Paper Masters believe in helping students be the best they can be. Our topic suggestions, like the one you see here on At-Risk Students, help point you in the right direction with your research paper. We suggest starting out your paper discussing the factors that influence these students, and the programs to help.
The terms "at-risk" or "high-risk" describe a breadth factors that are thought to put students at greater risk of not developing into productive citizens. Risk factors include but are not limited to:
- single-parent families
- familial substance
- physical abuse
- limited language proficiency
These are just a few examples of what makes students "at risk" and are thought to contribute to dropping out, adolescent substance abuse, running away, violence, crime, teen pregnancy, low - income households, and depression or suicide. The very education that provides these students with stability and skills to move beyond their unfortunate circumstances, often further alienates them putting them at even greater risk. The costs associated with students not succeeding at or finishing school are very high. In 1991, the annual cost of school dropouts was over $800 per taxpayer per year. An inordinate number of school dropouts who are learning, emotionally, or neurologically disabled are incarcerated.
Teachers are generally the first to observe educational difficulties and the underlying factors contributing to the difficulties. While the risk factors and the ability to recognize them are known, the solution to engaging students and helping them succeed in school is not as clear. Nevertheless, schools of all levels have implemented a variety of traditional and innovated programs designed specifically for at-risk students.
At Risk Programming for Schools
The theories and practices of at-risk programming varies greatly however most successful programs provide one or more of the following characteristics: modification of the school environment (i.e. alternative education schools); improving student attachment to school; developing school board policies and requirements; using Myers-Briggs Type or other learning style indicators; and mentoring programs. Borrowing from the Prepare Curriculum developed by Goldstein, the I'm Okay, You're Okay program by Harris, and the Quality School idea from William Glasser, Centennial High School in Fort Collins, Colorado has implemented the Discovery Program. A Principal reports the success of the program "combines effective social skills - learned in a six week 'boot camp'- with dignity and trust that come from personal empowerment,". Before implementing the program, Centennial's attendance rate was 75 percent and its drop out rate was a dismal 44 percent. In a three-year period of using the Discovery Program, the attendance rate increased to 94 percent and the dropout rate to less than 10 percent. To achieve this, educators made a commitment to create a nurturing environment in which students could experience success on all levels. Students were taught social and communication skills, conflict management, anger management, assertiveness skills, and problem solving techniques.
Administrators do their part in creating a safe community while students are expected to meet their end of the deal by meeting attendance requirements, staying clean and sober, using skills taught to them, and being prepared to learn.
An Example of an "At Risk" Student Program
The Chesapeake, Virginia Public School System implemented Project Enable, which used former military men who were earning their teacher certifications to work with at-risk students. There were several components to the program including student mentors, teaching affective skills and creating opportunities to use them in the "real world", counseling, family participation, and quality educational materials. Academic achievement from parental involvement and learning behaviors of students in Project Enabled improved with a secondary benefit of giving student-teachers the experience to learn to identify and work with at-risk students.
Sinclair, Christenson, Evelo, and Hurley (1998) studied the effectiveness of the Check and Connect program in middle school students and ninth graders. The research found improved school engagement with students in the program. An important finding revealed that programs such as Check and Connect that systematically monitor and provide individualized intervention is most effective if it helps students transition from middle to high school. Students who left the program in 8th grade did not stay engaged in school as those students who continued in the program in 9th grade.
An alternative intervention used case management services based in the school to help at-risk students. Case management is a common practice in health, mental health and social service agencies but is new to schools. Over the four years of the study, the percentage of students labeled "at-risk" for poor attendance fell from 25 to 15. Grades improved somewhat with improvements ranging from 9% to 20%. The most substantial improvement was in student behavior in which student conduct referrals dropped 66% in the fourth year of the program.
A small study by Hock, Pulvers, Deshler and Schumaker (2001) found some improvement in academic achievement in at-risk students participating in strategic tutoring. Quiz scores increased from failing to average and above-average scores. Further, student grades improved from F's to C's.
All the programs reviewed for this sample study on how to write research on "at risk" student programs found success with at-risk students. While they used a variety of techniques and practices, a common thread has been the attempt to engage students in the school community by helping them feel safe, valued, and respected. Further, they attempt to arm these students with skills such as problem solving, communicating, and handling of feelings that serve to improve self-esteem and self-confidence.