Exploring Urban Teachers' and Administrators' Conceptions of At-Riskness

CIERA Report #2-010

Patricia A. Edwards and Jennifer C. Danridge
Michigan State University

Heather M. Pleasants
Indiana State University

CIERA Inquiry 2: Home and School
What does it mean for children to be "at-risk"? How do teachers' and administrators' definitions of at-riskness impact their approaches to intervention on behalf of at-risk students?

In this paper, Edwards and her colleagues explore the concept of "at-riskness" as defined by Head Start and elementary school professionals who work together in the same building. Using Bruner's (1996) idea of "folk theories," the authors show that the two groups' theories of at-riskness conflict and discuss how these definitions impact their practice with at-risk children.

The authors used a series of exploratory interviews that probed for information about (a) student and family factors that contributed to at-riskness; (b) teacher and school responses to, expectations for, and beliefs about at-risk students; and (c) teacher and school intervention strategies for these students. They found that Head Start teachers and administrators, in general, were committed to working with children and families as a unit and assumed that parents were invested in their children's education, while elementary school administrators and teachers tended to identify a lack of parental involvement as disinterest and locate the responsibility for at-riskness within the individual child or family.

Head Start and elementary school professionals need to begin conversations on this subject in order to bridge the gaps between the two programs.


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Chapter forthcoming in the 49th Yearbook of the National Reading Conference.