Limited English Proficient Students At Risk: Issues and Prevention Strategies.
Gingras, Rosario C. Careaga, Rudy C.
National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education, Silver Spring, MD.
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In this paper on the dropout problem among limited-English- proficient (LEP) students, the terms "LEP" and "dropout" are defined, statistics on LEP populations and minority dropouts are presented, and the relationship between low levels of English proficiency and dropping out is examined. Factors that increase the risk of dropping out include: (1) level of competence in English-language skills; (2) large school size; (3) low teacher expectations of students from low-income minority backgrounds; (4) social behavior, i.e., "not getting along with teachers," in class; (5) personal problems, e.g., pregnancy, employment, "not liking school"; and (6) residential mobility, with Hispanic families tending to move frequently. Consequences of dropping out to the individual and to society are briefly discussed. Federal responses to the dropout problem include the School Dropout Demonstration Assistance Act of 1988, which provides grants to local educational agencies to establish programs to identify, prevent, or recapture dropouts and to report data on dropouts, and the National Educational Longitudinal Study: 1988, which is following the educational progress of a nationally representative sample of students from 8th grade through post-secondary school and beyond. Risk factors for dropping out include lack of positive social relationships in school, perception that school is irrelevant to one's future, insufficient opportunities for school success, family factors such as single parents and financial distress, and personality factors such as inability to tolerate structured activities, disruptive classroom behavior, poor social adjustment, difficulty with authority figures, health problems, emotional trauma, poor self-concept, lure of more immediate gratification, and above- or below-average intelligence. Various types of dropout prevention strategies and programs are reviewed, including counseling approaches, incentive and tutorial approaches, work-related approaches, and alternative curricula. Five exemplary dropout prevention programs are described: the Ysleta Pre-kindergarten Center in El Paso, Texas; the Bilingual Cluster Concept, San Antonio, Texas; the Valued Youth Partnership, San Antonio, Texas; Newcomer High School, San Francisco; and Washington State's Educational Clinics. It is recommended that each state formulate guidelines for a standard approach to measuring English proficiency; that each local education agency use a standard approach to the identification of dropouts; that research be undertaken to clarify the correlation between English proficiency and dropping out among language minority students; that longitudinal studies be undertaken to determine predictors of success and failure in the school system so that dependable predictors for dropping out are available for students of all ages; that students identified as LEP be given special language instruction; that intervention programs be established at the earliest school level possible; and that the number of bilingual/multicultural counselors be increased at all school levels, especially middle school. Thirty references are cited. (JWK)