Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Disciplines

Education

Abstract

This study focuses on a major problem facing today’s educators: high school dropouts. Numerous studies have been conducted to identify the reasons that students drop out of school and programs that may address the needs of students at-risk for dropping out of school. Literature in this area was reviewed to identify what can be learned from these studies.

Research questions addressed differences in teacher perspectives of the characteristics of elementary, middle, and high school struggling students. Differences in teachers’ perspectives based on tenure and type of teaching assignment were examined. A sequential, mixed methods approach was taken. The researchers began with a quantitative survey of 108 teachers, followed by focus groups with 12 elementary and secondary teachers. The research was conducted in two suburban school districts. The analysis indicated that characteristics of at-risk students fall into four dimensions: Family Involvement, Behavior, Achievement, and Family Background. Significant differences were found for Achievement with secondary teachers reporting higher mean scores than elementary teachers. Additionally, significant differences were identified for elementary classroom teachers in regards to Achievement. Elementary classroom teachers reported higher mean scores than elementary non-classroom teachers for this dimension.

The data gained from the study can be used to inform decisions regarding the identification of at-risk students. It also provides information related to support services aimed at assisting struggling students. Determining if differences in perspectives exist among the levels of teachers can be beneficial in identifying students before they become at-risk for dropping out of school. This study benefits students, parents, teachers, school administrators, central office administrators, and school committee members as these stakeholders look to address the dropout problem that plagues high schools across the nation.

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