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6 Meeting Stuclents' Nonacaclemic Neecls Students who come to school hungry, tired, chronically ill, depressed, or preoccupied by family problems cannot engage fully in the academic curriculum. Pregnancy and drug and alcohol addiction can also interfere with attention to schoolwork. Youth from families living in poverty are often burdened with financial responsibilities that require them to work, with the care of siblings and grandparents, and with other roles that middle- class youth typically do not assume until they are older. As a society, we need to be concerned about all aspects of youth development. But even if our only objective is to engage adolescents in schoolwork, we could not neglect aspects of their lives that interfere with their ability to participate productively in school. Distractions that result from poor nutrition, absence of health care, namelessness, and violence are common in low-income, urban communi- ties. Other distractions, such as pregnancy and drugs, are common in middle- and upper class neighborhoods as well. Permanent and pervasive solutions to the effects of culture and poverty lie beyond the reach of educators; they require a fundamental reshaping of economic and social conditions in this country. While acknowledging that we can make limited progress working within high schools, we still cannot wait for the problems of poverty and other negative cultural influences to be resolved. We must reform high schools to better meet adolescents' needs while we develop economic and social policies that reduce inequality and minimize the conse- quences of poverty. Effective reforms that increase the engagement of urban 145
146 ENGAGING SCHOOLS youth in school will require a new vision of how high schools address students' nonacademic needs. This chapter begins with a description of traditional approaches to meeting high school students' basic social, emotional, and physical needs. These usually involve a combination of professionals, such as guidance counselors, social workers, and nurses, working in high schools with a panoply of separate programs. The programs tend to focus on physical and mental health, sex education and pregnancy prevention, drug and alcohol problems, and life skills. Existing programs vary according to students' needs, funding limitations and opportunities, proclivities of principals and teachers, the availability of appropriate services, and the capacity and inter- est of the local community. The new vision that we advocate in the second part of this chapter shifts attention from and exclusive focus on the individual student to a focus on the larger high school context, reconceptualizes the roles and responsibilities of all adults in the school, and makes the high school part of a network (and sometimes the hub) of community resources rather than an independent organization. THE TRADITIONAL APPROACH The roles of adults in traditional high schools are highly differentiated. Teachers teach; counselors and social workers focus on students' nonaca- demic needs. Even within the counseling domain, roles are usually differen- tiated into career counseling, academic counseling, and psychological coun- seling. Special education provides specific, individualized, or small-group services to students who qualify, and experts or packaged programs are brought in to address issues such as pregnancy prevention and alcohol and drug abuse. School nurses and occasionally doctors may attend to students' physical health on site, or students may be referred to community clinics for physical as well as mental health problems. Some evidence is available on how well these traditional approaches meet high school students' nonacademic needs. We review briefly evidence related to the functions of career and academic counseling, and mental health and other support services in high schools. Career and Academic Counseling In the early 20th century, counseling originated in efforts to help stu- dents make vocational decisions. Today, career counseling has been sub- stantially displaced with academic and college counseling (Krei and Rosenbaum, 20011. Relatively few resources are devoted to counseling. A
MEETING STUDENTS' NONA CADEMIC NEEDS 147 decade ago the ratio of students to counselors was around 500:1 nationally (Cho~zinski, 19941. A more recent estimate of 1,000:1 (with a 2,500:1 ratio for school psychologists or social workers) suggests that resources may be declining (Kuperminc, Leadbeater, and Blatt, 20011. These ratios contrast with recommendations of 50:1 for at-risk students (Commission on Precollege Guidance and Counseling, 1986), between 100:1 under ideal conditions, and 300:1 as a maximum (American School Counselor Associa- tion, 19881. Given current ratios, individual students receive relatively little atten- tion of any kind and few students are able to form close relationships with their counselors. Furthermore, the time that counselors can spend with students has been severely diminished by administrative paperwork, includ- ing record keeping, monitoring progress, documentation, and class schedul- ing (Hardesty and Dillard, 1994; Lee and Ekstrom, 1987; Louis, Jones, and Barajas, 20011. Access to even these meager resources is not evenly distributed among students. Although college advising and guidance counseling are especially important to students from low-income and minority families who may have fewer informational resources, counselors often spend more time with college-bound, middle-class white students (Chapman, O'Brien, and DeMasi, 1987; Lee and Ekstrom, 19871. When counselors do find time for counseling, they tend to combine academic counseling focused on progress through the high school with cognitive-behavioral strategies to improve students' defeatist attitudes and perceptions of low ability (Trusty, 19961. In Rosenbaum's study of counse- lors in Midwestern high schools, counselors were leery of providing any career direction for fear of discouraging college plans or being perceived as steering or tracking students. The dominant strategy was to preach "college for all," advising all students to prepare for college and providing them with the information necessary to meet college requirements (Rosenbaum, 2001). When counselors do engage with students in any form of career plan- ning, they typically use the trait and factor approach, in which counselors help students uncover their own preferences and personality traits (often through interest and personality inventories), then provide them with infor- mation about occupations suited to their interests and abilities a process sometimes belittled as "test 'em and tell 'em," or the "information dump.") Other approaches to counseling stress the acquisition of decision-making 1See, for example, Table lO.a in Herr and Cramer (1992), in which three of the top five services provided are occupational information, educational information, and individual as- . , . sessment information.
148 ENGAGING SCHOOLS "skilis,"2 based on the implicit assumption that decision making is a simple skill that can be easily learned. In particular, current strategies do not serve the needs of students who do not have other adults in their lives to help them access information and make important decisions (Grubb, 20021. Students need to be able to assess the accuracy of the information they receive, and weigh present and future possibilities and the tradeoffs among them. They need to be able to make decisions about educational and occupational alternatives with different probabilities of success, and to consider a wide range of alternatives, in- cluding formal schooling, which they may not be able to consider in a balanced way because of negative experiences. Finally, decisions about jobs and careers involve deeply rooted dimensions of identity, and the develop- ment of career identity is a long, complex process. Decision making- reasoning about the relation between preferences and opportunities is a multifaceted "competence" in its own right, which conventional guidance and counseling do not address. In the absence of effective career and aca- demic counseling, students are all too often left (as described by Schneider and Stevenson, 1999) "ambitious but directioniess," with high ambitions for the future but no understanding of the connection between schoolwork and their occupational goals. One way to evaluate current approaches to counseling is in terms of how well they reflect the conditions necessary for enhancing motivation and engagement, as described in Chapter 2. Our analysis suggests serious deficiencies. Resources in guidance counseling are so limited that few stu- dents and counselors get to know each other well. The dominant approaches to career and academic counseling fail to offer students any active role in learning about or weighing postsecondary education and employment op- tions. Partly because of limited resources, guidance and counseling in most high schools is a hit-or-miss affair; the idea of a coherent program, with a set of activities designed to introduce students systematically to the educa- tion and employment options they face, is absent from most high schools. In addition, the independence of guidance and counseling from class- room activities means these activities are usually poorly integrated with learning. The dominance of college for all means that most students are counseled into only one option. Although this approach avoids charges of bias or tracking, it also fails to provide much information about alternative routes to meaningful employment and self-sufficiency. Furthermore, the 2The British, with their longer history of choice mechanisms in schools, have clarified that information may be necessary but is rarely sufficient. See Hodkinson, Sparkes, and Hodkinson (1996), especially Chapter 8 on technical versus pragmatic rationality, and Reay and Ball (1997) on class differences in conceptions of choice.
MEETING STUDENTS' NONA CADEMIC NEEDS 149 lack of sustained academic and career counseling means that programs in most high schools do not help students understand the role of school in expanding or constricting their future options. Indeed, the large numbers of students who fail to understand college entrance requirements, or who leave high school without any clue about their postsecondary options, is testimony to the ineffectiveness of high schools in helping students develop potential pathways (Schneider and Stevenson, 19991. Thus the current struc- ture of guidance and counseling in most high schools violates every one of the precepts that support motivation and engagement. Only a little direct evidence exists on the effects of guidance and coun- seling; well-designed outcome-based evaluations are almost nonexistent (Green and Keys, 20011. Borders and Drury's (1992) summary of the litera- ture concluded that well-designed group counseling can have positive ef- fects on academic persistence, achievement, attendance, classroom behav- ior, self-esteem, self-concepts, and attitudes toward school. Group counseling programs that have shown promise are typically structured, time-limited groups with a developmentally appropriate curriculum that enables students to support each other, share strategies, give each other feedback, and challenge each other (Borders and Drury, 19921. The positive effects on academic and personal outcomes held for various groups, includ- ing low-achieving students, disruptive students, learning disabled students, and those from divorced families. In another review, Whiston and Sexton (1998) examined outcomes from several studies of both academic and per- sonal counseling and found positive effects on student achievement, career planning, and social skills. They found tentative support for career plan- ning, group counseling, social skills training, and peer counseling all mod- els that, except for individual career planning, display the positive features outlined by Borders and Drury (19921. In addition, there is now substantial evidence that well-designed mentoring programs in which mentors are systematically taught about their potential roles and carefully matched and supervised can help stu- dents in several ways (Grossman, 1999; Mecartney, Styles, and Morrow, 1994; Morrow and Styles, 1995; Tierney, Grossman, and Resch, 20001. Students themselves value mentors: Wirth-Bond, Coyne, and Adams (1991) noted that a counselor was identified more than 50 percent of the time by high-risk students who claimed to have a "significant other" at their school who supports and understands them. To the extent that individual counse- lors can serve in close mentoring roles, they may be effective in enhancing motivation, progress, and completion, but such roles are currently limited by high ratios of students to counselors. Overall, the evidence about the effects of guidance and counseling is quite thin. It is difficult to disentangle the effects of such services from other elements of a high school, and it is nearly impossible to avoid the suspicion
150 ENGAGING SCHOOLS that self-selection affects all these evaluations.3 But the evidence that is available suggests that a well-designed and well-placed program with ad- equate resources can have positive effects on students, but also that most high schools lack such well-designed programs. In high school youth must make choices that can set them on particular trajectories that can be difficult to reverse. If we fail to support them in making those decisions, students who do not have resources in their homes or community will remain bewildered about the purposes of schooling. Lacking this understanding, they have little reason to be actively engaged in the high school curriculum. Our current approach is not working, and not simply because resources are too scarce. Although additional resources may be necessary, we will suggest later in this chapter alternative uses of those resources. Mental Health Counseling During the 1920s counselors in schools began to give greater attention to "personal adjustment" (Gysbers, 2001), an old-fashioned term reflecting an enduring notion that students need to adjust to school conditions rather than vice versa. By the 1940s personal counseling was as much a part of the high school counselor's role as was vocational and academic guidance. Now, however, no matter what their labels, counselors describe their own roles as largely confined to scheduling, monitoring progress, and paper- work (Wilson and Rossman, 19931. Even those who are able to carve out time to provide mental health services tend to focus on crisis intervention and not on individual or group work (Borders and Drury, 1992; Keys and Bemak, 19971. Although estimates vary depending on the definition used, it is clear that emotional difficulties and mental health problems are common among students whose academic performance is poor and who drop out of school, suggesting the importance of addressing emotional problems in any effort to increase student academic engagement (Adelman and Taylor, 1998; Roeser, Eccles, and Strobel, 19981. Knitzer, Steinberg, and Fleisch (1991) estimate that nearly two-thirds of the country's dropout population has some kind of behavior or emotional problem. Other studies show that two- 3~n a study of community college students, Grubb (~996, chap.3) detected a kind of triage situation The students most sure of themselves and their programs did not go to counselors except perhaps for a final verification of the in-course plans, and the students least sure of their plans also failed to use counselors because they were unsure of what to ask. A group in the middle, with some direction but not clear plans, seemed the most likely to see guidance counselors.
MEETING STUDENTS' NONA CADEMIC NEEDS 15 thirds of all children and youth identified with behavioral or emotional disorders function below grade level and have histories of repeated grade failures; nearly half of them (42 percent) end up dropping out of school (Friedman et al., 1988; Wagner and Shaver, 19891. Findings from the Na- tional Co-Morbidity Study (Kessler, Foster, Saunders, and Stang, 1995) show that 14.2 percent of high school dropouts have a history of psychiat- ric disorder, compared to only 5 percent of high school graduates who do not go on to college. In the most recent cohort surveyed, 23.6 percent of the male dropouts and 22.7 percent of the female dropouts had histories of earlier mental health disorders (Kessler et al., 19951. The links between mental health and school engagement are supported by correlational research. Roeser, van der Wolf, and Strobe! (2001) found that students who had either internalized (e.g., anxiety, depression) or ex- ternalized (e.g., anger) problems had relatively low expectations for aca- demic success. Depressive symptoms have been associated with impaired cognitive performance, lower expectations for success, lower academic self- efficacy, and avoidance of challenge in the classroom, as well as with lower achievement on standardized tests and lower grades.4 Externalized distress has been associated with social rejection, disruptive and refusal behaviors in class, and aggression, as well as with poor achievement and dropping out of school.5 In Roeser, Eccles, and Sameroff's (1998) longitudinal study of middle school students, mental health (absence of emotional distress, depression, anxiety, anger) was positively associated with academic motivation (per- ceptions of competence, academic values) and achievement at the beginning of seventh grade and at the end of eighth grade. Positive mental health in seventh grade predicted adolescents' academic performance in eighth grade, suggesting a reciprocal relationship between mental health and academic engagement. Many mental health providers and policy analysts agree that young people with mental health problems are inadequately served. Approximately 20 percent of the U.S. students experience social, emotional, or behavioral problems that interfere with daily functioning in and out of school (Insti- tute of Medicine, 1994; Weist, 19971. Estimates show, however, that less than one-third of this group receive any type of mental health services 4In a large literature, see Blechman, McBaron, Carolla, and Audette (1986); Brackney and Karabenick (1995); Kendall and Dobson (1993); Kovacs (1989); Nolen-Hoeksema, Girgus, and Seligman (1986); Roeser and Eccles (1998); Roeser, Eccles, and Sameroff (1998); and Roeser et al. (2001). 5See Cairns, Cairns, and Neckerman (1989); Hinshaw (1992); Parker and Asher (1987); Roeser and Eccles (1998); Roeser, Eccles, and Sameroff (1998); and Roeser et al. (2001).
152 ENGAGING SCHOOLS (Adelman and Taylor, 1998; National Advisory Mental Health Council, 1990; Office of Technology Assessment, 19911. Local studies are consistent with these national estimates. For example, in a survey of parents and teachers in a northeastern school district, Zahner, Pawelkiewicz, DeFrancesco, and Adnopoz (1992) found that 38.5 percent of children were at risk for developing psychiatric disorders, but only 37 percent of these children had received any treatment at school. (An additional 24 percent received care in a nonschoo! setting.) Goodwin, Goodwin, and Cantrill (1988) found that approximately 15 percent of students in a Colorado school district who were qualified to receive mental health services were not receiving them. Most mental health services in schools are currently limited to students in special education (Duchnowski, 1994), but even many students who have been diagnosed to have special needs do not receive appropriate ser- vices. Moore, Strang, Schwartz, and Braddock (1988) estimate that 58 percent of all school districts provide no counseling services on their own; of those students who do receive counseling, 60 to 70 percent receive five or fewer sessions. Weist (1997) points out that the availability of services to address children's emotional and behavioral problems decreases as they advance through the grades, and thus high school students have the least access to such programs. Like academic counselors, school psychologists spend only a small per- centage of their time in direct services with youth or their families (Conoley and Conoley, 1991; Knitzer et al., 19911. They do not engage in long-term counseling or therapy; instead they refer students to out-of-school commu- nity or private mental health services (Borders and Drury, 1992; Keys and Bemak, 1997; Weist, 1997~. In addition, a familiar inequity plagues mental health services. Despite their greater needs and the overrepresentation of mental health problems among dropout populations (e.g., Knitzer et al., 1991; Trusty, 1996; see also Chapter 3, this volume), low-income and minority students are under- represented in counseling (Brinson and Kottler, 19951. Many reasons have been suggested for this inequity, including the possibility that such students are more likely to drop out of counseling prematurely because they do not believe their needs are being addressed, or because they lack accurate infor- mation about available services. In addition, a basic incongruence between mainstream and minority perceptions about mental health, the lack of ethnically similar counselors, the lack of culturally sensitive treatment approaches, and the focus on individual rather than on environmental factors may contribute to low rates of utilization (Atkinson, Jennings, and Leongson, 1990; Atkinson, Morten, and Sue, 1989; Brinson and Kottler, 1995; Locke, 1992; Sue and Sue, 19901. Despite the overall lack of services related to mental health, the limited data available indicate that students do benefit from counseling when they
MEETING STUDENTS' NONA CADEMIC NEEDS 153 receive it. Weist, Paskewitz, Warner, and Flaherty (1996) showed increases in students' self-concept and decreases in depressive symptoms after school- based individual or group counseling. In a sample of minority urban youth, the length of mental health treatment was positively correlated with grades (Nabors, Weist, Reynolds, Tashman, and Jackson, 19991. Current debates over the future of mental health services focus less on how their effectiveness could be improved through changes in how they function, and more on the level of resources to support whatever mental health professionals do in the schools. For example, the American Counsel- ing Association has recommended an increase in resources to raise the number of counselors from the current range of between 500:1 and 1,000:1 students to counselors to the range of 100:1 to 300:1 (American School Counselor Association, 19881; the Commission on Precollege Guidance and Counseling (1986) has recommended a ratio of 50:1 for at-risk stu- dents. Increased services to students would also require addressing the multiple roles counselors play. Their current absorption in administrative duties unrelated to personal counseling means that increasing the numbers of counselors might not increase the support available for mental health issues. Because children who gain access to mental health services typically do so through schools, without the school connection most of them would not receive any services (Armbruster and Lichtman, 19991. Whether services are at the school or in the community, schools must be part of the solution to adolescents' needs for mental health services. Most schools now refer students to community-based mental health services and other community institutions, an approach that takes advantage of different funding streams rather than relying on scarce educational funds, and makes use of existing expertise rather than duplicating such expertise in school-based programs. The disadvantage is that referral to outside agencies makes it difficult to coordinate mental health personnel with professionals, including teachers, who see adolescents in school. To address these problems, some schools have hired school social workers or school psychologists specifically to create bridges between schools and community-based organizations. But the availability of these professionals is inadequate and highly variable, and like counselors they are often overwhelmed with other administrative duties. Well-designed mental health services provided in schools have the po- tential advantage of providing a single point of access to students and their families; the elimination of many barriers to accessing mental health ser- vices in the community; a familiar environment in which students already participate; improved capacity to provide preventive services to the entire school population; the ability to see students in multiple contexts and over long periods of time; the availability of experts to help teachers detect early signs of mental health problems and to support teachers in handling prob-
154 ENGAGING SCHOOLS lems in the classroom; the potential for reduced stigma attached to receiv- ing services; and fewer referrals to special education (Weiss, 19971. On the other hand, the resources for mental health programs are usually not avail- able in education budgets. Some students do not experience schools as supportive environments and may be concerned about confidentiality, and on-site services add to the supervisory burdens of principals and other administrators6 who are already pulled in many directions. In the absence of more fundamental change (as we advocate later in this chapter), and without greater understanding about how well either school- or commu- nity-based services work in a widely diverse range of communities and local circumstances,7 we believe that using community-based services with liai- sons such as school social workers seems a promising way to meet the mental health needs of students without diluting the educational focus of schools. Other Support Services High school students have a significant array of problems and condi- tions, in addition to mental health problems, that undermine their academic engagement. A recent report based on the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health shows that more than 10 percent of males and 5 percent of females have committed a violent act; about 18 percent of adolescents say they drink alcohol more than monthly; 25.2 percent have smoked marijuana at least once, and 12.7 percent have smoked at least once in the past month; 49.3 percent of high school students have had sex; and 19.4 percent of high school women who have had sex became pregnant. The authors concluded that "while most teenagers are doing well, many young people face a constellation of problems that undermine their well-being today and will threaten their health in the future" (Blum and Rinehart, 1998, p. 141. These problems are in addition to common consequences of living in poverty, such as hunger, homelessness, exposure to violence, lack 6See, for example, Archer (2002) is based on a focus group with six principals. Although empirical research has not been done on trends in how principals use their time, there is considerable consensus that administrative jobs have become much more demanding and that the requirements of noneducational duties, including special education, increasingly have drawn principals away from educational concerns. 7See Armbruster and Lichtman (1999), who found the benefits of school-based and clinic- based mental health services to be comparable for students in inner-city schools. They argue that school-based services therefore have the potential for bridging the gap between need and utilization by reaching low-income urban students who otherwise would not have access to services.
MEETING STUDENTS' NONA CADEMIC NEEDS 155 of adult supervision, and primary care-taking responsibilities for younger siblings. Usually, specific programs are designed to meet particular needs. Pro- grams include health clinics, substance abuse programs, the federal school breakfast and lunch programs (widely underutilized in high schools), sex education and pregnancy prevention programs, and drug and alcohol pre- vention and rehabilitation programs. In most high schools, principals and other administrators create a variety of ad hoc arrangements with local community-based organizations, hospitals, public health agencies, and so- cial service providers, funded with a patchwork of public and private funds. As a result, the services available vary tremendously from school to school, and are typically unstable and poorly coordinated. Moreover, problems are dealt with in isolation when in reality, most are highly interrelated. Despite the efforts of those who work to promote greater coherence and integration of existing services, in practice the same barriers often emerge: inadequate funding; a tendency for services to become absorbed in the local school bureaucracy, thereby losing the authority to operate ser- vices independently of the district; a tendency to consume the time and attention of school personnel; negative perceptions by parents and students who have had poor school experiences; and the impossibility of reaching students who formally or informally have dropped out of school (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1993; Wang, Haertel, and Walberg, 19971. Nevertheless, a few studies have found positive effects. For example, lessor et al. (1998) found evidence that availability of services improved graduation rates and decreased the prevalence of problem behaviors. Weaknesses of Traditional Approaches Although the need for support services remains widely acknowledged, and despite some evidence that they can have positive effects on student engagement, the current status of students' academic and nonacademic well-being persuades us that conventional approaches to providing these services are not achieving their purposes. First, most available services are not good matches with the needs of high school students, especially low-income students, no matter where the services are located. Available services tend to be rigidly limited by the constraints of categorical programs, despite the fact that students' needs are interrelated. The services are often provided by professionals who know little about the special needs of adolescents or the conditions of living in poverty and in poor neighborhoods. Typically services are provided in settings that do not allow providers the time or opportunity to develop trusting relationships with adolescents, even though their needs are met
156 ENGAGING SCHOOLS most effectively in the context of trusting, respectful relations and commu- nities of support. Second, when schools try to compensate for the weaknesses of existing services in the community, they are likely to be unsuccessful. Distinguishing effective from ineffective services, let alone creating effective services where none exist, is not something that educators are likely to have the expertise to do; they certainly lack the funding. Although a few energetic school leaders have been successful in creating ad hoc relations with community- based organizations, they may be making their improvements at the ex- pense of other schools with less aggressive or ingenious principals. Such efforts are also likely to distract teachers and administrators from their educational objectives. We conclude that the means to address students' nonacademic needs available in most high schools career and academic counseling, mental health services, and a range of other problem-oriented services are inad- equate in amount and quality, and inequitable for both low-income and minority youth. These services are outside the core academic activities and marginalized within schools themselves, subject to cutting in every fiscal crisis. When services are provided by public and private institutions outside the school, they create less of a burden for the school, but they become more difficult to coordinate. Clearly, vast improvements could be made within the dominant models of service provision. Additional resources in counseling might help, particu- larly if they enabled young people to know a counselor well enough to find consistent support and develop a trusting relationship. A greater ability to identify and treat a variety of mental health issues would be better than the current situation in which many serious problems go untreated. Improving the patchwork of other services would provide more access by students who are now becoming pregnant, using drugs and alcohol, and otherwise showing up in the conventional statistics of despair. At a minimum, given the magnitude of the underlying problems, appropriate assessments of the comparative effectiveness of alternative strategies would provide better in- formation about promising approaches. Recommendations for more, better quality, and better coordinated ser- vices, although entirely warranted, have been frequently made and just as frequently ignored. We are dubious that another effort to document the inadequacy of these services will achieve more than previous attempts. More importantly, we are convinced that more and better services will not be enough to significantly improve academic engagement. Although the availability of counselors to connect with students seems to be effective for those students reached, the traditional mode! of counseling has failed to ensure that all students, particularly those at risk, receive the adult atten- tion and guidance they need. Systemic change, rather than merely an in-
MEETING STUDENTS' NONA CADEMIC NEEDS 157 crease in the number of counselors, is a more promising avenue for improv- ing student achievement. We therefore propose a substantially new way of thinking about strategies for meeting high school students' nonacademic needs. Our focus in the second part of this chapter on what high schools can do should in no way obscure the importance of addressing simultaneously the circumstances of poverty, racism, and social norms and values that make it difficult for many adolescents to be productively engaged in school. Although the reforms we propose could reduce some of the barriers to academic engagement, we must not forget that efforts to address only the barriers within the high school are seriously limited. A DIFFERENT VISION Current strategies to meet students' physical, social, and emotional needs are not accomplishing their purposes not only because they are underfunded and poorly organized. They are more fundamentally flawed for the following reasons. First, no intervention or services offered on the side are potent enough to promote high levels of academic engagement in a dysfunctional, unsupportive school. Although we recognize that some students have seri- ous physical and mental health problems that require far more intensive individual attention than they are now receiving, we believe that at least as much weight must be given to the broader school context. Second, because students as learners cannot be divorced from students as people with social-emotional, physical, and mental health needs, strict distinctions among the roles of school personnel in all of their relations to students do not make sense. We recommend restructuring the roles of all school personnel, eliminating the notion that only counselors, social work- ers, and nurses are responsible for identifying and addressing students' nonacademic needs. Third, although schools cannot ignore students' nonacademic needs, taking responsibility for meeting these needs can distract them from their central mission, which is to engage students in academic work. We strongly endorse strategies that link high schools to a larger network of service providers and supports. The community must be encouraged to assume some responsibility for students' developmental needs, as neither the school nor the family can do this alone. Fourth, we recommend a reframing of our approach to addressing adolescents' nonacademic needs to achieve a sharper focus on strategies for building assets rather than on interventions designed to address problems that have already developed.
158 ENGAGING SCHOOLS These four recommendations and the rationale for each are discussed in the following sections. Focusing on School Environments The service mode! of individual referrals to school-based or commu- nity-based services deals with problems one student at a time, one diagnosis at a time. This problem-oriented approach views students as needing to be "fixed." In some cases this is appropriate, especially for conditions that may have some organic origin and require medical intervention. In many other cases, students' problems are rooted in poverty, neglect by adults, poor housing conditions, or neighborhood violence. Although personal counseling and mental health services may help students cope, these ap- proaches are simply palliatives for much deeper social problems.8 Urban schools can be counted among the culprits because they contrib- ute to as well as suffer from the consequences of students' nonacademic problems. Large, impersonal environments in which students fee! that "no- body cares" do not produce the feelings of control over outcomes, or the social connectedness that promotes both mental health and academic en- gagement. Similarly, when instruction is beyond students' reach and they are not provided the help they need to master the curriculum, they will not be confident in their ability to succeed and therefore will not be engaged. School climates characterized by pervasive low expectations for student engagement and learning do not promote confidence and enthusiasm for learning in students. The negative effects of an unsupportive school climate are more likely to be exacerbated than overcome when high-stakes tests are imposed by districts or states without the resources that would help stu- dents meet the new standards. The day-to-day experience of failure in classrooms and low expectations conveyed by teachers cannot be overcome by counseling or pull-out programs designed to make students fee! confi- dent about themselves or to raise their self-esteem. In contrast, evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adoles- cent Health indicates that students in schools that foster feelings of social connectedness and being cared for by teachers, peers, and families are less 8See, for example, the voluminous Guidebook of the Center for Mental Health in Schools, which divides problems into Type I problems caused by the environment, Type II problems from a combination of environmental and intrapersonal sources, and Type III problems caused primarily by pathology within the person (Common Psycho-social Problems of School-Aged Youth: Developmental Variations, Problems, Disorders and Perspectives for Prevention and Treatment, available from the Center for Mental Health in Schools, University of California at Los Angeles).
MEETING STUDENTS' NONA CADEMIC NEEDS 159 likely to experience emotional distress, use alcohol and drugs, engage in violent or deviant behavior, or become pregnant (Blum, McNeely, and Rinehart, 20021. Furthermore, the evidence is clear that self-confidence, feelings of control, and high levels of engagement are fostered in academic contexts that provide challenging but manageable instruction and tasks and hold students to high but achievable standards (see Chapter 2, this volume). Although mental health and other services surely have their independent roles to play, reforming high schools with an eye to improving the connect- edness of students and providing appropriate and engaging instruction are likely to reduce the need for special services. In other chapters of this volume, we discuss strategies for improving connectedness, including making changes related to classroom manage- ment, reducing school size, avoiding harsh and punitive discipline policies, . . . . . . . .. . . expanc sing participation In extracurr~cu" ar activities, ant encouraging pos~- tive social connections and support among peers. Many of these reforms have been shown to enhance engagement and motivation directly, and to promote positive social, emotional, and mental health. We also make sug- gestions for providing students with instructional programs that enhance their competencies and promote positive beliefs about their ability to con- tro! outcomes and to succeed. Reforming pedagogy to give adolescents greater opportunities for their own explorations of alternative paths to becoming a productive adult (as in the school-to-work reforms outlined in Chapter 7, this volume) might also reduce the sense of purposelessness that often results in the need for mental health services as well as disengagement. A preventive policy, one that attempts to strengthen the settings in which young people live, would reduce the incidence and thus the need to redress emotional and mental health problems. We conclude, therefore, that it is inadequate merely to add to the array of services offered at or near high schools, although these services may be needed and may bring benefits. Addressing the nonacademic barriers to student engagement requires reforming high schools themselves as well as improving and strengthening services designed to meet individual needs. Restructuring Roles and Responsibilities Fundamental changes are needed in how adults and students relate to one another in high schools. Every student needs to be known well by at least one adult who can monitor progress and communicate to specialists and parents when difficulties emerge, who can identify needs for special services and talents that should be recognized and developed, and who can listen to, encourage, and advocate for the student. Substantial increases in the number of specialized personnel in high school will not achieve the personalized connections and climate of caring that youth need. A mean-
160 ENGAGING SCHOOLS ingful change in the climate requires the participation of all adults in the school. Many schools are currently experimenting with organizational struc- tures to achieve these kinds of personalized connections. One mode! is for every adult including teachers and sometimes nonprofessional staff to be assigned to a small group of students and given opportunities to connect with those students individually and in small groups. The National Associa- tion of Secondary School Principals (NASSP, 1996, 2002) recommends that no adult should serve as an advocate for more than about 20 students, and that the same adult should follow a student throughout his or her years in high school, with weekly meetings. Although this individual is not expected to provide services that require specific expertise, he or she is expected to call attention to problems as they become apparent, and assist a student in finding needed services. This person also has the broad view of the student's needs, and can play a role in ensuring some coordination among services and service providers, and between them and academic personnel. The NASSP (2002) also suggests that the adult advocate play the role of facili- tating students' relationships with other adults and students in the school by identifying problems that should be discussed with counselors, mediat- ing conflicts with teachers and peers, and visiting students' homes. Ongoing support for people in mentoring roles is essential, as is time to take on these additional responsibilities. Specialized staff such as coun- selors, social workers, and nurses can provide training and support for the adults who serve as advocates, in addition to providing specialized services to students. As with any reform in the way schools operate, there must be some buy-in among the staff for this kind of a change; a top-down man- date can create resentment that could result in more harm than good for students. One example of this kind of restructuring of roles is the Family Advo- cacy System that is included in the First Things First's school reform ap- proach (see Chapter 8, this volume). In this system all teachers, administra- tors, and specialized and qualified support staff in the high school are assigned a group of students (typically 12 to 17), and remain connected to the same student as long as the student is at the school. These "family advocates" meet with each student for at least 5 minutes each week, and at least an hour a week is set aside for them to meet with students individually and in groups. They initiate monthly contact with parents or other care- givers by phone, mail, e-mail, or face to face to "touch base" and discuss students' accomplishments and challenges. They also meet with each student and his or her family membered twice a year for at least 30 minutes to review student progress and develop action plans, including possible refer- rals and follow-ups to additional support services.
MEETING STUDENTS' NONA CADEMIC NEEDS 16 Family advocates are given initial training by First Things First staff and experienced participants from other school districts. They are also provided support services (e.g., translation services, transportation, secu- rity), and ongoing training by teams of district employees (e.g., counselors, social workers, parent liaisons, school improvement facilitators) in identify- ing students who need services, in making appropriate referrals, and in handling troubled and troubling students. Although an adult advocate mode! has many benefits, there are other ways to enhance relationships between adults and students, and other op- portunities for adults to show an interest in and to support positive and productive behavior in students. Wimberly (2002), for example, recom- mends school-sponsored activities that connect students and adults, such as special projects and school-community programs. Students and adults might also collaborate on performances and artistic activities. In addition to involving teachers and other adults in counselor roles, the committee supports efforts to embed high school counselors more di- rectly in the educational mission of the school. The Puente Program pro- vides an example of the proposed expansion of counselors' roles. The pro- gram was created to help Latino students become eligible for public colleges and universities in California.9 It includes a half-time counselor for 120 students who consults with English and math teachers to diagnose aca- demic problems and devise ways to solve them. Counselors work with students in groups on many topics, including college entrance requirements, study habits, SAT preparation, and financial aid. They arrange trips to local colleges to familiarize students with college both as a place and as an idea. They organize parent groups, partly to educate parents about college and its requirements and partly to convince Latino parents to "let go" of their children. Puente generally succeeds in creating a school within a school, in enhancing the quality of instruction, in strengthening parent participation and support, and in giving students the information necessary to fulfill the single-minded goal of having all students go to college, using counselors as central participants with multiple roles.10 Similarly, the school-to-work reforms described in Chapter 6, which have integrated broadly occupational content and applications into their 9For more information on the Puente program and its effects, see Gandara, Mejorado, Gutierrez, and Molina (1998); regarding the role of counselors, see Grubb, Lara, and Valdez (2001). A Puente-like program also exists for African-American students at the community college level. 10A similar program was designed in Los Angeles as a supplemental yet comprehensive programmatic approach to dropout prevention: the "Achievement for Latinos through Aca- demic Success" or ALAS program (Gandara, Larson, Rumberger, and Mehan, 1998; Larson and Rumberger, 1995).
162 ENGAGING SCHOOLS programs, have been forced to confront the need to educate students about their options, and consequently have strengthened their career and aca- demic counseling. Sometimes this is done in conventional ways, by having representatives of career academies or majors talk to ninth graders about options. In many cases, however, a much more elaborate program of expe- rience, experimentation, and choice has been developed. In one high school in the Pacific Northwest, for example, students may choose among six different majors or clusters. In the 9th grade and the first half of 10th grade, they take a 9-week minicourse in each of six clusters, learning the technolo- gies, methods, and careers associated with a broad range of occupations. Then each student chooses two of the six clusters for a second 9-week period of experience, at more advanced levels. Finally, they choose one of those two clusters for their program in 11th and 12th grades. All students experience every cluster the school offers and learn about occupational alternatives both through experience and through conventional reading and teaching; they make two choices, with substantial but not irreversible con- sequences.ll In these programs the guidance and counseling function is broadly distributed among counselors, occupational instructors, academic instructors who may tailor their assignments and projects to be consistent with the theme of an academy or cluster, the experiences within workshops, and for students with work placements, supervisors and co-workers. Another promising effort in reconceptualizing the roles of counselors is the National School Counselor Training Initiative, which envisions moving counselors away from one-on-one (or small group) counseling to partici- pating in more central ways in academic reforms designed to enhance achievement.l2 Counselors become diagnosticians and reformers, respon- sible for collecting information about substandard performance, diagnos- ing problems, and working with teachers to develop solutions that may involve changes in a teacher's instructional practices and treatment of stu- dents. Thus, instead of pulling out students to "fix" them so they will be engaged in the classroom, they help to create more engaging classrooms for 11Individuals working in such integrated programs usually say that only 25 percent of students stay with their high school major or cluster after high school. This practice is not, therefore, the German or Swiss practice of forcing students to make irreversible career deci- sions in ninth grade, but it does give students practice in making decisions. 12This initiative is being supported by the Metropolitan Life Foundation and the Educa- tion Trust (see http://www.edtrust.org/main/school_counseling.asp). We have also benefited from discussions with Reese House at The Education Trust and with Linda Miller of the Louisville, KY, schools, one of the districts participating in this initiative. The initiative's motto is "College Begins in Kindergarten," leading us to suspect that the basic message of its efforts will be college for all.
MEETING STUDENTS' NONA CADEMIC NEEDS 163 students having difficulties. In this initiative, counselors would also operate as advocates for poor and minority students and others who have histori- cally fared poorly in schools. This conception of a counselor's role also requires different training than is typically provided, as well as the support of principals, teachers, and district officials. We are not endorsing any particular mode! of restructured roles; rather we are proposing that the roles of all adults in schools be reconsidered so that all students' needs are given greater attention and there is coordination among those who are directly involved in the education and life of any particular student. Much more development is necessary before these kinds of reforms become well-accepted parts of high schools, but extant programs suggest some clear alternatives to conventional guidance and counseling. In both Puente and the National School Counselor Training Initiative, aca- demic counselors are central to school changes rather than peripheral service providers. They arrange a wide variety of activities and their work is closely connected to that of teachers. We suspect that developing these and similar alternatives that integrate counseling into the high school curricula would be more effective in engaging students in academic work than simply pro- moting more resources in conventional academic and career counseling. Connecting High Schools to the Community High schools are ideally suited to serve as the primary location for identifying students' nonacademic as well as academic needs, and for con- necting students to the resources they need to meet those needs. But high schools cannot do it all without becoming overly distracted from their primary mission. We have recommended stronger connections between high schools and their communities in several chapters (see especially Chapter 5, this volume), and do so again here. Connections to the community are especially critical for addressing students' nonacademic needs. Arrangements will vary considerably, depending on funding sources, community resources, and even the availability of space. Some schools are able to offer on-site services that are funded through and administered by other agencies. The evidence shows that school-based clinics are well used, and that they are associated with positive outcomes, including lower use of drugs, better school attendance, lower dropout rates, and reduced course failures and disciplinary referrals (Kisker and Brown, 1996; McCord et al., 1993; Pearson, Jennings, and Norcross, 1998 ). In creating a system of support services whether on site or in the community it is critical to attend to issues of coherence and sustainability. Students' problems rarely come in neat, circumscribed packages. Poor physi- cal health often leads to depression and other mental health problems. Anxiety disorders are associated with alcohol abuse; depression is linked to
164 ENGAGING SCHOOLS unplanned pregnancy; students with low self-esteem are more likely to engage in antisocial behaviors. Homelessness, poor nutrition, unstable parenting, and being exposed to violence are associated with a variety of physical and mental health problems (Dryfoos, 19901. Despite this co-morbidity, we typically treat problems and needs if we treat them at all as though they were isolated. We have programs to prevent drug abuse and programs to prevent teen pregnancy, even though the same adolescents are at risk for both. A social worker may see a student who is homeless without communicating with the doctor who is treating his asthma or a teacher who has kicked him out of class for abusive behavior. Because of the differentiation of professional roles in school, and the ab- sence of any one individual who gets to know students as whole people, supports designed to address nonacademic needs are fragmented and dis- connected from the academic program. The committee recommends that schools, school districts, and commu- nities develop different kinds of communication links. Creating small schools and learning communities helps provide adults with more opportu- nities to know their students well and to become aware of the range of issues they face. Some schools have used school social workers or school psychologists in a caseworker role to keep track of students with serious nonacademic needs and create bridges to community services. Technology also offers some opportunities to create databases that can be used to collect information on individual students from various sources and to facilitate communication among individuals who care for students' differ- ent needs. An increasing number of communities are working to respond to the prevalence of students' unmet nonacademic needs with "full-service schools" and "community schools." These models and their predecessors of the past 20 years have sought to provide a comprehensive array of services, and to use case management to identify the problems of particular students, to determine the appropriate services, and to follow up with the student to determine whether services were effectively provided (U.S. General Accounting Office, 19931. Some comprehensive programs have provided client-focused integration activities, linked families to these ser- vices, and made efforts to share information across different service agen- cies and to develop joint planning. In recent years, community schools have been growing in size, num- ber, and popular support. The Coalition for Community Schools describes community schools as a set of partnerships that together create a set of conditions linked to learning. It identifies these conditions as follows: · The school has a core instructional program with qualified teachers, a challenging curriculum, and high standards and expectations for students.
MEETING STUDENTS' NONA CADEMIC NEEDS 165 · Students are motivated and engaged in learning both in school and in community settings, during and after school. · The basic physical, mental and emotional health needs of young people and their families are recognized and addressed. · There is mutual respect and effective collaboration among parents, families and school staff. · Community engagement, together with school efforts, promote a school climate that is safe, supportive and respectful that connects students to a broader learning community (Blank, Melaville, and Shah, 20031. The Coalition also reports on 18 evaluations which, taken together, found that participation in community school activities was associated with varying combinations of improved grades in school courses and/or scores in proficiency testing; improved attendance; reduced behavioral or discipline problems and/or suspensions; greater classroom cooperation, completion of homework and assignments, and adherence to school rules and positive attitude; and increased access to physical and mental health services and preventive care. The Coalition concluded that the community school ap- proach achieves improved student performance when it builds on suffi- ciently high quality teaching and curriculum to meet the needs of young people when they are ready to learn (Blank, Melaville, and Shah, 20031. To achieve coherence within schools regardless of how services are provided it will be necessary to address the incoherence of funding streams and mechanisms at the federal, state, and local levels, and between public and philanthropic sources. Rules related to eligibility, access, and account- ability can create nightmares for the most expert administrator. Developing Assets We also suggest a more positive approach to supporting student social- emotional and mental health than is reflected in the current "fix-the-prob- lem" strategy. Our assumption, which has some support in research and reflects the rich experience coming out of the youth development field, is that if youth are involved in activities that meet their basic needs to be competent, autonomous, and meaningfully connected to adults, they are less likely to develop maladaptive or self-destructive behaviors. Students' engagement in school should be higher if they are given opportunities to learn new skills, to develop social skills with peers and adults, to develop self-confidence and social responsibility overall, to develop in multiple ways, along multiple paths, with multiple competencies or "intelligences" (Gardner, 19931. Service learning, discussed in Chapter 5, is one strategy that high schools have used to provide these kinds of opportunities. They can also be pro-
166 ENGAGING SCHOOLS vided in after-school programs. Current interest in after-school programs in urban areas reflects the recognition that students growing up in poverty have poor access to youth-serving organizations as well as to school-spon- sored extracurricular activities sponsored by schools themselves sports teams, band and orchestra, clubs and organizations many of which have been cut in financially strapped high schools. Their supporters hope they will "provide a safety net for children who are at high risk for depression, substance abuse, early sexual activity, teenage pregnancy, and violence," and can thereby promote long-term academic success.13 Although after-school programs vary enormously, most seem to pro- vide a variety of activities and experiences that provide positive alternatives to just hanging out with peers, including sports and recreation, dance, computer work, school-based enterprises, and school-related tutoring (in- cluding practice on high-stakes exams such as exit exams). The novel ele- ment in after-school programs is that rather than (or in addition to) provid- ing access to problem-oriented support services, they can offer an array of activities that are not provided within most schools and that may offer their own educational and developmental value. They are supported by the re- search of Jordan and Nettles (1999), who found that participation in struc- tured activities (including religious activities) and time spent interacting with adults during 10th grade had positive and significant effects on educa- tional outcomes by grade 12, whereas time spent hanging out with peers was consistently associated negatively with educational outcomes. On the other hand, after-school programs have run up against the same barriers as school-linked services, including lack of funding; general ten- sions between school and after-school staff about student behavior, equip- ment, and classroom use; lack of available space; the need for excessive attention from overextended principals; and the "capture" of after-school programs by the school's agenda, sometimes leading to an extension of "skills and drills" teaching hardly a way to motivate students already doing poorly in school. It is still too early to judge the promise of after- schoo! programs because most have started quite recently; they offer some new directions, but they also remain limited by familiar barriers that seem to plague every effort to develop nonschoo! activities that support the high school's missions. 13See "Urban Seminar on After-School Time," The Urban Seminar Series on Children's Health and Safety, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University (undated), available online at http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/urbanpoverty, and Perry, Teague, and Frey (2002). The major federal funding for after-school programs the Community Learning Centers explicitly includes high schools, while state funds are not always available to high schools.
MEETING STUDENTS' NONA CADEMIC NEEDS 167 Certainly after-school programs are becoming part of the solution, but they cannot substitute for what remains the primary task: to create environ- ments and opportunities both in high schools and in the community- that give urban youth the same chance that their more affluent peers have to develop competence and a sense of control and social connectedness. An asset orientation is not restricted to out-of-school activities. There should be many opportunities in high schools for all students to make choices that contribute to their sense of control, to provide opportunities that contribute to their sense of importance and responsibility, and to develop and be recognized for skills and talents that contribute to their sense of competence. CONCLUSIONS The committee recognizes the many ways in which unmet nonacademic needs can interfere with students' engagement in school. We understand the difficulty of teaching a student who is hungry, abused, or neglected. Neither educators nor citizens should, however, use students' unmet nonacademic needs as an excuse for complacency. We disagree with opinion leaders, as well as school teachers and administrators, who do not support efforts to improve the quality of education because other factors in students' lives limit the effects of school reform (see, for example, George Will's column headlined "Can't Fix Education Until We Fix Families," The Washington Post, January 4, 20021. In the vision we hold, instruction is appropriately challenging and stu- dents are given the support they need to achieve high standards. The school climate is career and college oriented, and the roles of school personnel are reconsidered so that all adults in the school are aware of students' nonaca- demic as well as academic needs. All students should have one adult who knows them well, who communicates regularly with their families, and who serves as a resource and advocate for special services. Coordination among those who are directly involved in the education and life of any particular student is essential, and specialists such as counselors, social workers, and nurses need to be well connected to teachers and adminis- trators, providing training and guidance and assisting them in creating environments that support positive development. The school reforms that we recommend as particularly promising rep- resent substantial departures from conventional practices. Although the evidence on the effects of such reforms is just beginning to become avail- able, indirect evidence and theory suggest that they should promote positive social-emotional development and mental health, and by doing so, reduce many barriers to engagement in high school work.