Solution-focused brief counseling (SFBT) Essay

Solution-focused brief counseling (SFBT) Essay

CHAPTER OUTLINE

Definitional Issues of the Dropout Problem

Literacy Standards

Definition of a Dropout

Scope and Characteristics of the Problem

Immigrant Students

Latino Students

Exceptional Students

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Students

Adjudicated Youth

The Consequences of Dropping Out

Economic Consequences

Social Consequences

Predictive Indicators and Type of Dropouts

Differences between Stayers and Leavers

Predictive Variables and Dropout Types

  • Disengaged Dropouts
  • Low-Achiever Dropouts
  • Quiet Dropouts
  • Maladjusted Dropouts

Specific Intervention Strategies Focused on School Dropouts

Box 7.1 Reflections of a Future Dropout

Specific Intervention: Cyber Technology

  • Virtual Counseling Center
  • Khan Academy

Specific Intervention: Alternative Education

Specific Intervention: Comprehensive, Competency-Based Guidance

Specific Intervention: Solution-Focused Counseling

Conclusion

  • In this chapter we concentrate on young people who leave school before they graduate. In the following pages we (a) discuss changing literacy standards that define the term dropout, (b) discuss the scope of the dropout problem, (c) outline some of the roots of the problem, (d) highlight the economic and social consequences of dropping out, (e) present information to identify potential dropouts, and (f) describe pragmatic ideas and interventions designed to reduce dropouts.

DEFINITIONAL ISSUES OF THE DROPOUT PROBLEM

Literacy Standards

To understand the apparent decline in academic proficiency of students, we must note the changes that have taken place in educational standards. In 1890 only 6.7% of the nation’s 14- to 17-year-olds attended high school. By the late 1990s, more than 95% attended high school. In 1890, 3.5% of America’s 17-year-olds graduated from high school. By 1970, 75.6% did so, and by the late 1990s, 89% were graduated. In the late 2000s, 90% of adolescents had completed high school (U.S. Department of Education, 2010). In addition, the criterion for functional literacy has risen steadily from 3 years of schooling in the 1930s, to 6 years in the 1950s, to the completion of high school in the 1970s. These climbing standards have placed increasing demands on students (Berliner & Biddle, 1995).

Many more children with widely diverse backgrounds are being educated than ever before in our history. High schools of one hundred years ago were mainly open to the most privileged children, and only a handful of them were expected to graduate. Schools today are called upon to serve vastly larger numbers of children and to serve children from very different social, cultural, and language backgrounds. Schools also are expected to deliver many more services and to reach children with a much greater ability range. Today’s high school dropouts are a major concern for educators and for society, and there are strenuous efforts to reduce the high school dropout rate to zero. Despite these challenges, the American educational system has been enormously successful.

Definition of a Dropout

A dropout is a pupil who leaves school before graduation and before completing a program of study. The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has two classifications of dropout: event dropout and status dropout. Event dropouts are youth who withdraw from school within a specific time frame—during a given school year, for example. Status dropouts are nonenrolled youth ages 16 to 24 who are out of school without a high school diploma. The DOE uses school completion rates as well, both status completion rates (all completers, age 16 to 24) and the 4-year completion rate (Aud & Hannes, 2010). These definitions provide consistent criteria for counting dropouts. However, educators, state governments, policymakers, and school district personnel sometimes use additional and inconsistent criteria, leaving us with statistics that are often imprecise and sometimes contradictory.

The quality of dropout data vary as a function of adequacy of school staffing, consistency of definitions of illnesses, leaves, and transfers, family transience, and specific state criteria for calculating dropouts. For example, some states count students with equivalent high school degrees (GED) as graduates; others do not. Schools have a vested interest in keeping dropout rates low because their funds are often tied to student counts.

Even statistics based on common criteria rarely include students who dropped out before entering high school. For example, figures cited for Latino high school sophomores who drop out by their senior year may actually understate the dropout rate among Latinos. In one large secondary school district in Arizona, for example, eighth-grade students who do not register for high school are never counted in the high school census, and therefore they are not counted in the dropout rate. Latino students are especially affected (Aud & Hannes, 2010).

SCOPE AND CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PROBLEM

Despite ongoing inconsistency in tallying dropouts, educators and researchers have made headway in their attempts to profile the student who drops out of school. Indeed, teachers know from their own experience that students who drop out are likely to be those who are unmotivated by their class work; who have had problems with either the school authorities, the police, or both; who skip classes or are often absent; who are pregnant or married; who are poor and must work; who have family problems; who have drug or alcohol problems; who are students of color; or who have fallen behind their grade level (Suh, Suh, & Houston, 2007; Rumberger & Ah Lim, 2008). The latter group includes many students who are learning English as a second language (ESL), also called second language learners (SLL) or English language learners (ELL). In fact, students from non-English-speaking homes drop out in much higher numbers than do students from homes where English is the only language spoken (Gil & Bardack, 2011). Recall that Ramona Diaz (Chapter 5) gets poor grades and dislikes school. She does not think school is meeting her needs, and she feels as though she does not belong there. Her family’s economic situation is difficult, and Ramona feels strongly that she should work to help support her family. She also feels bad about herself and does not believe she has the ability to compete at school. Ramona has little social involvement with the school, partly because of the family’s economic situation and partly because of her struggle with the English language. These factors make Ramona a prime candidate for dropping out.

In 2000, 11% of 16- to 24-year-olds were out of school without a high school diploma. Although the status dropout rate remained fairly consistent from 1992 to 2000, it declined for young people as a group between the early 1970s and mid-2000. The rate of this decline, however, varied for European Americans, African Americans, Latino Americans, and American Indians (KewelRamani, 2011). American Indians/Alaska natives produce the lowest high school graduation rates. Latinos and African Americans also had especially low graduation rates (Urban Institute, 2004). The high dropout rate of Latino students is partly attributable to the dropout rate among Latino immigrants, many of whom are ESL students

Immigrant Students

Although all countries have experienced immigration, no country in the world has constantly experienced such a high immigration rate as the United States, especially in the last few years. Public school systems reflect these demographics, with children of immigrants accounting for a large percent of all U.S. schoolchildren. Most of the parents of these children arrived in the United States from Latin America and Asia. A major concern is the dramatically lower educational attainment of immigrant adolescents from Latin America, with implications for their later employment, income, health, marriage, and housing (Fuligni & Hardway, 2004). This problem is likely to get worse as California, Arizona, and other states drop bilingual education programs in favor of state-mandated English immersion programs, putting a substantial proportion of immigrant children at even more risk. The English immersion approach assumes that immigrant children, and others whose first language is other than English, learn English very quickly—generally within a year’s time—under conditions of total immersion. Interestingly, studies have indicated that the development of oral English proficiency takes an average of 3.31 years ranging from 1 year to 6.5 years. Only 2.25% of students demonstrated English proficiency in a year’s time; most achieved English proficiency in 2 to 5 years (MacSwan & Pray, 2005). In English immersion programs, all subjects are taught in English regardless of whether the student understands. In effect, students lose a number of years of instruction.

Latino Students

The status dropout rates for whites, blacks, and Hispanics declined between 1980 and 2008. Unfortunately, the high school completion rate for Latinos is about as low today is it was in the 1970s (Chapman, Laird, & KewelRamani, 2010). The extensive literature on Latino dropouts indicates that there is not a single cause associated with the decision to leave school, although foreign-born Latinos dropped out at a higher rate than native-born Latinos (Aud & Hannes, 2010). For immigrants, the stress, confusion, and anxiety when first entering a U.S. school, combined with language problems, are issues. Other issues are poverty, pregnancy, poor academic achievement, parents’ educational attainment, lack of motivation, low aspirations, disengagement from learning, and single-parent families (Chapman, Laird, & KewelRamani, 2010). A growing body of literature also points to school-related or institutional factors that play an important role in the dropout process. In some cases, a self-fulfilling prophecy phenomenon might be occurring in schools, such that teachers hold and unknowingly convey lower expectations of Latino students. One case study by Conchas (2001) examined immigrant and U.S.-born Latino students’ perspectives on how the school structure mediates academic success and school engagement. Latino students in this case study expressed how the stereotypes held by teachers and other students about Latinos in general (e.g., Latinos are lazy, don’t try hard enough, and so on) affected their level of school engagement. For some students, such negative stereotypes foster pessimism about school.

Exceptional Students

In addition to students of color, immigrant, and English as second language students, dropout statistics include many students with disabilities. The dropout rate for students with emotional/behavioral disabilities is considerably higher than that of general education students despite the school’s legal obligation to provide students with disabilities a free, appropriate education until they reach age 21 or receive a high school diploma, as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Students with specific learning disabilities and with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who drop out of school are more socially alienated toward classmates and teachers than are similar students who complete school. These young people have far to go to reach the goals of adult adjustment.

Gifted students, who often demonstrate high ability and intelligence, high creativity, and a strong drive to initiate and complete a task, drop out of school more often than one would think. In fact, they drop out more often than their nongifted peers. All of these exceptional students must be kept in mind when we discuss the scope of the dropout problem.

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Students

Another group of students who are particularly at risk of dropping out of school are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) students. Many of the school problems of these adolescents are related to the physical and verbal abuse they receive from peers. Peer harassment contributes to poor school performance, truancy, and withdrawal from school. School is a dangerous and punishing place for many GLBT students who often experience threats, physical and psychological abuse from peers, and bias from teachers and other school personnel (Glimps, 2005; Russell & McGuire, 2008).

Unfortunately, too many educators do little to support GLBT teenagers in a world that reviles them and in a school environment that permits them to be called “dykes,” “faggots,” and an assortment of other names (Glimps, 2005). Ironically, although educators will challenge and correct other derogatory terms, the words dyke and faggot often go unnoticed or at least unchallenged. Making school safe for GLBT youth is the responsibility of all educators. GLBT youth are susceptible to depression and are at high risk for suicide because of internal turmoil and environmental harassment (see Chapter 11). They also consistently report significant stress associated with school and related activities, no doubt contributing to their high dropout rate (Russell & McGuire, 2008).

Adjudicated Youth

Adjudicated young people are less likely to graduate from high school. More than two-thirds of juvenile offenders of high school age fail to return to school following their release from custody. These adolescents are often alienated from school by below grade level academic performance, a lack of necessary high school credits, school reenrollment procedures, chronic truancy, and a need for special education services (U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2005). These young people present a particularly thorny problem because in addition to their potential for dropping out of school they present multiple problems. Eight in 10 incarcerated juveniles suffer from learning disabilities. Nearly 4 out of 5 youth arrested for juvenile crimes in 2000 were involved with drugs or alcohol, and 92% tested positive for marijuana. Unfortunately, only a very low number of these youth receive substance abuse treatment once they enter the juvenile justice system. Up to three quarters of all incarcerated juveniles had a diagnosable mental health disorder. Most often educational programs fail to meet state standards, and mental health services are scarce (National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 2005).

THE CONSEQUENCES OF DROPPING OUT

Dropping out of school has a significant impact on the life of the individual, but the costs go far beyond individual consequences. School dropout rates have serious economic and social repercussions for society as well.

Economic Consequences

Students who drop out of school are at an economic disadvantage and will be throughout their lives: Unemployment and underemployment rates are high among high school dropouts; they earn significantly less over their lifetimes than high school graduates and less still than those graduates who attend some college. In 2008, a student with a bachelor’s degree earned 28% more than one with an associate’s degree, 53% more than a high school completer, and 96% more than a young person without a high school diploma (Aud & Hannes, 2010). In addition to lower income, the unemployment rate of dropouts is considerably higher as well. Detachment from school by teenagers puts youth at increased risk of having lower earnings and less stable employment than peers who stay in school (U.S. Department of Education, 2010). A high school diploma no longer ensures gainful employment as it did in the past; our economy needs people to work at jobs that are not intellectually challenging. Unfortunately, most of these jobs do not pay well.

The economic consequences of the dropout problem include loss of earnings and taxes, loss of Social Security, and lack of qualified workers. A high school diploma is the minimum qualification for participation in the U.S. economy. A worker without one can find work in only the most menial occupations. The factory jobs that once allowed workers to make a good income without a high school diploma are diminishing or are being transferred out of the country; the educational requirements for jobs in general are increasing. The high school dropout is not easily absorbed into the workforce due to this ever-increasing demand for highly trained workers. Students who drop out of high school will lack the necessary skills to participate in the high-tech job market and are likely to be destined for marginal employment or outright dependence on society.

The economic consequences of dropping out will continue to worsen as jobs for low-skilled workers dry up. And this affects the nation as well. Dropouts pay half as much in taxes as do high school graduates. They receive larger government subsidies in the form of food stamps, welfare payments, and housing assistance. They are more likely involved in crime, which dramatically increases the probability of prison, and they have worse health outcomes and lower life expectancies (Dynarski et al., 2008).

Not long ago, the Social Security checks of retirees were paid for by as many as 17 employed workers; people who retire in the next decade, however, will draw their Social Security from the wages of only 3 workers (Sklar, 1995), one of whom will be a person of color. As discussed in Chapter 2, projections indicate that the percentage of people of color entering the labor force will continue to increase over the next 15 years. Schools, communities, and legislators must ensure that adolescents of color graduate in increasing numbers both to meet the needs of the national labor market and to provide equal representation of people of color in society’s labor force.

Social Consequences

Students who leave school before completing their program of study are at a disadvantage in other ways as well. Dropping out of school often has an impact on an individual’s psychological well-being. Dissatisfaction with self, with the environment, and with lack of opportunity is also associated with lower occupational aspirations among young people. When high school dropouts are unemployed or earn less money than their graduated peers, their children also experience negative consequences because they live in lower socioeconomic conditions. Proportionately few of these homes provide the study aids that children of graduates can expect to have. Parents who are poor are less likely to provide non-school-related activities for their children than parents of higher socioeconomic status. Further, low wages require parents who are dropouts to work such long hours that it is difficult for them to monitor their children’s activities. Because high school dropouts have lower occupational aspirations than their graduated peers, they also have lower educational expectations for their own children. The Andrews, Baker, and Diaz families (of Chapters 12, and 5) are prime examples of this situation. In each of these families, at least one of the parents did not complete high school, and the children must face the consequences.

Dropping out of school truncates educational and vocational development in a manner that dramatically increases the probability of a downward spiral into greater physical, emotional, and economic problems. The average high school dropout costs the economy approximately $240,000 over his or her lifetime in terms of lower tax contributions, higher reliance on Medicaid and Medicare, higher reliance on welfare, and higher rates of criminal activity. Dropouts are in worse health than other adults. Dropouts also make up disproportionately higher percentages of the nation’s prison and death row inmates (Chapman, Laird, & KewelRamani, 2010). Less-educated adolescents are more likely to become pregnant outside of marriage and to abuse alcohol and drugs. In short, health-risk behaviors—substance use, violence, physical inactivity—are consistently linked to academic failure (CDCP, 2011). The idea that dropouts beget dropouts conveys an unnecessary hopelessness. Not all dropouts have children who want to drop out, and not all students at risk for school failure today are children of dropouts. Nevertheless, a continuing cycle of leaving school early seems likely if schools do not take action. Schools can break the cycle in a variety of ways.

PREDICTIVE INDICATORS AND TYPE OF DROPOUTS

Effective implementation of dropout prevention programs requires identification of students at risk. To facilitate this, we turn to research that teachers, counselors and psychologists, and other human service professionals may find useful in their daily work with students (Dynarski et al., 2008; Suh, Suh, & Houston, 2007; and especially, Ekstrom et al., 1986).

Differences between Stayers and Leavers

More than 25 years ago, Ekstrom and her colleagues (1986) focused on a sample of high school sophomores over a 2-year period. They found that those who stayed in school (stayers) differed significantly from those who left (dropouts) across a variety of dimensions: socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, parent support for education, family structure, school behaviors, and attitudes/abilities toward schoolwork. Students who left school were more likely to be poorer, older, male, and ethnic minorities. They tended to come from homes with fewer study aids and fewer opportunities for non-school-related learning than students who stayed in school. Dropouts were less likely to have both birth parents living in the home, more likely to have employed mothers (who had less education and lower educational expectations for their children), and had less parental monitoring of their activities.

The students who dropped out of school also differed from the stayers in a variety of behaviors. The dropouts were less likely to be involved in extracurricular activities and had lower grades and lower test scores than the stayers. Interestingly, the gap between stayers’ and dropouts’ grades was greater than the gap between their scores on achievement tests. Dropouts did less homework: an average of 2.2 hours a week as opposed to the 3.4 hours reported by the stayers. The dropouts also had more discipline problems in school, were absent and late more often, cut more classes, were suspended from school more often, and had more trouble with the police.

Differences between dropouts and stayers also emerged in the affective domain. Many of the dropouts reported feelings of alienation from school. Most were not involved in clubs, sports, or student government. Not surprisingly, few dropouts reported feelings of satisfaction with their academic work. Dropouts did not feel popular with other students, and their friends were also alienated from school and had low educational expectations. Finally, the dropouts worked more hours than the stayers, and their jobs were more enjoyable and more important to them than school.

The question arose: what had happened to the students who had dropped out of school between their sophomore and senior years. Ekstrom et al. (1986) found that 47% of them were working either full or part time (more whites and males reported working for pay than did minorities and females), 29% were looking for work, 16% were homemakers, 10% were enrolled in job-training programs, and 3% were in military service. Of these dropouts, 58% hoped to finish high school eventually, and 17% reported that they had already enrolled in an educational institution. Fourteen percent had already obtained a General Educational Development (GED) high school equivalency certificate. Very little has changed since Ekstrom’s original report (see, for example Dynarski et al., 2008 and Suh, Suh, & Houston, 2007), except poorer pay and lack of jobs are more severe problems. It is probable that at least 50% of a similar cohort today would not be employed or would be underemployed.

Predictive Variables and Dropout Types

Although the profile developed by Ekstrom et al. (1986) tells us some of the characteristics of young people who drop out of school before graduation, it does not tell us enough about the complex interaction of variables or about why younger students leave. Indeed, dropping out of school is a culmination of a developmental process that involves a complex ecology. Dropping out is a process that begins early in development, typically before a child even enters school, and continues through the time a student formally withdraws (Rumberger & Ah Lim, 2008). In one study, the quality of early care giving, the early home environment, peer competence, and problem behaviors predicted high school status 15 years later (Jimerson, Egeland, Sroufe, & Carlson, 2000). Early experiences may affect a student’s sense of agency and self-concept. These may directly influence school performance and later decisions to stay in school. Early experiences also lay foundations for relationships with teachers and differential interactions with peers that further propel the individual along the pathway toward dropping out. Success in school requires numerous capacities for behavioral control and self-regulation that are formed in earlier years.

In a study designed to test five theories of early dropout behavior, Battin-Pearson and her colleagues (2000) identified poor academic achievement as assessed by standardized achievement tests and grade point averages as consistently one of the strongest predictors of dropping out of high school early. Engaging in deviant behavior such as substance abuse or delinquency, having close connections to antisocial peers, and coming from a poor family increased risks for leaving school by age 14, even when the student had not experienced academic failure or difficulty. Clearly, dropout prevention efforts should be focused directly on improving academic achievement at early ages, but prevention programs should also focus on poor families, youth who associate with deviant peers, and those who participate in aggressive behavior and drug use.

Good dropout prevention programs have the ability to closely match their methods and content to the specific strengths, vulnerabilities, and needs of the participants. One helpful typology of dropouts comes from the work of Janosz and his colleagues (2000). Combining three axes of school-related behavior—academic achievement, school commitment, and behavioral maladjustment—Janosz and colleagues identified four basic, reliable, and valid dropout types: disengaged dropouts, low-achiever dropouts, quiet dropouts, and maladjusted dropouts. Each type has unique characteristics to consider in designing interventions.

Disengaged Dropouts

Although they believe that they are less competent than other students, disengaged dropouts obtain surprisingly high achievement scores considering their lack of school involvement. These young people care little about school grades and have few educational aspirations, generally do not like school, do not recognize the importance of education, and accord little value to both school and education in their lives.

Low-Achiever Dropouts

Although they have relatively few behavior problems, low-achiever dropouts have a very weak commitment to education, experience poor grades, and learn little. Of all the dropout types, low achievers are distinct in their lack of ability to fulfill minimal course requirements.

Quiet Dropouts

Young people who fit this dropout category have few external problems, although they exhibit poor school performance. They hold positive views about school attendance, appear to be involved in school activities, and do not create disciplinary trouble. They do not get very good grades but also do not misbehave much and do not react openly to school difficulties. They generally go unnoticed until they drop out.

Maladjusted Dropouts

Dropouts in this category have high levels of misbehavior. They demonstrate a weak commitment to education, have poor school performance, invest little in school life, and frequently are in disciplinary trouble. Due to the variety and severity of difficulties, these dropouts have the most negative school profile of the four types.

Knowing these dropout types will assist counselors and educators to identify potential dropouts. Clustering variables that predict dropout types will improve interventions to reduce dropouts because prevention efforts can target specific behaviors and attitudes.

We must also consider another contributing factor: the student’s instructional environment. The instructional environment can seriously magnify a student’s dislike for school, lack of motivation, and low self-concept. For example, at-risk, low-achieving students are often treated differently from high-achieving students, and this kind of differential treatment can literally “push” them out of school. Differential treatment of at-risk students includes that they are called on less, given less wait time to answer questions, given less praise, and given less eye contact and other nonverbal communication of responsiveness. At-risk students sense the teacher’s lower regard for their personal worth as learners, come to believe it, and then conform to those expectations. Equally important is the need at the district level to deal with schools that are not performing (Knudson, Shambaugh, & O’Day, 2011).

SPECIFIC INTERVENTION STRATEGIES FOCUSED ON SCHOOL DROPOUTS

Students at greatest risk for dropping out of school are identifiable, although many disengage from school and drop out for a variety of reasons for which there is no one common solution. School districts and specific schools can improve their retention rates by organizing programs that directly address the personal and idiosyncratic issues of individual dropouts in their region. At a minimum, though, efforts to prevent pupils from leaving school should include methods to reduce antisocial behaviors, increase academic achievement, improve connection with other students and adults, and in other ways encourage positive school commitment. Insufficient attention is paid to alienated, lonely, and disliked students (Thomas & Smith, 2004). The teenager who speaks to us in Box 7.1 (a possible quiet or disengaged dropout) expresses concerns that are common to many high school dropouts: a lack of relevance between the school’s curriculum and the circumstances of students’ lives and a lack of a sense of belonging. This teen, however, at least has a goal: she is going to help her mother manage a restaurant. Clearly she is interested in learning, but the school she attends is not where most of her learning takes place. Because she seems to be so eager to learn science, to read, and to use math skills, it is indeed a shame that she does not see the school curriculum in these areas as relevant to her life. Curricula that highlight the connection between learning and the “real world” should be selected whenever possible, with support for teachers to promote those connections. She would also benefit from a curriculum that encompasses goal-setting techniques. Identifying and writing down long-term goals, developing a plan to implement those goals, and periodically reviewing the actions taken to achieve the goals are useful skills. Tyrone Baker, for example, would benefit from such a curriculum. (We discuss goal-setting techniques in Chapter 13.)

BOX 7.1: Reflections of a Future Dropout

I wish I could leave school. It’s so boring that I just daydream all day anyway.

Why can’t they just let me leave now, instead of waitin’ till I’m 16?

When I leave, I’m gonna help Mama in her restaurant. It’s her own business and she runs it, but she also has to take care of my little sisters. We have it all worked out. I already help her every night when I get home from school. This week she let me work in the kitchen. I figured out a new way to make salad dressing, and it’s really good. Mama says it’s gonna be a house specialty. The first time we served it, I had to figure out how to make a batch for 100 people without messing it up.

Mama also lets me do the books. She don’t have time for everything. If I didn’t have to go to school, I could help her a lot more. Three weeks ago, we had a taxman in here checking through the books. He said he was impressed with the figures. We couldn’t let him know I did them cuz I’m too young to work. Mama brings ’em home for me, and I do ’em at night. I’m usually right. I wish I could be like that in school. But man, those questions in my homework just get me all confused. I mean, once I was s’pose to figure out when two trains would meet if they was goin’ toward each other and leavin’ at different times and stuff like that. I mean, who cares? Someone’s already got the train schedule all figured out so they don’t run into each other, and I ain’t never gonna be a train engineer, so why ask me? Usually, though, it don’t make much difference cuz I’m so busy addin’ up customers’ bills that I don’t have time to set down and figure out what some smart guy has already done. Mr. Larson is sorta gettin’ used to me not turning in my homework. So is Mr. Poland. He says I better start thinkin’ about what I’m gonna do for the science fair or I’m gonna flunk his class. Well, excuse me, but I just don’t have time to figure out how to make an atom bomb. I wish he’d just get off my case and stick to buggin’ the smart kids.

If I didn’t have to go to school, I could help Mama by takin’ the kids to the library. They have story time, and my little sisters like to hear it sometimes. I just set and read the encyclopedias. The other day I was readin’ that a kangaroo can have as many as three babies suckin’ on her tits at once. There can be an embryo that attaches itself to the nipple, a newborn inside the pouch, and an older baby (they’re called “joeys,” in case you weren’t aware) that hops in for some chow. I really enjoy the library. Especially in summer cuz the air conditioner works real good. Some of those librarians are real nice to me. Mrs. Bishop is my favorite. She always asks me about the books I check out, if I liked ’em, and then she says here’s another good one to read. One librarian there is kinda mean, but she’s nothing like the one at the school library. Man, that lady won’t even let you read the inside cover flaps cuz it’ll mess up her nice clean shelf. She looks at me like I’m lookin’ to take something all the time. Mama says she must have a board up her butt. I just hate goin’ in there. Anyway, it doesn’t matter much cuz we’re only allowed to go to the library with our English class, and I never finish my work in that class. I just can’t get into prepositions and garbage like that. I mean, who cares anyway? In Mama’s restaurant, nobody says I’m not talkin’ right, and I know I never heard anybody discussin’ conjugatin’ verbs while they was eatin’ a French dip roast beef sandwich. I sure wish I could leave school so I could start learnin’ something.

© Cengage Learning 2013

Schools can also organize programs to bring truant students—disengaged, quiet, or maladjusted potential dropouts—back to the classroom. For example, requiring a daily after-school study group might enable truant students to catch up, work at their own pace, and receive credit. These last-resort study sessions could be a key element in a dropout prevention program.

Social interaction, especially with antisocial peers, influences the decision to leave school; it can also help keep young people in school. An opportunity to get involved with a social group and to work with the other members in a positive manner might be beneficial to the quiet potential dropout. Perhaps if 9-year-old Tyrone Baker could get involved in healthy social activities run by the school, he would not be so susceptible to gang activities. School arts, music, and athletic programs provide support and opportunities for disadvantaged students to participate in sports, clubs, and activities. Most school arts programs provide valuable outlets for young people and give them a sense of accomplishment, as does participation in the school band or choir. Too often, when funding is tight, the prevention value (in human and economic terms) of school arts programs is ignored.

Peer and cross-age tutoring, mediation, leadership, and facilitation (counseling) programs can also help young people at risk for dropping out of school. Such programs have great potential because they blend learning and responsibility with the development of social skills and a positive self-image. In Chapter 14 we provide an extensive discussion of the use of peer and cross-age programs. In addition, classroom techniques that provide students with the opportunity to communicate with each other in a positive manner help to improve their social relationships and connectedness. Jason Carter and Ramona Diaz would benefit greatly from working with other students in supportive groups. Some specific classroom practices are discussed in Chapter 14, including peer support networks and cooperative learning groups.

The more effective dropout intervention programs identify and track young people at risk for school failure and maintain a focus on students’ progress toward educational achievement. They are designed to influence enrollment status and to address various indicators of student engagement. They address issues related to student mobility, alternate time lines, and routes for school completion that often include alternative education programs (Dynarski et al., 2008; Knudson, Shambaugh, & O’Day, 2011; Christenson & Thurlow, 2004).

Specific Intervention: Cyber Technology

We hear much about the negative impact of technologies, often focusing on potential harm related to addiction, aggression, risky sexual behavior, and lowered school performance although much of this concern fits a pattern of media-based moral panic (Ferguson, 2010). Nevertheless, as we indicated in Chapter 1, cyber technology can be for good or ill, both a blessing and a curse. Technology and the World Wide Web include dangerous, negative, and destructive activities: pornography and callous television, violent movies and music, sexual solicitation and stalking, bullying and harassment, drug and other illegal activity. We discuss some of these negative implications in other chapters. But the fact remains that cyber technology is a tool. And tools can be use in diverse ways—good and bad—after all, iron and steel can be fashioned into either swords and guns or plows and pruning hooks.

Today’s youth are digital learners, and technology has become something that youth depend upon. Teachers must consider that each student has a different learning style and technology opens up new methods to respond to those differences. At-risk youth are easily bored and unmotivated by traditional teaching practices. But at-risk youth are comfortable with technology such as laptops and play stations, Xboxes and IPods, PCs and Apple computers. These technologies can provide problem-based learning challenges that help students learn how to learn; they can help students work cooperatively in groups to seek solutions to real world problems; they can also be used as adjuncts to enhance ongoing counseling or psychotherapy. Biofeedback, mobile phones, Skype, and personal digital assistants can supplement or enhance traditional counseling (Clough & Casey, 2011).

Public schools have made consistent progress in expanding Internet access in classrooms. Now virtually all public schools in the United States have access to the Internet, most with broadband wireless connections. The ratio of student to computer was 12 to 1 in 1998, then 4 and one-half to 1 in 2003 to about 2 to 1 more recently (DOE, 2006). Thus computer access at school is nearly universal among fourth grade students (95%) and very high for the vast majority of eighth graders (83%). Home computer access in 2007 for eighth grade students indicate that 90% had a computer in the home, although as expected, poorer children did not fare so well (Child Trends, 2008).This is an important progression because increasing evidence points to the value of the Internet in helping youth.

Access to computers in the home is associated with better education outcomes, higher reading scores, and overall higher GPAs among low-income children (Brown & Marin, 2009). Students who used computers at least once every few weeks had higher scores than students who rarely used computers. This was especially true in science classes (DOE, 2009).

Computer video games have aided the development of some types of cognition (Spence & Feng, 2010); been applied to health-related problems (Kato, 2010); applied in the development of “serious” games to help educate youth (Annetta, 2010); and been used in the new research field of video games applied to therapy with youth (Ceranoglu, 2010).

Two beneficial and positive tools for working with at-risk youth freely available on the web are the Virtual Counseling Center (VCC) and the Khan Academy. Although neither of these sites was developed exclusively for dropouts, both provide important aids that can be important for dropout prevention.

Virtual Counseling Center

The Virtual Counseling Center (http://vcc.asu.edu) is a freely available website that contains an array of specialized services and tools. For some years Horan (2008a, 2008b, 2010), his students, and colleagues have been developing assessment instruments, intervention strategies, prevention programs, and Internet links that can be used by students, teachers, counselors, researchers, and others. Designed initially for regular students and clients, the current national interest in preparing more students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields has provided a huge push in the VCC’s development with the National Science Foundation providing considerable financial support. While not designed especially for at-risk youth, VCC has great potential to help them. The site contains five interrelated parts: (1) counseling research and practice resources (i.e., a Professional Tool Box), (2) online career exploration assessment tests, (3) career and educational information resources, (4) life skill interventions, and (5) academic skill programs.

The Professional Tool Box provides professional audiences—teachers, counselors, psychologists—a service delivery tool to further their own research programs or to implement individual or group interventions. Besides a large array of online libraries, it includes specialized bibliographies, a taxonomy of educational and career barriers and supports for women, free educational materials for promoting classroom instructional objectives, and evidence-based treatment manuals for difficult client issues. The toolbox also provides links to Vocopher, a repository of career assessment instruments, free for professional counselors to use with their clients. This program allows counselors and their clients the capacity to collect and save career and educational information specific to each client. This repository of resources has the potential to help all four types of dropouts discussed earlier: disengaged, low-achiever, quiet, and maladjusted. It also is a very useful tool for school counseling programs seeking to implement a comprehensive competency-based guidance program which we discuss later.

The VCC resources continue to expand and now contain a large number of scientifically validated career exploration and assessment tests that can be taken and scored online. These online tests provide users with a solid understanding of their interests, values, and abilities and help understand what careers are possible. For example, tests include individual interest measures such as the Personal Globe Inventory (PGI), the Career Clusters Interest Survey (CCIS), and the O*NET Interest Profiler (OIP), and occupational values instruments such as the O*NET Work Importance Profiler (WIP). Some instruments such as a standardized career assessment instrument, the Inventory of Children’s Activities (ICA), is applicable to middle-school children in both English and Spanish. Providing a greater understanding of interests may be an important way to encourage any student, but especially the disengaged, low-achiever, and quiet potential dropout.

In addition to career assessment information, the VCC is connected to a wide range of solid occupation and education databases. If a student discovers that his or her career interests match with a specific career, the Automated Advisor connects to databases with over 350,000 individual job-related URLs collected by the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education. Information includes the nature of that work, entrance requirements, average salaries, and so forth. This information for hundreds of occupations is linked to thousands of postsecondary educational institutions offering relevant training and degree programs.

The Automated Advisor also includes hundreds of career videos with English and Spanish captions that discuss many aspects of occupations. Links are provided to short videos from the Inspired2Work career video library that emphasizes the individual in occupations. When one sets the bandwidth for cable and activates the full-screen button, the video streams are high quality. This part of VCC is a particularly helpful resource for quiet and disengaged dropouts who don’t understand the connection between the school curriculum, their interests, and the world of work.

The VCC provides a wide range of evidence-based multimedia programs designed to increase social skills and life skills of participants. This category of the VCC, while useful to all potential dropouts, is especially helpful in providing tools to engage the maladjusted dropout. For example, there is a self-esteem building program (i.e., The Subject is Me) that uses cognitive restructuring (see Chapter 13). This program focuses on the presence of irrational beliefs, links them to low self-esteem, illustrates their self-defeating consequences, and offers alternative perspectives. Another cognitive restructuring program (i.e., Healthy Thinking) reduces stress (Garbarini, Bell, Horan, & Webber, 2008). A coping-skills training program is available for children of divorcing parents to deal with the child’s low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, academic declines, and other concerns, as is a conflict management training program for high school students. One of the most developed areas on the VCC are those life skills programs that focus on stress, tension, and anxiety. Progressive muscle relaxation, Benson’s cue-controlled relaxation, and guided imagery are available in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language. Delivered through video by very skillful psychologists, they are especially effective. Besides the material developed by Horan and his colleagues, the VCC has links to many programs (e.g., depression, smoking, and stress) developed by others with an open invitation for other program developers and researchers to provide their material (Horan, 2010).

The academic skills area has a number of programs addressing academic readiness, such as study skills, a vocabulary builder, time management, note taking, motivation training, and instruction in a number of subject areas. Because high stakes testing (see Chapter 5) continues to be an educational reality, the VCC has individual states’ academic achievement practice tests and practice tests for the American College Test (ACT), the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT), and others. The VCC also provides a variety of tutorials like resume writing and financial aid. Academic skills are especially important for the low-achiever dropout to help them supplement those skills that are necessary for school success. Another useful Internet connection is the Khan Academy, important for all potential dropouts, particularly the low achiever.

Khan Academy

The Khan Academy (http://www.khanacademy.org), another free site, has the mission of providing a solid education to anyone who has access to a computer. It consists of over 2,100 videos and more than a 100 exercises posted on YouTube. These short 10 to 12 minute lessons, developed by Salman Khan, cover basic arithmetic to advanced calculus, biology to chemistry, humanities to history.

Designed to be used by individual students (the Khan website claims to serve over 1,000,000 students worldwide), they use an extensive video library, practice exercises, and assessments from any computer with access to the web. After completing self-paced learning tools, students can profile their video and exercise progress and receive points and badges to measure their progress. For students struggling to understand specific course content or required to participate in a daily after-school study group, the Khan Academy provides a rich resource for study.

The material presented online can be used by teachers to supplement their curriculum. Also, teachers can track what students are learning and doing, allowing them to have better information for doing targeted interventions.

Perhaps most important for potential dropouts is that the videotape presentations allow students to repeat and review information. When students do not understand, they can replay the material. The Khan Academy along with the VCC can be an excellent supplement to augment alternative education programs.

Specific Intervention: Alternative Education

Besides prevention and early intervention, accommodations must be made for students who are at imminent risk of early school withdrawal or who have already dropped out. Alternative education programs provide ways for these young people to experience academic and personal success in technical vocational schools or alternative middle or secondary schools that may include schools for pregnant teens, homebound programs, career academies, and evening high schools. Such interventions need adequate staffing by effective teachers and professional counselors. School counselors are scarce, with only one certified counselor available for every 285 high school students (Educational Testing Service, 2005), leaving counselors with very little time to work with students at risk of dropping out. In addition, there has been a decline in investment for second-chance educational opportunities. A summary (Dynarski & Gleason, 2002) of findings from a comprehensive evaluation of federally funded dropout prevention programs and a more recent dropout prevention guide (Dynarski et al., 2008) provide important information about preventing early school withdrawal. Alternative middle schools with an intensive intervention approach are more effective at preventing early dropout than schools that only provided supplemental services. An intensive intervention approach involved teaching students in smaller classes; implementing competency-based curricula; allowing students to work independently and progress at their own rate; developing challenging curricula that required students to use knowledge from several subject areas to address real-world issues; and pushing students to learn more and faster, so that those who were behind grade level could accelerate their progress.

In contrast, many supplemental programs provide only tutoring or occasional classes to promote self-esteem or leadership. They have almost no impact on student outcomes (Dynarski & Gleason, 2002; Dynarski et al., 2008). An evaluation of alternative programs suggests that although supplemental services were relatively straightforward to implement, they did not appear to keep students in school or improve their attendance or academic performance. Alternative programs that provide more attention to students, that create an environment geared to their specific needs, and that provide a more personal atmosphere with smaller classes seem to work best for students at risk for dropping out. The choice of inspired and creative teachers was most important and a very influential factor in engaging students intellectually (Dynarski & Gleason, 2002).

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) has released a number of research reports that review dropout prevention programs. The following seven were judged to show positive or potentially positive effects: Achievement for Latinos with Academic Success (ALAS), Career Academies, Check and Connect, High School Redirection, Talent Development, Talent Search, and Twelve Together (Dynarski et al., 2008).

ALAS students were trained in how to contact and interact with teachers and school administrators and how to participate in school activities. They were also trained in parent-child problem solving.

Career Academy students take career-related courses within the academy, a school-within-school program, taught by a core team of teachers. The curriculum is based on a career theme with academic coursework and work experience with local employers.

Check and Connect relies on close monitoring of school performance, as well as mentoring, case management, and other supports. The Check component of the program continually assesses student engagement through monitoring of performance. The Connect component involves adults providing support and individual attention to students.

High School Redirection is a program emphasizes basic skill development and offers an intensive remedial reading program. Schools are small to foster a sense of community, and teachers act as mentors to students Development High Schools is a school reform model including both structural and curriculum reforms. Schools are organized into small “learning communities” that include 9th grade academies and career academies for students in upper grades. All students receive a college preparatory academic sequence with high academic standards.

Talent Search provides services that include tutoring, test-taking and study skills help, academic advising, career development, college campus visits, and financial aid application assistance.

Twelve Together is a 1-year peer support and mentoring program that offers weekly after-school discussion groups led by trained adult facilitators. The program also offers homework assistance and tutoring by college students as well as trips to local college campuses.

Specific Intervention: Comprehensive, Competency-Based Guidance

Placements in alternative school settings are less critical when schools are systematically organized to intervene consistently. Most students who leave school before graduation do not receive interventions to help them stay in school (Dynarski et al., 2008). More than 60% indicated that no one on the school staff had tried to talk them into staying. Less than one-fourth saw a counselor or social worker to discuss their troubles or dropout plans. For many of these students, it was clear that they were struggling with academic and other problems in their final 2 years, and no one caught the problem early enough to prevent dropout.

Beginning in the early 1990s and continuing to the present, the American School Counseling Association and other concerned groups have pushed to encourage schools to adhere to the national standards for school counseling programs. These national standards are closely aligned to the Comprehensive, Competency-Based Guidance (CCBG) model. Comprehensive, competency-based guidance and counseling programs are rapidly becoming the program of choice for managing guidance and counseling in schools (Gysbers & Henderson, 2006). It is currently estimated that more than half of the states promote the use of CCBG programs.

Comprehensive, competency-based guidance programs are developmentally focused and are designed to provide all students with experiences to help them grow and develop. These programs change the traditional responsibilities, roles, and contributions of school counselors. Although counselors continue to meet the immediate counseling and crisis management needs of students, their major task is to identify competencies among all students and to provide planned activities on a regular basis to assist students to achieve competencies and to learn new skills. Within the CCBG model, counselors provide a full range of services and activities—assessment, information sharing with teachers and parents, consultation, prevention, counseling, referral, placement, and follow-up work with children and youth and their families. CCBG programs typically incorporate the following unique components:

  • A guidance curriculum that infuses career exploration in the academic curricula.
  • Individual planning that consists of advising, assessing, and supporting students individually with their academic and career goals.
  • Responsive services that include individual counseling, small-group counseling, large-group or classroom-level interventions, prevention work (also often through classroom delivery), consultation, and referral.

The student development aspect of CCBG encompasses a variety of desired student learning competencies. These competencies are comprised of specific knowledge, attitudes, and skills. They form the foundation of the developmental school counseling program. All students gain the specific competencies they need to be successful students and successful adults. The three areas or domains of student development in the CCBG model are as follows:

  • Academic development—that is, young people acquire the knowledge and skills that contribute to effective learning in school and across the life span.
  • Career development—specifically, students employ strategies to achieve future career success and satisfaction.
  • Personal/social development—students acquire the attitudes, knowledge, and interpersonal skills to help them understand and respect themselves and others.

Developmentally appropriate competencies in each of the three domains are identified at all levels, pre-K through 12. Typically, counselors are assigned to and become expert in a particular domain. All students are systematically provided with opportunities to develop competencies through classroom and small-group presentations according to the master calendar developed by the counseling staff.

In the CCBG model, school counselors are more fully engaged in implementing prevention and intervention activities for all students. They move out of marginalized positions and into roles that more effectively promote essential education and career objectives for students. Substantial research (e.g., see Gysbers & Henderson, 2006) indicates that implementation of CCBG programs is associated with improving student success and safety.

In later chapters we provide a wide range of programs, strategies, and interventions that fit extremely well with the CCBG model. For example, in Chapter 12 we present two universal prevention strategies—the Group-Oriented Psychological Education Prevention (GOPEP) program and a bullying prevention model—both of which can be used in a CCBG counseling program. Another interesting and unique program for at-risk talented girls with a capacity for intellectual achievement in math and science is the Talented at Risk Girls: Encouragement and Training for Sophomores program and the Guiding Girls into Math and Science program (Robinson Kurpius, 2005; Kerr & Harkins, 2004). Both show promise and are compatible with CCBG.

The two programs provide a day-long intervention followed by a booster session several months later. Identified girls spend a day on the university campus participating in individual and small-group activities and receiving feedback and support about their career interests and personality characteristics, risky behaviors, and strength and resilience assets. Participation in the “A Future Day Fantasy” activity and in a small-group counseling session on career aspirations and barriers seem to be particularly meaningful (Foley-Nicpon & Kerr, 2005). A modified program has been used with adolescent boys, and the program components are probably applicable and effective with other at-risk populations.

In the traditional school counseling model, not every student receives the same quality or quantity of information from the counseling staff regarding postsecondary educational opportunities, career opportunities, or life-coping skills. Students with the most obvious personal difficulties and students with top academic skills receive the most attention from counselors. In this traditional counseling model, counselors are passive and wait for students to contact them, which is particularly disadvantageous to the potential school dropout. In the CCBG model, the potential dropout at least knows that somebody is attending to multiple dimensions of his or her development. Of course, because of the increase in the school counselor’s job responsibilities, opportunities for long-term counseling of individual children are few, and outside referrals to appropriate counselors, social workers, or psychologists in the community may increase. The CCBG model provides more support and guidance to more students, and adoption of such a model can be a significant step toward dropout prevention.

Specific Intervention: Solution-Focused Counseling

How can a school be transformed from a problem-focused environment into a solution-focused environment that fosters and highlights positive change? Solution-focused counseling is a positive and competency-based response to the problems experienced by children, adolescents, adults, and even organizational systems (Nelson & Thomas, 2007; Macdonald, 2007). Rather than focusing on what is wrong and how to fix it, this approach looks for what is already working and how to use and augment it. Its usefulness within the school system and its effectiveness with school problems have been well reported (Murphy, 2008a; 2008b). The limited time frame of the solution-focused approach and its positive, competency-based, goal-oriented emphasis make it very well suited for counselors operating in a comprehensive, competency-based guidance model.

Our focus here is on the use of a solution-focused approach within the context of counseling. However, the techniques are also useful to administrators working with teachers, parents, and students; in administrative meetings; and in case conferences. Teachers have found many of the strategies, skills, and concepts to be helpful in working with parents and students.

There are several key assumptions of solution-focused counseling:

  • Change can occur rapidly, and often a small change is all that is needed to prompt other changes.
  • Problems are usually not pervasive; there will be times when the problem is less intense or not present at all.
  • Students are more likely to change when they have a clearly defined goal and are able to generate solutions that fit.
  • People have strengths and resources and are already doing some things to solve their problem.
  • The problem is the problem, not the student, teachers, or parents.

Consistent with these assumptions, encouraging a student to make small changes in behavior has the potential to lead to bigger changes in behavior. Encouraging a student to complete a small portion of her English paper rather than complete the entire assignment is based on the idea that he or she needs success and encouragement to get some momentum started in his or her life. In addition, small shifts in role by one person in a relationship have the potential to cause the role shift of others in that relationship. Initially, the counselor’s job is to push for small changes.

Using solution-focused questions helps the client identify exceptions and potential solutions to the problem. The counselor helps the client identify those times when the problem is not present or is less intense (“Can you describe a time in the past week when your teacher was not angry with you? What were you doing?”). These exceptions can be transformed into solutions. Next, the counselor builds on asking the client how the exception happened and how the client could make it happen more often.

The following pragmatic points appeal to clients’ common sense:

  • If it works a little, try to do more of what is working.
  • Build on and add behaviors to what works.
  • If it is broke, stop what’s not working and do something different to fix it.
  • “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

In solution-focused counseling, goals are stated in positive and observable terms. Clients do better in obtaining goals that are specific and quantifiable. For example, the goal of “study harder” is inferior to the goal of “complete one homework assignment per day in study hall.” Time in the counseling session is devoted entirely to increasing exceptions (doing more of what works) and identifying and pursuing specific goals. No time is spent trying to determine the cause of a problem, describing the history of a problem, or rehashing old, past experiences.

One simple strategy that counselors can use to implement solution-focused counseling is the “miracle question” (de Shazer, Nolan, & Korman, 2007). The miracle question is a future-oriented question that is very useful in goal setting and in shifting from focusing on the problem to focusing on the solution. In essence, clients are asked to visualize what life would be like if the problem was suddenly solved. For example, “Suppose a miracle occurs tonight while you are sleeping. When you wake up, you realize that your problems are solved. What would things be like? What would you be doing that would let you know that the miracle had actually taken place?” A form of the miracle question useful for children is, “If I were to wave a magic wand and all of your problems went away, what would you do? If we could videotape you for one day, what would we see?” Older children and adolescents might respond better to a visualization of what their life would look like 6 months or a year from now if the problem were solved. “If we were to meet in a year and the problem we are talking about didn’t exist anymore, what would you be doing differently and how would you know that things were okay?”

The miracle picture is elaborated through the use of solution-focused questions, such as “What else?” “What will others see?” “How would that make you feel?” and “How would that happen?” By engaging in this process, students are essentially able to explore the positive change they would like to see occur and come up with possible solutions that they would like to implement.

Solution-focused counseling is nonblaming and emphasizes normalizing young people’s experiences and problems. Solution-focused counseling may be especially effective with youth at risk for early school dropout for the following reasons:

  • Students are less likely to feel that the counselor is attacking or blaming them for the problems they are experiencing.
  • Students feel empowered knowing that the counselor believes they are capable of becoming their own agents of change.
  • Students are able to recognize that they have many options besides dropping out of school.
  • Counselors hone in on realistic solutions that can be readily implemented, thereby maximizing the effects of their brief encounters with each at-risk student.

Counselors should keep in mind the following principles when working with at-risk youth from a solution-focused perspective (Thomas & Nelson, 2007; Macdonald, 2007):

  • Make the most of each brief encounter with a student, as it may be the only one that you have.
  • Honor and respect students, especially the resources and strengths they already have, because these are the ingredients for positive change.
  • Help students to transfer what they’ve heard and learned in their counseling interactions with you to the hallway, lunchroom, gym, the bus or subway, and so on.
  • As much as possible, engage in a collaborative, nonconfrontive exchange with students and their families.
  • Instill in students a reason to be hopeful because hope fuels change, and change is always possible.

Solution-focused brief counseling (SFBT) is uniquely suited to the school setting. It emphasizes resources, strengths and natural forces within the environment, and it uses effective, simple, and positive strategies to help students change behavior.

Research on the efficacy of SFBT is limited; much of what is known is from anecdotal reports of SFBT. However, the research that is available demonstrates that brief counseling has been effective when applied to students with behavioral disorders, anxiety, depression, and suicide risk (Randell, Eggert, & Pike, 2001; Macdonald, 2007). SFBT has also improved behavior, somatic, and cognitive difficulties in young people in foster care (Cepukiene & Pakrosnis, 2011). This approach allows a busy counselor to have an impact on a larger number of students and is of great potential value in limiting risky behavior.

CONCLUSION

As literacy standards rise along with the demands of our increasingly technological society, we expect more from our young people than ever before. Unfortunately, these demands come at a time when economic resources are unequally distributed, and many communities and families are unable to meet young people’s educational and motivational needs. When we recognize the family, school, social, and personality issues involved, as well as the effects of the experience of failure, we are in a better position to understand why young people drop out of school. We must attempt to effect changes in all of these areas if we are to make any headway against the dropout problem and its wide-ranging consequences.

If at-risk children and adolescents do not stay in school, they move beyond the reach of effective prevention and intervention strategies that can be administered by and through the schools. And if young people do not develop the fundamental skills that schools can provide, they will continue to be dependent, unproductive, and discouraged members of society.

 

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