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"At-risk" behaviors: An analysis of the consistency between literature, perceptions of school personnel, and observed student behaviors

1 December 1991


This study examines criteria used to define children at-risk for failure in school. The research describes and discusses two different theoretical orientations to define children at-risk: those who are "socially disadvantaged" and those who are "educationally disadvantaged". In this study, literature has been reviewed to determine criteria for at-risk behavior. Consistencies between the literature, school observations, interviews, and students' records were analyzed. Teacher interviews were completed to identify criteria they used to identify at-risk students in their classrooms. The principal at Willow Valley Elementary School was interviewed to determine how teachers and administrators use this information to meet the needs of students. Observations were completed on two at-risk fourth graders to assess their behavior, their working habits, and their class work. The students' school files were also examined in order to learn more about their social and educational backgrounds. Findings indicated that students who are at-risk often have both a familial background that is inadequate in some way, and experiences in school that have discouraged the child in the educational setting. This study has concluded that students come to be at-risk due to many interrelated factors in both the home and the school setting.


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