Monday, April 8, 2013

Students at Risk: What are the Critical Issues?

By Dr. James Davis

I am a principal at an elementary school in NC.  We are a "majority-minority" school and we have a FRL (free and reduced lunch rate) of approximately 70%. Recently, I have spent some time researching at-risk students at the elementary level. I have also paid particular interest to what teachers report as action steps which work to move students forward at a rapid rate and positively impact the school day for both students and teachers alike.

I recently came across the following article: Critical Issue: Providing Effective Schooling for Students at Risk. I was particularly interested in one of the subtitles from this page, "ACTION OPTIONS: Educators can take the following actions to provide effective schooling for students."  Many different topics were referenced, as you can imagine:
  • join with parents and community members
  • professional development
  • positive school climate
  • standards and accountability

I agree with most of these recommendations. However, I always wish that we had access to more of the specifics that come along with moving students forward and running schools in an extremely student-centered, progressive manner. For example, no one in education would disagree with the need and importance of a positive school climate. However, what I hear people wanting is items that can be implemented and replicated which lead to the positive school climate.

In the end, I always go back to relationships. I know from experience and research that relationships matter and they change lives. Having a meaningful, significant relationship with a student impacts their behavior, their attitude, their work, and so much  more. In addition, a meaningful relationship will also last longer and yield more positive benefits than those which can be contained within a 180-day school year.

Again, many things were shared in the article, and several school stakeholders were involved.  My questions to you as a stakeholder in elementary education…
  1. What surprises you from the list?
  2. What do you agree with from the list?
  3. As a practitioner, what would you add to the list?
  4. What suggestions and recommendations would you offer to elementary teachers who work with at-risk students?
  5. What suggestions and recommendations would you offer to elementary administrators who work to support those who teach  at-risk students?
What are your thoughts about these critical issues for at-risk students?

Dr. James Davis serves on the NCAEE Board. He received his doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Urban Education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Dr. Davis has taught and worked as a school administrator for 14 years in North Carolina. He currently lives in North Carolina where he is a Principal in Cabarrus County and an adjunct professor with UNC Charlotte. 

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