Saturday, June 11, 2011

Beating the Odds in Urban Schools

Vargas, B, & Brizard, Jean-Claude. (2010). Beating the odds in urban schools. Education Week30(10), Retrieved from

Summary:  The authors make the case that  we too often focus on what has not worked for students rather than what has.  The focus is on a specific study of students from high-risk situation who do not drop out in Rochester, New York.  When schools focused on strengths rather than deficits, and when students experienced positive relationships with adults, students were more likely to be successful.

Some quotes:
"Yet while much has been done to identify risk, few studies have incorporated the viewpoints of successful students who, despite facing the same challenges as their peers who drop out, overcome the many risk factors present in their lives."

"[Graduates] had had at least one relationship with an adult who (1) believed in and held high expectations for them, (2) modeled successful behaviors, and (3) was consistently present in their lives." 

"Internal assets—cooperation, a sense of community, self-efficacy, empathy, problem-solving, self-awareness, and the ability to set and maintain goals and aspirations—also served as mediating factors protecting students against risk behaviors and promoting positive academic outcomes. The study found that both graduating students and those who dropped out possessed the internal assets to succeed. Ironically, dropouts actually possessed a higher mean level of these assets than graduates, though the difference was not statistically significant. What this tells us is that, while internal developmental factors may be equal, other factors at play affect students' ability to succeed in school. Internal assets alone will not guarantee high school graduation."
This was the most surprising finding to me, by the way.

"Use of a strength-based approach that helps students succeed despite adversity requires all of us—community, policymakers, parents and caregivers, school administrators, and teachers—to shift our focus to those factors over which we have control."

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