Every child has the potential to succeed in school and in life. Yet there are many factors that can imperil a child's ability to achieve his or her full potential. Children who live in poverty, are disabled, have limited-English proficiency, and/or are raised in dysfunctional or abusive homes — these children are "at risk" of failing in school and beyond. A child may be at risk because of one factor or a combination of causes, but it takes the concerted efforts of families, schools, and communities to put at-risk youth back on the path toward success.
Indeed, as the number of at-risk students increases, so do the challenges to today's educators, administrators, and policymakers. Approximately half of all American adolescents engage in some degree of at-risk activities that endanger their ability to succeed. Some factors and behaviors that contribute to students' risk levels include: unsafe sex, teenage pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, truancy, and delinquency or criminal actions. Often, these problem behaviors are related and overlap.
In recent years, researchers have focused their attention on issues that contribute to undesirable behaviors and their impact on academic achievement. Common sense, backed by research, suggests that at-risk youth and their families have multiple needs that are not successfully addressed by single-response, stand-alone initiatives. There is a growing interest in community-based collaboratives focused on integration of services or comprehensive service delivery. Many students need more than just instructional services to succeed in school.
This Issue Site contains information on all aspects of at-risk youth, including links to articles and research on poverty, dropouts, transience, minority students, and at-risk families. The Programs and Practices section provides details and evaluation of various programs to help at-risk youth enhance academic achievement. Related issues include extended school day, mentoring/tutoring and remediation.
(Sources: At-Risk Youth: School-Community Collaborations Focus on Improving Student Outcomes, General Accounting Office, October 2000; Helping At-Risk Youth, The Urban Institute, 2001; High Risk Youth, Herbert G. Lingren, Extension Family Scientist, University of Nebraska, May 1997).