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Students' Family Background and Self-Esteem Are Less Influential For Completing High School than Positive School Behaviors
WASHINGTON -- Going to school, being on time and doing one's
coursework can make academic success more attainable for those
students who are considered at risk for not completing high school,
say researchers, even if other negative influences exist. This
finding is examined in a new study of academic achievement of
minority students who are at high risk for dropping out of school
which appears in the April issue of the American Psychological
Association's (APA) Journal of Applied Psychology.
"Successful at-risk students who participated in positive
engagement behaviors --for example, coming to class and school on
time, being prepared for and participating in class work, expending
the effort needed to complete assignments in school and as homework
and not being disruptive in class -- counteracted other influences
to produce acceptable grades, test scores and on-time graduation,"
said researcher Jeremy D. Finn, Ph.D., who is the lead author of
Both Dr. Finn and psychologist Donald A. Rock, Ph.D., of the
Educational Testing Service arrived at this conclusion by first
classifying 1,803 African American and Hispanic students (from
Grade 8 through Grade 12) from low-income homes into those who had
good academic performance and completed high school (resilient
students), those who had poor academic performance but completed
high school and those who dropped out of high school. Their grades,
test scores and persistence determined which group they were placed
in. The authors then compared each group on their levels of self-
esteem, their beliefs on whether they had control over events or
events happened because of external reasons and their engagement
"We found that not all minority students who were at risk for
school problems because of being from a low income home or living
with one parent drop out of school or even suffer poor performance
in school," said Dr. Finn. "It seems that being involved in school
outweighs other factors that might impede an at-risk student. The
resilient students got good grades throughout high school, scored
reasonably well on achievement tests and graduated on time with
their classmates independent of their family background and their
own levels of esteem or beliefs about who is responsible for their
success or failures."
Article: "Academic Success Among Students at Risk for
Dropout," by Jeremy D. Finn, Ph.D., and Donald A. Rock, Ph.D.,
Educational Testing Service, in Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol.
82, No. 2.
(Full text available from the APA Public Affairs Office.)
The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington,
DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization
representing psychology in the United States and is the world's
largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes
more than 151,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants
and students. Through its divisions in 50 subfields of psychology
and affiliations with 58 state, territorial and Canadian provincial
associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a
profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.
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