuous monitoring and evaluation of program be conducted; (4) a similar study be undertaken and plan developed for an elementary alternative education program; (5) inservice training be provided for all district staff to stress the importance of positive student/teacher relationships and self-esteem; (6) application for federal and state funding be made; (7) a variety of delivery systems be incorporated into the traditional program; and (8) an effort be made toward reducing identified school-related factors that may have contributed toward the development of the potential dropout. The final product was the development of a proposed alternative education model, Project RISE, Reaching Individual success Through Encouragement, for the Hopewell Valley Regional School District. Program design, goals, student selection process, student responsibilities and disciplinary procedures, facilities, staff, program schedule, curriculum, parental involvement, program evaluation, and an implementation plan were areas addressed. It was with great belief in this project and the hope for the betterment of education for the at-risk population that Project RISE was designed.

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