Date of Conferral







Barry Birnbaum


Alternative school settings are success prospects for students at risk of school failure. However, research on the daily experiences of the special educators in alternate school settings tasked with educating the at-risk population, is limited. The purpose of this phenomenological study was (a) to recognize the perceptions of special educators concerning their preparation to advance the success of SEN students who are at risk of school failure; (b) to determine how to improve special educator preparation programs in alternative school settings. Deci and Ryan's self-determination theory, focused on student success provided the study's framework. Twelve semistructured interviews were conducted to examine special educators' perceptions on preparation and practice for student success. Data were analyzed through block coding, code comparison and thematic searches. The study's results included accounts of special educators' perceptions and challenges related to preparation and practice for student success in alternate school settings. Emergent themes included applying classroom structure and technology, as well as individualized student instruction. Participants cited a need for rich teacher/student relationships to advance student success. Included are inferences regarding the development of teacher/student relationships. Also included are suggestions for educational leaders to consider while preparing preparatory methods for special educators who teach within the alternative school setting such as administrator knowledge of what special educators require to teach in the alternate classroom. This study may lead to social change by providing information on special educator preparation coursework meant to develop student success for the alternative school student population.