A Study of Alternatives in American Education

Vol. VI, Student Outcomes at Alum Rock 1974-1976

by Frank J. Capell, Lynn Doscher

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Analyzes student outcomes in Alum Rock, California, to determine how educational alternatives may affect them. Using student reading achievement as the cognitive outcome, and social, self, and peer perceptions as the non-cognitive outcomes, the study found no appreciable differences in outcomes between alternative and regular schools. This finding implies that districts should consider community needs or public policy — not the possible effect on outcomes — as the rationale for implementing alternatives. Of the alternative-program features studied, only teachers' perceptions significantly affected reading achievement. Higher reading achievement was associated with programs whose teachers perceived themselves as a cohesive staff, adhering to common policies, and actively involved with the principal. Within programs, it was associated with classrooms whose teachers perceived themselves as having greater autonomy and influence than their colleagues. Thus, districts should consider possible tradeoffs between cohesiveness and autonomy when implementing programs and placing teachers.

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