Involvement In School Gives Even High-Risk Students A Good Chance at Academic Success, Says New Study

April 01, 1997

WASHINGTON, D.C.--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 the study.

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 behaviors.

"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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American Psychological Association

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