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Module Twelve: Working with High School At-Risk Students for K-12
What Does At-Risk Mean?

What does At-Risk Mean?Students who are classified as ”at-risk” are students who, due to many circumstances or characteristics, are struggling academically which can potentially lead them to dropping out of  high school.  It is important for teachers to recognize the characteristics of at-risk youth in order to provide early intervention strategies for their success. Some of the distinguishing attributes of these students may be caused many factors:they may be economically disadvantaged, have previously failed a grade level or more,  may be limited in their English, may be a teen parent or pregnant, have drug or alcohol problems, or may have been in trouble with the law.  In addition, their low academic achievement can often lead them to having low self-esteem. It is common for these students to be disengaged in the classroom and disassociated with their school.

In Texas, the criteria for identifying a student as at-risk fall into 13 indicators.  It is important to identify these students accurately when reporting to the state because additional funds are provided which enable school districts to design and provide supplementary educational services and programs to assist these students.   These indicators can be found at: www.tea.state.tx.us/weds/e0919.html

What Can a Teacher Do To Help At-Risk Students Learn?

It is important for teachers to know that these students are as academically capable as their more successful peers.  Providing support systems to help these students gain confidence and fill their academic gaps is paramount to their success. The school house offers some of the most structured, stable, and safe environments for students to thrive and overcome obstacles that may keep them off the pathway to graduation.  Because you are the teachers, we understand the responsibility we have to ensuring these at-risk students are successful.  A few strategies that can be employed are the following:

  1. Strong relationships with adults at school - make these students feel welcome and cared for.
  2. High expectations for their success - keep the curriculum rigorous and the promise that they can succeed.
  3. Emotionally safe learning environments - create places where students can thrive, ask questions without fear of admonishment, and gain a sense of being a part of a learning community.
  4. Mentoring – provide adult volunteers from the business and higher education community to help students through tutoring and support. Teachers are also excellent mentors for students.
  5. Opportunities for service learning- provide a curriculum that supports students in giving back to the community through service learning.
  6. Various pathways for graduation – recognize that different approaches are needed and offer online coursework, early college high school campuses, alternative campuses, dual credit, and compressed curricula (Donnely, M.,(1987), Farmer, C. (2002), Cabrera, A. F. et al., (2006), Cammarota, J., (2006), Hallinan, M. T., (2008).
Centers and Organizations

Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk (CRESPAR)
Johns Hopkins University/Howard University Center for the Social Organization of Schools
3505 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD 21218
(410) 516-8800; fax (410) 516-8890
Contact: John Hollifield, Associate Director
E-mail: jhollifiel@scov.csos.jhu.edu
WWW: http://www.csos.jhu.edu/crespar/

Coalition of Essential Schools
Box 1969
Brown University
Providence, RI 02912
(401) 863-3384
WWW: http://www.essentialschools.org/

Education Commission of the States
707 17th St., Suite 2700
Denver, CO 80202-3427
(303) 299-3600; fax: (303) 296-8332
E-mail: ecs@ecs.org
WWW: http://www.ecs.org

Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound
122 Mount Auburn St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 576-1260, ext.10; fax (617) 576-1340
E-mail: info@ELOB.ci.net
WWW: http://www.elob.org/

National Center for Research on Cultural Diversity and Second Language Learning
Center for Applied Linguistics
1118 22nd St. NW
Washington, DC 20037
(202) 429-9292
email: crede@cal.org
WWW: http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~cmmr/crede.html

Success for All/Roots & Wings
Johns Hopkins University
3505 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD 21218
(800) 548-4998 or (410) 516-8896; fax (410) 516-8890
E-mail: sfa@csos.jhu.edu
WWW: http://www.csos.jhu.edu/crespar/techReports/Report41.pdf

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