Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Laura Onafowora


Black and Hispanic students in the United States are suspended at a higher rate and lag behind White students academically. This project study examined student achievement and behavior in an alternative to suspension (ATS) program at a Midwest U.S. high school. The purpose of this mixed methods, concurrent embedded strategy study was to determine if participation in the ATS program decreased disciplinary referrals and improved student performance. This study was guided by social control theory, which suggests that when students are disengaged in the school environment, student/teacher and peer relationships are damaged and students turn toward delinquent behavior. The study sample included 22 students who were referred to the program in 2012-2013, 12 of whom attended the ATS program and 10 (the control) who did not. Quantitative data were analyzed through chi-square analysis, nonparametric Mann-Whitney U and independent t test, and qualitative data were analyzed for emerging themes. The quantitative results showed no significant relationships between student participation in the ATS program, the number of referrals received, and academic performance, and no significant difference in referrals by ethnicity. The qualitative analysis showed six themes describing the program's structural aspects: program structure, goals and vision, parental involvement, staff support, student gains in behavioral and social skills, and collaborative elements. A curriculum plan was created to proactively support 9th graders as they enter high school. These results and the curriculum plan promote positive social change by informing school personnel of the benefits of being proactive in addressing student achievement and discipline through support programs and other interventions, increasing the graduation rate and reducing the current school-to-prison pipeline.