Session: From Behavior, Engagement and Help Seeking at School to Academic Achievement: Intermediate Indicators of School Success (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

33 From Behavior, Engagement and Help Seeking at School to Academic Achievement: Intermediate Indicators of School Success

Cluster: Adolescent and Youth Development
Symposium Organizer:

Roderick A. Rose, MS, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Friday, January 15, 2010: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
Seacliff D (Hyatt Regency)
Symposium Theme: Research has demonstrated the importance of completing school to later life outcomes (cf. Orthner, 2007). In particular, when students fail in school, they often fall into one of the many social safety nets that social workers sustain. Alternatively, when students complete school, there is a greater likelihood of positive outcomes such as gainful employment. School intervention research has focused on ways to improve students' odds of finishing high school and improve graduation rates. Together with federal and state policies, these efforts have become centrally focused on end-of-grade test performance as benchmarks of students' progress towards school completion. However, social work researchers are becoming increasingly interested in the mediators of academic performance that constitute leverage points for social workers to more directly influence. These mediators, which include behavior, engagement, and student help seeking, can constitute the intermediate outcomes of school-based social work interventions. Such interventions are designed to change students' social environments (the proximal outcomes of interventions), by intervening in these youths' communities or schools. These changes subsequently influence distal outcomes such as test scores through their influence on these intermediate outcomes.

Methods: All three of these papers use rigorous methods appropriate for answering the research questions, and they all use data collected using a valid and reliable instrument of youth ecology, the School Success Profile (SSP; Bowen & Richman, 2001), or from questions adapted from the SSP. Further, they separately examine populations at risk for dropping out of school, including minorities and children from low-income families. One study uses chi-squares and logistic regression to examine the discrete outcomes of expressions of intent to seek help from adults at school for difficult life (i.e., non-academic) problems and of internalizing behavior for help seekers compared to non-seekers. A second study use structural equation modeling to fit a model relating the influence of community violence on school outcomes such as behavior, school satisfaction, time spent on homework and grades through a mediator of feeling unsafe traveling to and from school. The third study uses a mixed methods approach combining qualitative data with a student-level analysis of quantitative survey data, and advanced techniques such as hierarchical linear modeling and instrumental variables to examine the influence of an intervention promoting the relevancy of the curriculum on engagement and school valuing.

Implications: These papers illustrate the importance of early intervention outcomes as leverage points that can be targeted by social workers to improve the life outcomes of youth in advance of their transition into adulthood. All provide strong empirical findings supporting their hypotheses that minority and low-income students and youth at risk for school failure may benefit from new pedagogical techniques, adult support, and community safety because they influence the mediating factors for academic success.

* noted as presenting author
Middle School Help Seeking: Experience of academic, social and health risk factors
G. Lawrence Farmer, PhD, Fordham University; Chaya S. Piotrkowski, PhD, Fordham University
Community Violence, Student Fear, and Low Academic Achievement: Black Males in the Critical Transition to High School
Desmond U. Patton, MSW, University of Chicago; Michael Woolley, DCSW, PhD, University of Chicago
Promoting School Engagement and Valuing: The Effects Teacher Provided Career Examples on Intermediate Indicators of Student Academic Success
Hinckley Jones-Sanpei, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Dennis Orthner, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Patrick Akos, PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Roderick A. Rose, MS, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Micaela Mercado, MSW, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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