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ASCA Conference 2010


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Title: ASCA Conference 2010

Reduce Underachievement, Raise Graduation
  • ASCA Conference 2010
  • Carolyn Berger, Ph.D.
  • Nova Southeastern University

What does an underachieving student look like?
  • Three examples
  • Kaleb
  • Candace
  • Dana

Topics to be Covered
  1. Why is underachievement an important issue school
    counselors need to look into?
  2. Identifying underachieving students
  3. Determining individual students underlying
    cause(s) for underachievement
  4. Proposed intervention plan for underachieving
  5. Barriers to working with underachieving students
  6. If time, well do an activity so you can practice
    your skills

Percentage of high school dropouts among persons
16 to 24 years old, by race/ethnicity Selected
years, 2000-06
Year Total White Black Hispanic
2000 10.9 6.9 13.1 27.8
2001 10.7 7.3 10.9 27
2002 10.5 6.5 11.3 25.7
2003 9.9 6.3 10.9 23.5
2004 10.3 6.8 11.8 23.8
2005 9.4 6 10.4 22.4
2006 9.3 5.8 10.7 22.1
(U.S. Department of Education, 2008)
Other dropout data
  • Among public high school students in the class of
    200405, the average freshman 4-year graduation
    rate was 74.7 percent (U.S. Department of
    Education, 2008).
  • The 4-year graduation rate among public high
    school students in the 50 largest cities in the
    U.S. was 51.8 for the class of 2004 (Editorial
    Projects in Education Research Center, 2008).

Do you think there is a link?
  • Looking at these graduation rates, do you think
    underachievement plays a role in some of the low
    graduation rates?

Identifying Underachieving Students
  • Debated topic in the literature
  • For the purpose of my past research, I chose to
    utilize the following definition
  • Underachievers are students who exhibit a severe
    discrepancy between expected achievement (as
    measured by standardized achievement test scores
    or cognitive or intellectual ability assessments)
    and actual achievement (as measured by class
    grades and teacher evaluations) (Reis McCoach,
    2000, p. 157).

Important Points to Note when Identifying
  • Care must be taken to account for the impact of
    learning disabilities or other disorders when
    identifying underachieving students
  • It may also be difficult to identify English as a
    Second Language learners as underachievers

What do your underachieving students look like?
  • How do you know when a student is underachieving?
  • Are there common phrases or words that teachers
    and parents use to describe these students?

They all look different!
  • Underachieving students may have certain
    characteristics in common but overall they tend
    to be very different from each other
  • Several different groups of researchers
    recognized that typologies of UA students need to
    be identified
  • Mandel Marcus (1988, 1995)
  • Spevak Karinch (2000)
  • Rimm (2008)
  • Peters (2000)

Typologies of UA Students
  • When combining these four typology theories, 6
    themes resulted
  • Students who avoid work
  • Students who worry about school
  • Students who are trying to find their identity
  • Manipulative students
  • Distressed students
  • Students who defy authority
  • There are MANY other different possibilities of
    UA types, and some may be combinations of types

  • Avoiding students
  • Wait until last minute to do work
  • Motivated to avoid work and have fun
  • Easy-going, usually get along with others
  • Worrying Students
  • Put pressure on themselves to do better
  • Parents may pressure them
  • Fear imperfection
  • Try to please others
  • Usually tense and anxious
  • Identity Searching Students
  • Identity connected to area of interest
  • Seek independence
  • Opinionated
  • Trying to find their own identity

  • Manipulating Students
  • Persuasive
  • Try to beat the system
  • May cheat, lie, or skip school
  • Sense adults weaknesses
  • Distressing Students
  • Noticeably sad
  • Have trouble sleeping and concentrating
  • Detached
  • Irritable
  • Defying Students
  • Argue frequently with authorities
  • Rebellious
  • Risk-takers
  • Viewed as having an attitude problem
  • Lose temper easily

So how does this knowledge help us as school
counselors, parents, and educators?
  • We need to determine WHY a student is
    underachieving before we can most effectively
    help him/her
  • Many great intervention plans out there
  • Student Success Skills
  • Organizational skills training
  • Time management training
  • Goal-setting interventions
  • Etc.
  • These will be a waste of time if you dont
    carefully evaluate students primary needs 1st

How can we efficiently determine reasons behind a
students UA?
  • Development of SAMS (Skinner, 2008)
  • School Achievement Motivation Scales
  • Sample questions handout
  • Develop your own questions to look at important

School Achievement Motivation Scales
  • Preliminary study presented 5 factors
  • (I) Dedication to Schoolwork
  • (II) Personal Well-Being
  • (III) Interpersonal Diplomacy
  • (IV) Desire to Learn and Succeed
  • (V) Academic Self-Concept
  • See handout for SAMS sample items

Sample Questions Handout
  • These are questions that can be asked in addition
    to SAMS items
  • Notice that there are questions for students,
    parents, and teachers to get whole picture
  • The next section will show you how to best
    utilize these questions

Intervention Plan for UA Students
  • Step 1 Assessment
  • Step 2 Intervention Planning
  • Step 3 Implementation
  • Step 4 Monitoring and Feedback

See Handout
Step 1 Assessment
  • Three parts to this step
  • Identify the students motives/reasons
  • Do this by asking questions (see samples)
  • Can use an instrument that is already developed
  • Make sure to include multiple perspectives
  • Determine the nature of the interventions that
    have already been tried
  • Invite suggestions from the student, teacher and
    parent (and other relevant stakeholders)
    regarding interventions that might work

Examples can be found in recent literature
(Amatea Skinner, 2006 Friedlander, Marcus
Mandel, 1996 Rimm, 2008).
Step 2 Intervention Planning
  • In this step you will use the information you
    gathered in Step 1
  • Always keep the students reasons for
    underachievement at the forefront of your mind
  • Talk with the student about what his immediate
    goal might be (e.g. being promoted to 10th grade)
    and how he plans to get there
  • Consider strategies that will help him meet his
    goal (e.g. confidence building, time management,
    empowerment, coping with stress, anxiety, etc.)
  • Conduct a joint problem-solving meeting with the
    teacher(s), parent(s), and student to propose the
  • Decide on short term and long term goals, and
    decide on each persons role in implementing it

Step 3 Implementation
  • Each person involved in this plan may require
    some assistance in implementing their
  • Counselor as point person
  • It is our responsibility to make sure that each
    person has the resources they need

Step 4 Monitoring Feedback
  • Gather data, both quantitative (e.g. grades,
    attendance, discipline) and qualitative (e.g.
    feedback from teachers, parent, student)
  • Is intervention plan effective?
  • Certain parts of the plan may be working, while
    others are not
  • Always celebrate students accomplishments, no
    matter how small
  • Determine how plan can be modified
  • Even if plan is effective, some strategies may
    need tweaking
  • If it is not effective, you will need to make
    some changes to plan
  • Gather feedback from the student, parent, and
    teachers to come up with the modifications to the
  • Cycle back to step three to make sure that the
    intervention plan is being carried out

Case Illustration
  • Kaleb- 11th grader
  • Fs in 3 classes, never turned in homework
  • Very intelligent according to standardized tests
  • STEP ONE Assessment
  • Kaleb loved video games, no goals, does want to
    be promoted to grade 11, likes to socialize,
  • Mother always helped him in middle school, has
    tried not to nag
  • Teachers tried incentives to get him to turn in
    homework, havent found anything that works

Case Illustration (cont.)
  • STEP TWO Intervention planning
  • Counselor meets individually for 4 sessions to
    discuss goals, and potential career path
  • Focused on empowering Kaleb to show that he has
    control over his future
  • Used interesting activities like guided imagery,
    art therapy
  • Confront excuses, introduce reality
  • Kaleb agreed to join environmental club since he
    likes animals and socializing
  • Env. Club was full of students who were positive
    peer connections for Kaleb
  • Look for areas of student strengths and interests
  • Never learned organizational skills- put in a
    small group

Case Illustration (cont.)
  • STEP TWO Intervention planning (Cont.)
  • Counselor met individually with parent
  • Teachers role- update grade system online, email
    parent if they notice significant changes
    (positive or negative)

Case Illustration (cont.)
  • STEP THREE Implement Plan
  • Counselor as Point Person
  • Contact parent, set up meeting
  • Set up regular sessions with Kaleb
  • Make sure Kaleb is placed in organizational group
  • Check in to see if he is attending Environmental
  • Check to make sure grades are getting posted
  • Etc.

Case Illustration (cont.)
  • STEP FOUR Monitoring Feedback
  • Counselor reviews Kalebs grades and feedback
    from teachers, parent, and Kaleb himself after 4
  • Kaleb seemed happier in school
  • Organizational skills still needed a lot of work
  • Kaleb likes club, met peer who is positive
  • Grade in social studies improved, but science and
    math grades were still Fs
  • Go over progress with parent and Kaleb
  • Praise accomplishments
  • Modify plan as needed
  • Change organizational strategy he was using
  • Start to share what hes doing organizationally
    with his mom

Barriers to Working with UA Students
  • Complicating factors
  • Poverty
  • Community violence
  • Familial conflict
  • Gender role expectations
  • Lack of cultural support
  • High mobility
  • Consider school climate
  • Teacher/faculty training
  • Work with administration to foster awareness

  1. Get in small group of 2-3 people.
  2. You will be given a profile of an underachieving
  3. Determine his/her underlying causes of UA
  4. Come up with an intervention plan for him/her

Books to Help you Come Up with Intervention
  • Mandel, H.P. Marcus, S.I. (1995). Could Do
    Better. New York, NY John Wiley Sons.
  • Rimm, S. (2008). Why bright kids get poor grades.
    Scottsdale, AZ Great Potential Press, Inc.
  • Spevak, P.A. Karinch (2000). Empowering
    Underachievers. Far Hills, NJ New Horizon Press.

Other Resources
  • Amatea, E. Skinner, C. (2006), Preliminary test
    manual for the school achievement motivation
    scales. Gainesville, FL University of Florida.
  • Editorial Projects in Education Research Center
    (2008). Cities in crisis A special analytic
    report on high school graduation. Retrieved from
  • Friedlander, J, Marcus, S. Mandel, H. (l996).
    Achievement motivation profile. Los Angeles,CA
    Western Psychological Services.
  • Peters, R. (2000). Overcoming Underachieving. New
    York, NY Broadway Books.
  • Skinner, C.A. (2008). Development of the School
    Achievement and Motivation Scales An assessment
    tool used to differentiate reasons for student
    underachievement (Doctoral dissertation).
    Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses
    database. (UMI No. 3334504)
  • U.S. Department of Education (2006). Student
    Effort and Educational Progress Tables. Retrieved
    March 3, 2009, from http//
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