Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Miguel de los Santos

Second Advisor

Dr. Marie Simonsson

Third Advisor

Dr. Karen Watt


The first public schools in the United States were originally created to give all school-aged children the opportunity to gain access to a well-rounded education (Cable, Plucker & Spradlin, 2009). Options in public schools, preparation for high-stakes standardized tests, and graduation requirements are among the many educational reform policies that have been implemented in hopes of enabling students to reach their academic potential (Lange & Sletten, 2002). As a substitute to dropping out, alternative schools are among the leaders in the charge to try to curb the dropout problem that schools are facing. Alternative schools have existed since the civil rights era and they have taken various shapes in order to better suit the needs of the students they are serving (Lange & Sletten, 2002).

The purpose of this study was to examine student-teacher relationships in an alternative school setting by focusing on gaining an understanding of how teachers in an alternative high school created and maintained academic and emotional relationships with their students. Poor teacher relationships at traditional schools have been noted by students as a reason for their lack of academic success (Lagana-Riordan et al, 2011). Students explained that although teachers had the best of intentions of creating a positive relationship with the students, the challenges of grading so many papers and having to deal with overcrowded classrooms and school negatively impacted their ability to create the relationship with the students who needed it the most (Lagana-Riordan et al, 2011).

A phenomenological approach was chosen for this study in order to hear the voices of the former alternative school students, current administrators and teachers about the relationships between teachers and students and the sharing of their lived experiences (Creswell, 2007). The researcher investigated the perceptions of teachers and students and how they relate to each other. To achieve this purpose, the researcher conducted and analyzed: 1) one on one, semi-structured student interviews; 2) teacher focus groups; and 3) one on one, semi-structured administrator interviews. The importance of this study is that it addresses a void in the research that includes alternative education.


Copyright 2016 Daniel R. Galdeano. All Rights Reserved.