The challenges to educate at-risk students have been increasing over time particularly in the schools that are located in the suburban areas. The highest challenge rates are found among the minority and/ or poor students that live in the suburban areas. Students are considered at-risk when their communities, families and the institutions they are in fail to help them to achieve their academic desires (Hood, 2008). Several studies have acknowledged that most school programs pay no attention to the impacts of family and society context in the children’s academic growth. Research also confirms that there has never been programmatic policies that provide at risk students with adequate attention throughout their schooling period. Statistics show that minority and poor students are suspiciously placed at risk for low achievements, continual discrimination, dropout and exposure to less competent teachers (Sanders, 2000). Sanders also addresses some strategies and practices that can be used in making a difference in the challenges posed by the outcomes and instructive opportunities. He goes ahead into examining both the past and current approaches that are used in educating at-risk students (Sanders, 2000).
Navok (1994) argues that visions of at-risk students are slowly killed by the education systems as well as social pressure from the society. Following this, they give up their talents and ambitions. Stringfield & Land (2002) have given attention to the background factors that put students at risk. They go ahead into identifying the particular strategies that are helpful in extenuating the academic risks of such students. Studies have also show that difficulties faced by at-risk students can be attributed to their low self-esteem. However, if this is enhanced through incorporating personal interests between teachers and students, and introducing special care and love into the school programs then this challenge is likely to decrease. McBeath, Reyes & Ehrlander (2008) suggest that the performance of at risk students can be improved by increasing the time on learning so as to recompense for the many disadvantages that these students experience.
Other researchers have studied the extent of resiliency that is exhibited by at-risk students and how it can be reduced by applying appropriate interventions (Stringfield & Land, 2002). According to McBeath, Reyes & Ehrlander (2008), the biggest challenge that most governments face in addressing the issue of education improvement for at-risk students is that schools in such areas lack efficiently developed administrators and teachers who can effectively address the needs of these students. Thus the challenge is not only the students but lack of experience and proficiency as well. Like many other researchers, Navok (1994) supports the idea that at-risk students usually have difficulties in adapting to school life due to the tough experiences they have in life such as child abuse or introduction to drugs at an early age. Therefore he suggests that teachers and administrators must be oriented on how to understand and address the needs of students considered as at risk.
Navok also demonstrates that teachers in at-risk schools face the challenge of developing strategies that can successfully help students to establish close relationships with their teachers and peers thus aiding their adaptation to school life (Navok, 1994). Despite the fact that math and science are fundamental in most professional fields, most students in suburban areas perform very poorly in these subjects. Research also shows that most of these students are blacks and their poor performance is attributed to poverty and exposure to racism (Henig et al, 2001). Various studies have shown some of the efforts that the governments are putting to ensure that no child is left behind in math and science. Some of the efforts include educating teachers and school administrators on how well they should handle students from suburban areas, rewarding students who perform well in these subjects as well as funding projects that focus on testing modeling science and math activities (Henig et al, 2001).
Hood (2008) has defined at-risk students as those who are likely to fail in academics because of social circumstances that are beyond their control. She also emphasizes on the importance of teachers having close relationships with them so that they can understand them better and provide enough support on their development and support. Some of the challenges that he identifies include lack of eagerness and incentive to learn, achievement gaps among students as well as social diversity. According to Hood (2008), the rates of push-outs and dropouts are higher in schools with greater numbers of at-risk students compared to schools that have low numbers of such students. In most cases, these students are either poor, come from single parented families, broken homes, abused or are drug addicts. Administrators and tutors thus face the challenge of dealing with students who have already given up in life and try to put some sense and hope in them. Some of the students are more of burdens because they pull down the performance of the schools especially in the most sensitive subjects such as math and science. Research has also proved that if these barriers, poverty and other pressing circumstances, are identified and removed, then at-risk students are most likely to improve and succeed in such subjects (Hood, 2008).
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Mendrinos (1997) suggests that teachers should use advanced technology in education so as to improve the attainment of students considered as at-risk. She goes ahead into identifying the appropriate programs which teachers teaching at-risk can successful use to enhance learning. Some of the proposed programs include CD-ROM, internet and videodiscs among others. Research has proved that schools that have integrated these programs perform better than those schools that have not. According to Mendrinos (1997), most teachers have failed to embrace this because of the challenge of integrating these programs in math and science, thus she calls for teachers to improve their teaching strategies and expand their knowledge on technology.
Several studies have shown that schools that have embraced programs such as the MOVE IT Math have shown great improvement is math and science. Students which were once classified as at-risk showed great improvement and were no longer considered as at-risk students (Sagor & Cox, 2004). Teachers have also reported augmented eagerness in teaching math after the introduction of these programs. Sagor & Cox (2004) have identified the psychosomatic needs exhibited by at-risk students. Such needs include the lack of the sense of belonging, effectiveness and competence among others and assert that these challenges can only be reduced if teachers and school administrators work hard towards meeting these needs. Several tips and strategies have been suggested so as to help teachers become effective in helping students to become successful in math and science. Sagor & Cox (2004) also supports the idea that when such students are motivated and assisted in coping with the hard life circumstances they face in the home settings then teachers will not face challenges teaching them.
Research shows that between 1972 and 1996, the rate of school dropouts for students coming from low earning families was higher than that of their counterparts who come from well off families (Sanders, 2000). Further more, the scores of minority and poor students in mathematics and science are very low compared to the other students. Research reveals that such students are taught by tutors who have no professional qualifications to teach these subjects (Sanders, 2000). Several researchers have proved that students that come from suburban are likely to achieve poor grades especially in math and science thus posing a bigger challenge to their teachers. According to Sagor & Cox (2004), this may be attributed to factors such as poverty, language background, the composition of their families as well as the education level of their mothers.
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