First Advisor

Kenneth Kempner

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Community College Education


Educational Leadership and Policy




Tri City Alternative Program (Oregon City -- Or.), Non-formal education -- Oregon -- Oregon City, High school dropouts -- Oregon -- Clackamas County



Physical Description

2, v, 102 leaves: ill. 28 cm.


This study is participant observational research focused on the culture of one successful alternative education program. The survey of the literature showed that the problem of high school dropouts is one of numbers and persistence over time. Most research in the past attempted to list characteristics of high school dropouts or elements of successful alternative education programs. Researchers such as Wehlage (1986) and Catterall (1987) have begun to look at a different approach. Their work looks at schools as systems and suggests that educators should direct their attention to the interaction of the school environment with the characteristics of the students. This view fits into a body of work that looks at schools and classrooms as microcultures. The work presented here looks at an alternative education program as a microculture and asks "What appears to be the distinguishing microculture created by the participants of Tri City Alternative Program?" The researcher collected data from interviews, observations, student projects and work, staff meetings, and program materials and records. The data were analyzed and organized to find patterns of behavior and interactions and to determine the meaning the participants attached to their interactions. The elements that distinguish the microculture of the alternative education program were divided into the features of the context and the features of the interactions. The elements of the context were described by the physical setting, the daily instructional schedule, and the non-instructional daily schedule. The elements of the interaction were described by clearly stated expectations, staff and student attention to culture, sense of caring and defining competence, and sense of humor. The researcher concludes by proposing three future areas of work. One is to develop a model of synchronization between the context and interactions of educational programs. The second is to complete additional cultural studies of high school dropouts. The last recommendation is to train teachers and students to use participant observational techniques in their classrooms to build their understanding of their own microcultures.


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