Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Special Education

First Committee Member

Amanda Kyle Higgins

Number of Pages



This study had two purposes. The first was to investigate and gather student perceptions (e.g., authoritarian, relevancy of the curriculum, teacher expectations, amount of student autonomy, student placement, school ethnic composition, parental interest, race/ethnicity) within the secondary school environment associated with their feelings of alienation from their school. The second purpose was multifaceted and involved: (1) the identification of the levels of powerlessness, normlessness, meaninglessness, and social isolation/estrangement experienced by different students, and (2) the analysis of individual student characteristics (e.g., gender, student placement, perceived ability, race/ethnicity, perceived social status) that may contribute to school alienation; The participants in this study (N = 222) were a subsample of secondary students from a large, urban, metropolitan school district located in the Southern portion of the United States. The students were selected from special and general education classrooms in two high schools. All students completed the School Factors Questionnaire, Student Factors Questionnaire, and a demographic survey; Student responses on the two questionnaires (School Factors Questionnaire and Student Factors Questionnaire) were analyzed. The results for the School Factors Questionnaire indicated that: (1) regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, or student placement, students reported liking school more than they reported not liking school, (2) there were no major differences in the responses given by students at a predominantly African-American versus a predominantly White school, (3) there were no major differences in the responses given by male and female students, (4) the responses from students with disabilities were a little less optimistic than those of the students in general education; The results from the Student Factors Questionnaire indicated that: (1) alienation was affected by gender indicating that male students experienced more meaninglessness and normlessness, (2) alienation was affected by student placement indicating that students in special education experienced more powerlessness, normlessness, and estrangement than students in general education, (3) alienation was affected by perceived ability indicating that the students in the below average ability group experienced more normlessness and estrangement than students in the average and above average ability groups and the students in the average ability group experienced more powerlessness than students in the above and below average ability groups, (4) alienation was affected by race/ethnicity indicating that White students experienced more meaninglessness than African-American students, (5) alienation was affected by perceived social status indicating that students with below average status experienced more powerlessness, meaninglessness, and estrangement than the students in the average and above average status groups.


Alienation; Disabilities; Perceptions; School; Secondary; Secondary Students; Students

Controlled Subject

Special education; Education, Secondary; Educational psychology

File Format


File Size

9502.72 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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