Description of the at-risk student
Across the United States, there are certain factors that predict a student’s likelihood of becoming at-risk for failure. Benard says that, “Social science research has defined poverty, a social problem, as the factor most likely to put a person at-risk for ... school failure”(1997). Since there were 12.1 million children living in poverty in the United States in 2002, according to the census, the at-risk rates for students is just as high. Poverty is not the only risk factor, however. Children raised by a single parent are twice as likely to drop out as those raised by two parents. Also, black and Hispanic children, children with poorly educated mothers, students with poor health and nutrition, and students in a poorly funded school are more likely to drop out of school (Natriello 2002). Although some of these factors are interrelated, they increase the number of at risk students in the United States. Along with these environmental risk factors for failure are situational factors. Students who have to change schools frequently have higher failure rates than those who stay in one school (Natriello 2002). Students with a poor academic history and those students with history of poor behavior have lower risk of graduation, along with students who teachers perceive as uninterested and poorly motivated (U.S. Dept. of Ed. 1994). The risk factors for failure in school are all closely related, and all contribute to the 35-40% of students in the United States who are at-risk (Natriello 2002). Students at risk are often difficult for teachers to deal with, so over time educators have developed different strategies for teaching these students.
Management of at-risk students in the past
In the past, at- risk students were only recognized as ‘trouble makers’. Teachers considered these students to be lost causes and made little effort to help these students to succeed. Many at risk students dropped out, and no one tried to stop them.
Students were either not recognized at all as having learning differences, or they were separated as special needs students. The students who were not recognized dropped out because they were not interested, had other things going on at home, or simply could not learn the way they were being taught. The students that were separated had better achievement, but were alienated from other students and had difficulty with socialization (www.ed.gov 1994) The separated students also received, “restricted learning opportunities because the contents of their courses have been ‘dumbed down’ and their teachers may be less experienced” (www.ed.gov 1994). This decreases student interest and achievement. According to Mary Ann Costello, all students, regardless of background, need to be held to the same academic standards, and all students need to be taught that they can succeed (1996).
Statistically, these programs had some positive effect on students. In 1998, 82.8 percent...