Term Paper: Preventing Dropouts Among Minority Middle

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[. . .] Apparent changes in self-esteem developed over the eight-week period.

Daisey & Jose-Kampfner (2002) report that the dropout rate is currently increasing for Latinos. This results from students feeling discouragement, which they attribute to teacher stereotyping, low expectations, and tracking. Latinos face special social and cultural pressures that prompt many students, especially girls, to leave school during the middle school years. Confusion also comes from mixed messages from home and school, with often competing values about career, marriage, and motherhood (Canedy, 2001). Studies (Banfield, Johnson, Thomas, & Thieroff, 2002) have also identified the following reasons for Latino dropouts: stereotyping of new students and a lack of self-confidence.

Martin, Tobin, and Sugai (2002) found research that identified the top ten reasons that students dropped out of schools as follows:

not enough credits to graduate lack of parental support for education dysfunctional home life working more than fifteen hours a week substance abuse frequent discipline referrals could not adjust to the school setting pregnant or student parent experienced peer pressure not to achieve or to leave school low self-esteem

These reasons are similar to those reported by other researchers (Carnahan, 1994). Dropping out of school is a cumulative process, not an impulsive action (Finn, 1993). A student's sense of alienation is preceded by unsuccessful school experiences, such as poor academic achievement, failing classes, grade retention, absenteeism, behavior and discipline problems, and transfers from one school to another. Dropout prevention efforts should be based on an understanding to include all of these factors and implemented within school systems. The successful programs could ease these alienating experiences, thus reducing the dropout rate of minority middle school students.

Martin, Tobin, & Sugai (2002) identified the following proven successful programs that encouraged minority students to remain in middle school. These programs included: (a) Systematic Monitoring of Risk Factors (b) Personal Growth Class - School Within a School (d) Check and Connect (e) Wrap Around Interventions, and (f) the development of an Alternative Education Program. While all of these programs have been successful on an individual basis, many characteristics from each program may be incorporated within a school system to better meet the needs of the students.

The Systematic Monitoring of Risk Factors program monitors attendance, behavior, and grades. These factors are indicative of both academic and social engagement and strongly influence a student's desire to remain in school. Data may be used to identify students' needs for referrals to outside agencies or make decisions about allocating resources for interventions while also evaluate program effectiveness (Rumberger & Larson, 1998). The School Within a School is a program that is exemplified by the Multicultural Alternative Middle School Program for At-Risk Students (Weir, 1996). This program was created and tested with 20 students from diverse ethnic backgrounds. The class received support from a staff consisting of one special education teacher, a full-time teaching assistant, a part-time teaching assistant, and a county mental health worker. Features that were critical to the program included the following: (a) self-paced learning and flexibility to accommodate alternative learning styles, (b) opportunities for inclusion within the general school setting, - coordination with community agencies, (d) staff inservice and training, (e) interdisciplinary thematic units in academic areas, (f) daily journal writing, (g) cooperative learning and hands-on projects, and (h) an ongoing evaluation. At the end of the initial testing, survey results concerning student attitudes indicated that the majority of students felt they were trying harder and learning more within this environment than in traditional classes.

Personal Growth Classes have been utilized on an informal basis for many years. The popularity of these classes for counseling at-risk students has grown over the last few years. Students are identified for participation and attend a class with a curriculum to include specific skills training that is based on four units: (a) self-esteem, (b) decision making, - personal control, and (d) interpersonal communication. This program is effective in reducing drug involvement and improving school achievement.

Check and Connect is a dropout prevention program designed to encourage identified at-risk adolescents with learning and behavioral disabilities to remain in school. This program partners mentors who are certified teachers or school employees with students and their families over an extended period. Mentors receive on-going training. If a student changes schools within the district, the same mentor continues to works with them. The mentor regularly checks on students' engagement with school and promptly intervenes if action is needed. Services are individualized according to the specific needs of the student and family. Documented results of this program are based upon evaluations that indicate a 50% reduction in dropout rate (Martin, Tobin, & Sugai, 2002)).

The Wraparound concept is utilized for students who are identified as at-risk and present behavioral challenges that require intervention and support in several areas. Wraparound is a term used when school staff and personnel from community agencies collaborate to provide services that "wrap around" the student and his or her family. This type of program has proven effective with preventing dropouts of students with multiple problems. An individual plan is created for each student and may involve several of many alternatives such as school services, student services, family services, and community services. All of the services combine to assist the student with areas such as preventing out-of-school suspension, transportation to court or medical appointments, emergency funds for bill paying, and also include recreational coaching.

Alternative Education programs offer a wide array of services to the typical school environment. Many times this environment is stricter, but others offer individualized services in a smaller classroom size. Students utilizing this type of intervention are typically already in trouble with the law, in risk of failure, or exhibit dangerous behavior. Their removal from the typical school setting not only benefits themselves, but those students who were intimidated by their presence.


There is no promise that a single intervention will be successful for all at-risk students. However, a program that involves various methods and allows for flexibility will better fit the needs of more students and more likely be successful. The following intervention is designed for use with 6th, 7th, 8th grade middle school minority students, which address the previously identified problems of low self-esteem and poor academic standing. This intervention will include many of the methods discussed previously and offers alternative types of service delivery to enhance preparation for the completion of high school. Donald and Prevatt (2003) conclude in their study that there is no one particular best practice or beneficial treatment currently available to address the problem of school dropouts among middle school minority students even though a number of intervention programs appear to hold promise.

However, the interventions utilized with greatest frequency in the studies reviewed an "emphasized academic enhancement, psychosocial skill development, mentoring, and parent/teacher behavior management training" (Donald and Prevatt, 2003). Programs that focused upon academics or programs that contained multi-components emerged with the most promising empirical base. In studies that included interpersonal relationships between school and family members and among individuals at school, increasing respect and consideration shown by school staff members to students, and individualizing positive and function-based support for students with behavior or attendance problems were deemed the most successful.

Adam (2003) examined the work of Angela Valenzuela, Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction and of Mexican-American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Valenzuela contends that the dropout rate is the end product of an extended process of being disengaged. She believes that students, who were considered potential dropouts but manage to remain in school, were ones that had relationships with an adult at school. They said that there was someone who helped them "hold on." Caring and having a mentor allowed the students to develop a closer and more meaningful relationship with not only the teachers, but also the schools. This ultimately led to higher achievement, thus leading to greater self-esteem.

An ideal intervention program would incorporate both academics and interpersonal relationship development. This intervention concept is designed utilizing the Psychoeducational Theory or providing counseling while promoting education. Counseling would also be provided at an early age that would foster and build self-esteem within the student, thus creating a desire to remain in school. Martin, Tobin, & Sugai (2002) successful interventions would be incorporated into one program to allow the necessary flexibility to meet the needs of all students. Characteristics from each of the following programs (a) Systematic Monitoring of Risk Factors (b) Personal Growth Class - School Within a School (d) Check and Connect (e) Wrap Around Interventions, and (f) the development of an Alternative Education Program would be modified in each at-risk students Individualized Education Plan.

In order to implement a program of this magnitude, additional funding would have to be allocated for support and professional staff. This would include certified paraprofessionals that would be able to assist with the record tutoring, record keeping and scheduling of activities. Professional… [END OF PREVIEW]

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