First Advisor

Thomas Chenoweth

Date of Publication

Spring 6-5-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership: Administration


Educational Leadership and Policy




Alternative schools -- Design, Dropouts -- Prevention, Educational evaluation, Educational innovations -- Research, High schools -- Planning, Problem-based learning, School improvement programs



Physical Description

1 online resource (xii, 218 pages)


The need for new and innovative alternatives to traditional high schools has never been greater. Never designed to graduate all students on time, traditional high schools and their high dropout rates have remained unchanged for the last 30 years. Improving secondary schooling for all young people is a worthwhile social and educational objective. Many school leaders want to create alternative high schools but may lack the knowledge of what to do, nor may they have a comprehensive design process to follow.

The research question explored in this dissertation is: What do leaders in education need to know to design innovative alternatives to traditional high schools?

This dissertation studied four aspects or assumptions that school leaders should understand when designing alternatives to traditional high schools: (a) consider all of the elements of successful alternative high schools, (b) start over conceptually when designing a new alternative high school, (c) use regional accreditation standards as a framework for design, and (d) begin design with the end in mind for program evaluation. Research literature topics of alternative education, organizational leadership, school accreditation standards, and program evaluation were reviewed.

The research conducted was theoretically and practically grounded in Bridges and Hallinger's (1995) Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and Borg and Gall's (1989) Research and Development (R&D) Cycle. The product of the research conducted in the R&D cycle was a process for designing alternative high schools. Qualitative and quantitative data collected from school leaders and designers during field tests was analyzed to improve a prototype of an alternative high school design process. An effective process that is ready for dissemination was the result of this research. A larger implication of the application of this process will be the improvement of high school experiences for all students through the creation of new designs for innovative forms of secondary schooling.


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