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Monday, November 06, 2006

Who Or What Are At-Risk Students?

Moving into a new area - at risk students. I'll be honest and say that this is a population of students that I haven't spent a lot of time focusing upon. As most of you know, my own focus has always been upon providing access to rural school students. But since I am getting close to finishing my Ph.D. and most of my study has been on virtual schooling, I figured that I should start to become a little more familiar with this population of students.

So I am sitting here listening to someone from the Cincinnati Virtual High School and his colleague from APEX Inc.. Something that caught my attention up front was his definition of an at-risk student.
Individuals who may not reach their ful potential because of limited access to quality schooling.
He defined quality schooling using the definition from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:
They engage all students with a rigorous curriculum, offer coursework that is relevant to their lives and aspirations, and foster strong relationships between students and adults.
This is an interesting way of looking at this issue, because traditionally people think of at-risk students as students who have problems in the traditional school environment. This view of at-risk students, places the burden of the problem on the upon schools for not providing an environment where students are challenged by a rigorous curriculum, that is personally relevant to them with individuals who they have personal connections to or relationships with.

Interesting... I know that I have some readers here who work with at-risk students. Is this view of at-risk students consistent with your experience? Or is this a unique way of looking at the issue?

Tags: VSS2006, , , ,


Blogger Kate Logan said...

I'll take a stab here...

The APEX guy uses the term "at-risk" very loosly. I think the term "at-risk" can be used to mean so many different things that it almost means nothing. When I hear it referenced like you described in your post I think "minority or poor" It is just a new way to say poor black kids or poor mexican kids or poor whatever kids.

The way we use the term in our VHS is anyone who:
a. has been considered a drop-out from another school.
b. has not been attending HS for more than one semester consecutively or non-consecutively.
c. anyone who is a parent under the age of 18.
d. anyone who is the primary caregiver to another person.

In my mind, those are at risk kids, not poor Native American (or whatever) kids.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Kate Logan said...

My list is an "or" not an "and" list. Kids don't have to fit all the categories, just one.

4:17 PM  
Blogger MKB said...

I'll be honest and say that in the virtual school that this chap worked in, his students did not opt to come to him, they were referred to his virtual school because they were either kicked out of a traditional school or had failed to achieve (in some cases multiple times) in a traditional school. So he wasn't necessarily dealing with poor Black kids, poor Hispanic kids, etc..

So, the students that he dealt with probably came from your categories A and B, with a new category of E added - were removed from another school because of behaviourial issues.

But I still think that looking at these types of kids as "Individuals who may not reach their ful potential because of limited access to quality schooling." is just somemuch more positive than the description that I have above or even the list of four that you have presented.

Maybe I'm just looking for a silver lining...


8:53 AM  
Blogger Kate Logan said...

I agree with your "e" category.

My only concern is that we shouldn't broaden the term at-risk as wide as the Apex guy did. I graduated at the top of my high school class, but under his definition I was at-risk because my HS didn't offer AP classes, even though I was capable of handling the work. Was I really an at-risk students? No, but I would fit under that very broad definition that includes "access to quality schooling"

I know what he is trying to say, but it creates such a huge umbrella that the term looses most of its meaning. What is the definition of "quality schooling?" For a lot of rural students there is no school choice. You go to the only school that is in your area. So if that school isn't so hot, are all students who attend at-risk?

4:07 PM  
Blogger MKB said...


The definition that he used was that one I quoted from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which I thoght was interesting in and of itself.


4:24 PM  

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