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Exploring the at-risk student's school experience

1 May 1998


The purpose of this study is to investigate the attitudes and experiences of .at-risk students to determine why they do not achieve success in school. The research questions I focused on asked: 1) What attitudes do at-risk students have towards school, 2) What is the relationship between attitude, identification, and achievement for an at-risk student, and 3) What impact does the student's environment have on the at-risk student's school experience. My research questions stemmed from numerous studies, but was primarily influenced by the work of Jeremy Finn and Kristine Voelkl. Their research emphasizes that the attitude a student feels towards school impacts his or her subsequent identification, participation and achievement. This study took place at a suburban 9-12 high school near Portland, Oregon. Participants were sophomores who displayed behaviors and achievement levels associated with at-risk students. Information was gathered through the qualitative methods of observation and interviews. In order to protect the participants' rights to privacy and anonymity I have provided pseudonyms for all participants in this study. After collecting my information, I found several common points among the students' experiences. My research revealed that the students' attitude towards school is that it is important for their future and an important place to be with friends. It is also often irrelevant and boring. The negative attitude that students develop as a result of this boredom often leads to decreased. levels of identification, participation, and achievement. I also found that a student's environment, including work, family, peer and teacher relationships, affects their school experience. This information is useful in better understanding the at-risk student's school experience and determining ways to improve their achievement in school.


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