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Article

Jonathan Pratschke and Giovanni Abbiati

In the social sciences, the term “peer effects” has been widely used to describe the various ways in which individual behaviors and attitudes can be influenced by friends, acquaintances, and the wider social environment. Due to the crucial role of social interactions within the school context, the role of peers in shaping academic outcomes has been under scrutiny for decades. Following seminal work by Manski, we distinguish between three different components of peer influence: endogenous (where the behavior of an individual varies in accordance with the behavior of the peer group), exogenous (where the behavior of an individual varies with the characteristics of the members of the peer group), and correlated (where the behavior of individuals is shaped by shared environmental or institutional factors). By estimating a simultaneous autoregressive model, we assess the relative strength of these three forms of peer influence in relation to secondary school exam results in a large sample of Italian school-leavers. One limitation is that we are only able to observe peer influence within the classroom, while another is that the study is confined to a specific moment in time, which comes quite late in young people’s educational trajectories. The results confirm that peer processes play an important role in the reproduction of social inequalities, against the backdrop of institutional criteria for the selection of students into schools and classes. These factors therefore demand the sustained attention of educational administrators and policymakers.

Article

Globally, more and more students with disabilities are choosing to continue on to post-secondary education following high school. Nevertheless, in comparison to their non-disabled peers, young people with disabilities are persistently underrepresented in this area. As with students without disabilities, a post-secondary diploma or degree will enhance opportunities for employment, both in terms of options and income. Bridging the gap between high school and post-secondary education can be daunting for most students, but with the added complexities associated with disabilities, the challenges will be intensified. Hence, a supportive and efficacious transition between secondary and post-secondary settings is not only helpful, but essential. For post-secondary education to be inclusive, it must be accessible. To be accessible, the transition must support the student by taking into account their strengths, challenges, interests, and goals, while considering the post-secondary environment. Successful transition plans must be student-centered, collaborative, begin early, and include measured and specific steps that are individually designed to help individual students bridge the gap. Key elements and considerations include: (a) assessing the environment and the fit; (b) developing the student’s self-advocacy skills; (c) tailoring accommodations based on the academic, social, and independent living skills of the student; and (d) supporting the student emotionally and mentally through the transition and beyond. Additional considerations include the use of assistive technology, mentoring programs, and familiarizing the student with the environment in advance of the change. Although often considered the panacea for the many academic and organizational challenges faced by students with disabilities, assistive technology is most beneficial if introduced early; this allows the student to experiment, select, and become familiar with it before leaving high school. Mentorship programs and supports, both formal and informal, should be given careful consideration as effective means of facilitating the transition. In addition to the academic and social challenges, the disruption of routines and the unfamiliar aspects of the post-secondary environment can be particularly daunting for students with disabilities. To negotiate and mitigate these aspects it might be beneficial to create opportunities for the student to become familiar with the post-secondary institution before going there. By easing and supporting the transition of students with disabilities in these and other ways, some of the barriers they face are ameliorated. Affording equal opportunity for students with disabilities to progress to post-secondary education and the subsequent workforce is not only just, it is a moral obligation and essential to an inclusive society.

Article

It is important to consider inclusive and effective teacher practices in secondary classrooms as distinct from other schooling levels and settings. Many years of inclusive education reforms have brought about increases in the numbers of students with disabilities who are educated in the regular school system. However, progress has been slower for secondary school students with disabilities, who remain more likely to be segregated from their peers and to receive a poorer-quality education, when compared to their primary school counterparts. This is because many barriers to student inclusion remain entrenched in the structure and organization of secondary schooling systems. These barriers often arise from seeing difficulties in learning and participating through a medical model and thus requiring diagnostic verification and specialist support, instead of seeing student difficulties in learning as arising from a social model of disability, in which student participation and progress are hampered by poor design or inflexibility in teaching practices and a lack of access to support. A large body of research exists to support the case for using a range of school-wide organization as well as classroom-based practices that effectively overcome these barriers, and provide high-quality and equitable academic and social supports to all students in the secondary school classroom. Those that foster collaboration and effective relationships between professionals and students, and that provide access to support on the basis of need rather than diagnosis, have been found to produce supportive environments in which diversity is valued, equity is maximized for all students, and social and academic outcomes are improved for all students.

Article

Elizabeth A. Stevens and Sharon Vaughn

Adequate reading skills are necessary for college and career readiness and success in the work force, but many students do not have sufficient reading skills. The 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress demonstrated that fourth- and eighth-grade students had made little to no progress in reading since the previous report in 2017. Elementary level students often receive dedicated English language arts instruction during the day, but this is not always true for secondary level students . One way that educators can support students across the grade levels is by providing evidence-based reading instruction within content areas (i.e., science and social studies instruction). Researchers have investigated ways for teachers to provide high-quality content area reading instruction to support the reading comprehension and content acquisition of students in general education settings. Previous research suggests that paraphrasing and text structure instruction support readers’ identification of key ideas and the integration of those ideas across paragraphs and passages when reading content area texts. These practices align with reading comprehension theory in support of conscious text processing while reading. Teaching readers to generate main ideas during reading may improve the reading outcomes and content acquisition outcomes not only for typical readers but also for struggling readers and those identified for special education. Educators’ implementation of such practices within science and social studies instruction may improve students’ reading performance and content learning across grade levels.

Article

Youth have a rich history of engaging in activism and organizing within schools to promote equity based on gender, sexuality, and race. Youth equity work in secondary schools includes myriad activities: developing student-led clubs, such as gay-straight alliances (GSAs, also known as gender and sexuality alliances); advocating for inclusive policies, practices, and curriculum; engaging in direct action, such as protests; and developing individual and shared critical consciousness. Situated in the United States, Canada, and other countries, GSAs are a common way that youth have organized to promote equity and justice for youth with marginalized sexualities and genders; they have, however, been critiqued for their lack of inclusion of racially or ethnically marginalized students or attention to intersecting forms of oppression. Opportunities exist within research, education, and practice to understand and address the heterogeneity and intersectionality of GSA groups and members, examine and understand other forms of school-based activism from an intersectional perspective, and recognize and examine school-based equity work within the broader cultural, social, and political contexts that involve families and communities. Youth, teachers, and social workers engaged in equity work in schools must attend to intersectionality and center the needs of the most marginalized within their work.