Wednesday, August 28, 2013

At-Risk Students

The term “At-risk students” is used frequently in education circles, and by politicians, but what does it really mean? The term at-risk encompasses a great deal of area and is a multifaceted problem. The traditional definition is, “An at-risk student is a student who, by virtue of their circumstances, is statistically more likely than others to fail academically.” What makes a student more likely to fail academically?"

Statistics show that students living in a low socioeconomic household are more likely to fail academically. Let me say that there are thousands of examples of students that succeed wonderfully despite living in a situation many would classify as at-risk. However, statistics do show that coming from a low socioeconomic background makes school success less likely. Students growing up in low socioeconomic settings are not exposed to as many outside learning experiences as more affluent students. There are many other cultural differences in homes based upon the economic status of the parents.

The educational background of parents also has been determined to be an at-risk factor for many students. Once again many students exceed the educational level obtained by parents but statistically the higher educational level of parents, the more likely the student achieves academic success. The attitude of the parent toward education also plays a huge role here as well. A parent that values an education is more likely to push their children to achieve in school. Many parents use their lack of education as a motivator to push their children to obtain what they were unable to obtain.

School attendance, or lack thereof, is perhaps one of the biggest at-risk factors. A multitude of factors contribute to a student’s school attendance record. The reasons are too many to list but range from legitimate reasons to just simply not wanting to go to school. One thing that is clear is that parents and schools cannot solve this problem on their own. Parents and schools must work together to create an environment with the right amount of enticement and encouragement to ensure school attendance. Many students have issues at home that prevent them from being able to place school at the top of their priority list. Many times socioeconomic status is a crucial factor in school attendance. If a student needs to help provide necessities for the family it only stands to reason they have less time for school.

School personnel can’t solve the reasons students are at risk, so our focus must be on overcoming the factors that make a student at risk. This can be a daunting task and many times frustrating due to feeling powerless to help students. We must constantly strive to find new ways to reach students and to make school a more relevant, engaging experience for all of our students. There are days we feel defeated because we are not able to save all students. It is on these days we must remember the success stories and let those be the fuel to keep us going.

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