Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ed.D.

Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Major Professor

William Black

Abstract

The increasing number of Latino students presents unique challenges to and infinite possibilities for the educational system. Significant numbers of second-generation Latino students are considered at risk for completing a high school credentialing program. Latino students in public and private high schools were more likely to drop out than their White counterparts, and this has curtailed the advancement of Latinos into post-secondary settings. Ultimately, this impacts economic upward mobility. Furthermore, males are more likely than females to drop out of high school, are more frequently disciplined, suspended, and/or expelled from school than their gender counterparts (Perkins-Gough, 2006; Sacks, 2005; Solórzano,Villalpando, & Oseguera, 2005; Yosso & Solórzano, 2006).

This phenomenologically informed multi-case study was conducted to report the recollections of second-generation Latino high school students involved in one high school credentialing option, the Adult Basic Education (ABE)/Under-aged General Education Development (GED) Program. The study relied primarily on gathering data via semi-structured interviews yielding audiotaped transcripts, engaging in recording personal notes in a journal, and amassing pertinent documents for analysis.

The results of the study revealed that alternative programs such as the ABE/Under-aged GED program serve an important purpose. Students, who require a more structured environment with a lower student to teacher ratio and greater academic focus than the traditional high school context, can earn a high school credential despite obstacles which have cast them in the category referred to as at risk. Such was the case with the five Latinos who were the subjects of the study. They all successfully navigated the program, mastered the curriculum and earned a General Education Development credential. In order to accomplish this feat, these Latinos demonstrated resilience, persistence, and tenacity in the face of peer-pressure, poverty, illness, single-parent family dynamics, and self-doubt.

Moreover, the development of positive relationships with and among all stakeholders must be a priority for everyone in the school building. Schools which create a culture that is caring, consistent, and comprehensible have positive influences on all school stakeholders. A school culture and climate that fosters positive student-teacher, student-administrator, and teacher-administrator relationships provides an environmental protective factor that increases the likelihood of academic and personal resilience for students.

The conclusions which were constructed utilized an inquiry framework based upon a critical perspective, primarily in the Latinoa/Latino Critical Race Theory tradition. The interwoven concepts of Leadership for Social Justice and the Ethics of Accountability Practice were paramount in searching for the real-life possibilities of how educational leadership is capable of enhancing and/or hindering the educational experiences of these Latino students. A greater number of questions rather than answers were generated regarding what can be done to aid a rapidly expanding student population and even more specifically, the issues associated with Latino males who struggle to succeed in attaining a high school credential at an alarming rate

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