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Policies and Practices Summary

Redefining the Issues: Who's at risk and why

J. Hixson states:

“Students are placed ‘at risk’ when they experience a significant mismatch between their circumstances and needs, and the capacity or willingness of the school to accept, accommodate, and respond to them in a manner that supports and enables their maximum social, emotional, and intellectual growth and development. As the degree of mismatch increases, so does the likelihood that they will fail to either complete their elementary and secondary education, or more importantly, to benefit from it in a manner that ensures they have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to be successful at the next stage of their lives . . . The focus of our efforts, therefore, should be on enhancing our institutional and professional capacity and responsiveness, rather than categorizing and penalizing students for simply being who they are.”

What is it?

Research has shown that schools themselves contribute significantly to the dropout problem. The practices and policies in place can create conditions that push students out of school unintentionally.

The biggest policy barriers tend to be related to behavior, attendance and discipline.

The National Dropout Prevention Center lists some school-related factors associated with dropping out. These are:

  • Conflict between home/school cultures
  • Ineffective discipline system
  • Lack of adequate counseling
  • Negative school climate
  • Lack of relevant curriculum
  • Passive instructional strategies
  • Inappropriate use of technology
  • Disregard of student learning styles
  • Retentions/suspensions
  • Low expectations
  • Lack of language instruction

Why is it important?

Schools are increasingly tasked with meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse student population. However, school policies and procedures seem inflexible, unaccommodating, and unchanging to meet the population it serves.

There are many areas in which a school can reform in order to better support student success. Reforming policies and procedures concerning discipline and attendance, grading, standards, and assessments, retention, and in areas like school structure and class assignment, course content and instructional practices, school climate and relationships can greatly impact student success.

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