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School Failure

School Failure

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Published by Andreea Diaconescu

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Published by: Andreea Diaconescu on May 28, 2013
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Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, Vol. 21, No. 1, February 2004 ( 
Teacher Support and the School Engagement of Latino Middleand High School Students at Riskof School Failure
 Ann B. Brewster, Ph.D. andGary L. Bowen, Ph.D.
This investigation examined the effects of social support fromteachers on the school engagement of middle and high school Latino studentsidentified as being at risk of school failure. Regression analyses indicated thatsocial support from teachers is an important factor in affective and behavioralaspects of school engagement. Specifically, teachers exerted an important ef-fect on school engagement, beyond the effect of parental support. This paperdiscusses the implications of these findings for developing more effective drop-out-prevention interventions for Latino students.
Latino Students; Social Support; Teachers; Parents; SchoolEngagement.
Individuals who leave high school without a credential increase theirsusceptibility to many detrimental life outcomes. Compared to highschool graduates, dropouts are more likely to experience unemploy-ment, to receive welfare, to have lower lifetime earning potential, toengage in delinquent or criminal behavior, and to suffer mental healthproblems (NCES, 1996; Rumberger, 1987). The life prospects for highschool dropouts are indeed dismal in a twenty-first-century economy. Although the national high school dropout rate declined steadilyover the past century (NCES, 1999), dropping out remains a problem,
 Ann B. Brewster is a postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Cecil G. Sheps Center forHealth Sciences Research, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Gary L. Bowen,Ph.D. is Kenan Distinguished Professor, School of Social Work, University of NorthCarolina at Chapel Hill. Address correspondence to Ann B. Brewster/Gary L. Bowen, School of Social Work,University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 301 Pittsboro Street, CB# 3550, ChapelHill, NC 27599-3550; e-mail: abrewster@schsr.unc.edu/glbowen@email.unc.edu.
2004 Human Sciences Press, Inc.
particularly for Latino youth. The current dropout rate for Latinos inthe United States (27.8%) is approximately four times higher than therate for Whites (6.9%) and twice as high as the rate for African Ameri-cans (13.1%) (NCES, 2002). In addition, Latino students younger thantenth grade drop out at twice the rate of their White counterparts(NCES, 1994), and students who drop out before this age are lesslikely to return to education than those who drop out in later grades(NCES, 1996). Effective policies and programs to combat the Latinodropout rate depend on a better understanding of the factors and pro-cesses involved in dropping out. Such understanding is especially im-portant in the context of the increasing number of Latino studentsenrolled in U.S. schools (NCES, 1998).Past dropout research identified important risk markers and pro-cesses (Rumberger, 1995; Rumberger & Thomas, 2000; Ryan & Ad-ams, 1998); we understand less, however, about the assets associatedwith school success, especially in the case of Latino students (HispanicDropout Project, 1998). Recent research by Benson, Leffert, Scales,and Blyth (1998) shows the relationship between social assets and posi-tive student outcomes. Other researchers, such as N. K. Bowen and G.L. Bowen (1998a), demonstrate the importance of both risk and protec-tive factors in producing successful student outcomes. Nonparentaladults constitute one potentially important asset, and supportive teach-ers with high expectations may play a critical role in the school successof Latino youth (Hispanic Dropout Project, 1998; Shouse, 1999). Scalesand Gibbons (1996) discuss the importance of better understanding therole and effects of nonparental adults in the lives of adolescents, espe-cially in the context of different ethnic groups.This study focuses on student-perceived teacher support and its im-pact on the school engagement of at-risk Latino middle and highschool youth. Informed by ecological models of school success and bythe burgeoning literature on the positive role of social capital, we ex-amine this influence beyond parental support, and in the context of school level (middle or high), gender, family structure, and poverty.
Conceptual Model
Figure 1 illustrates the conceptual model examined in the current in-vestigation, wherein school engagement is the dependent variable.Within the context of an ecological model of educational persistence(Richman & Bowen, 1997; Tinto, 1994; Wehlage, Rutter, Smith, Lesko,
Conceptual model for study.
. Solid lines
paths tested in current model. Dotted line
assumed linkages.
& Fernandez, 1989), school engagement mediates between familyassets, school assets, and school outcomes such as school dropout.Both parental and teacher support, which function as social capitalassets for students, directly and positively influence school engage-ment.
School Engagement
School engagement includes a student’s affective, cognitive, and be-havioral responses related to attachment, sense of belonging, or involve-ment in school (Wehlage et al., 1989). A high level of school engage-ment may be especially important for the academic achievement andeducational attainment of Latino youth. For example, one study dem-onstrated that teacher ratings of school engagement, measured by lev-els of classroom participation and classroom affect, were significantlyrelated to the higher grade achievements of Latino seventh- throughtenth-graders (Herman & Tucker, 2000).Two important aspects of school engagement discussed in this study—problem behavior in school and affect about school—are particularly rel-evant for the academic achievement and educational attainment of mi-nority youth. One study of African American students at risk of schoolfailure found those who were engaged in their coursework, based on af-fective and behavioral measures, to be more academically successfulthan those students who were not so engaged (Connell, Spencer, & Aber,1994). In another study, Latino students who reported they liked schoolwere more likely to graduate (Reyes & Jason, 1993).We consider students physically disengaged from school when theyexhibit behavioral and attendance problems, such as cutting classesand logging unexcused absences. Minority youth typically exhibit more

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