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Perspectives of Suburban Public School Teachers on the Characteristics of At-Risk Students

Michael J Sollitto, Johnson & Wales University


This study focuses on a major problem facing today’s educators: high school dropouts. Numerous studies have been conducted to identify the reasons that students drop out of school and programs that may address the needs of students at-risk for dropping out of school. Literature in this area was reviewed to identify what can be learned from these studies. Research questions addressed differences in teacher perspectives of the characteristics of elementary, middle, and high school struggling students. Differences in teachers’ perspectives based on tenure and type of teaching assignment were examined. A sequential, mixed methods approach was taken. The researcher began with a quantitative survey, followed by focus groups. The research was conducted in two suburban school districts. To begin the data collection, teachers at each school level were surveyed regarding the characteristics of students at-risk for school failure or dropping out of school. Surveys were administered to elementary, middle, and high school teachers for a total of N = 384. Surveys were administered through an online survey service, with a total of N = 108 valid responses. The data were analyzed to identify any significant differences among teacher perspectives. Following the survey completion, the researcher conducted focus groups at each level. Focus groups consisted of n =6 teachers at each level (elementary and secondary) for a total of N = 12. Focus group responses allowed the researcher to identify common themes among teacher responses. The data gained from the study can be used to inform decisions regarding the identification of at-risk students. It also provides information related to support services aimed at assisting struggling students. Determining if differences in perspectives exist among the levels of teachers can be beneficial in identifying students before they become at-risk for dropping out of school. This study benefits students, parents, teachers, school administrators, central office administrators, and school committee members as these stakeholders look to address the dropout problem that plagues high schools across the nation.

Subject Area

Educational leadership

Recommended Citation

Sollitto, Michael J, "Perspectives of Suburban Public School Teachers on the Characteristics of At-Risk Students" (2011). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3450049.