The Term at-risk is not new to the field of education. It has been used since the 1980's to identify those students who were candidates for dropping out of high school, thus condemning themselves and society to a large block of unproductive, unskilled adults who would have to be subsidized by taxpayer dollars. From a practical standpoint, it appeared appropriate to develop criteria for their identification, as early as possible, so that measures could be taken, within the structures of public education, to meet their needs and to keep them in school until graduation.
[...] If there is not substance abuse or mental illness already, the chances of it developing in any dropout are significantly higher than in those students who stay in school. When substance abuse and/or mental illness are present, the criminal behavior increases as well, and, with an average cost of $40,000 to keep one person in prison for a year, the future cost will be huge. Even if not in prison, the dropout is unemployable, again at a huge cost to the rest of us. [...]
[...] The other factor affecting student interest is the entire concept of relevancy. Again, educators have been told for years that, should students fail to see relevancy (that is, some usefulness in their world) in what they learn, there will be no motivation to learn. Not surprisingly, the research on “relevancy” has not found its counterpart in actual classroom teaching and learning. Students still wonder how “Julius Caesar,” algebra, ancient history, and a thorough study of DNA chains or balancing chemical equations could possibly relate to their current or future lives. [...]
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