The Plight of Potential Dropouts

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Teetering on the edge of academic failure, some at-risk students cannot—or do not—grasp the fact that they are doing poorly in school, and that their chances of graduating are slim, says an Arizona State University researcher. The 37, mostly Hispanic, rural high school students surveyed by Nancy Haas were all failing at least one class. But the students perceived themselves as doing slightly better than average, and believed that they would do even better the following year.

Haas says that schools assume, often incorrectly, that potential dropouts grasp the implications of their academic failure. In fact, many at-risk students have no idea how much further they have to go before getting a degree. All but one of the students surveyed expected to finish high school, but none of them knew how many credits they needed to graduate. Most students had no idea how many credits they had earned to date.

"It's really sad," Haas says. "We had one girl here who had been failing one and two classes a year. She thought she was a junior. When she found out she was a first semester freshman, she was devastated."

The findings suggest, according to Haas, that schools should make an effort to inform students about their academic situation. "We have to make sure that kids understand what they need to be doing," she says.

Although Haas's conclusions are based on a small sample, she followed it up with a similar survey of about 200 students. Haas expects that the data from this survey—which seem to "reinforce" her earlier findings—will be released in the fall.

Vol. 01, Issue 01, Page 38

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