Underperforming Schools and the Education of Vulnerable Children
This brief presents findings from several Chapin Hall studies on vulnerable children and youth to raise the issue of what it would mean to improve academic achievement in underperforming schools. Vulnerable children and youth are those who experience crises or disruptions in their lives, often accompanied by parental absence or inability to meet their needs, such that they are likely to become involved with public systems. The brief provides evidence that a disproportionate number of these children attend underperforming schools. It describes the impact of disruptive, and often traumatic, life experiences on the behavior and learning of children, the schools’ frequent response of placing these children in special education, and the students’ poor educational outcomes in high school. The authors of the brief take the perspective that the lives of these children and the performance of their schools are intertwined. They propose that innovative efforts to improve underperforming schools must be coupled with a focus on developing effective ways for teachers and schools leaders to work with vulnerable children and youth.