Department of Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education


First Advisor

Dr. Edmund 'Ted' Hamann

Date of this Version

Spring 4-16-2020

Document Type



Pettit, T. (2020). Addressing the need for an alternative education collaborative in nonmetropolitan school districts.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Education, Major: Educational Studies Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education, Under the supervision of Professor Dr. Edmund ‘Ted’ Hamann. Lincoln, Nebraska: April 2020

Copyright 2020 Trina Pettit


Through both federal and state educational legislation, there have been efforts to increase the accountability of schools in meeting the educational needs of all students and increasing the nation's graduation rates. States and districts across the nation have responded differently to these laws. As one pattern, there has been a rise in alternative schools and programs developed to address the educational needs of students who have not been having success with the traditional school model. Even as alternative schooling becomes more common, there is limited guidance in establishing these programs and limited professional development designed specifically for those teaching or leading alternative programs. For me, that is not just an abstract problem, I coordinate an alternative program in a rural Nebraska district and I must make decisions and lead processes that best serve the students who come our way. I also interact with other alternative educators who struggle with the same dearth of guidance and research on our educational situations. This dissertation study examined the current alternative programs in one region of Nebraska to inform of the design of a collaborative networking system that is able to share resources and expertise, generate meaningful inquiry and promote the growth and development of improved alternative programs. Data were collected through a survey of key players in local alternative education programs (n=14) and follow-up semi-structured interviews from four of the survey participants were conducted. Findings from the ethnographically-informed design study recognized differences and similarities amongst alternative programs as well as strengths and areas for growth. While this document is an obvious outcome of this dissertation research, so too is the still-incipient network of alternative educators who helped with this inquiry.

Advisor: Dr. Edmund ‘Ted’ Hamann