Michael Koeniger




School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Russell G. Yocum


Achievement Gap, At-Risk, Inner-City, Performance, Relationships, Urban


Curriculum and Instruction | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Education | Educational Administration and Supervision | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Methods


The purpose of this autoethnographic study was to discover how an alternative school for at-risk students, bridged the achievement gap. It used autoethnographic approaches to examine the factors that have led to the successes of an urban school. In this study, 19 graduates of Eastend School (all participant and institutional names are replaced with pseudonyms), three parents and six current and former staff members participated in unstructured, individual interviews and shared their experiences. Autoethnographic field notes were composed. Documents and artifacts relating to Eastend School were collected and studied. The collected data were generally coded and specifically coded until themes emerged. The following research questions were addressed: What are the core values that provide the foundation of the culture at Eastend School, and how do students, teachers, administrators, and parents perceive their role and each other in that culture? What expectations do participants have for each role (student, teacher, administrator, and parent) within the school? How do the relationships between students and teachers, parents and teachers, and students and administrators impact student learning? What did Eastend do to create the culture of success at the school? How did the S.A.M.E. model, teaching the whole child and the providing the basic needs of students impact academic performance and contribute to school culture? This study found that Eastend School’s culture is based on surrogate familial relationships that allow educators to emotionally support students while having high expectations for academic performance and behavior. Parents accept the school as a part of their extended family. These relationships resulted in the creation of a safe environment that provides for the basic needs of the students. Eastend staff members accepted their position as role models who provide a positive example for the student body. The school is a safe environment that provides students with social, academic and moral education that provides them the foundation they need to be successful students. Suggested areas of future research include a study of what happened to the culture of Eastend since the study, how fundraisers for alternative inner-city schools impact students, how year-round school schedules impact student – teacher relationships, and why many successful educators leave the field.