Identifying High School Freshmen with Signs of Emotional or Academic Risk: Screening Methods Appropriate for Students in Accelerated Courses

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High school freshmen in accelerated courses have known risk and resiliency factors that should be considered within systematic efforts to monitor and promote student academic and emotional well-being. This study created and evaluated a multi-method approach to identify students in Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses with signs of risk mid-year in terms of stress, affective engagement, and academic performance. A total of 304 ninth grade students enrolled in AP/IB coursework and five AP/IB teachers at two public high schools in a southeastern state took part in the screening. Using the researcher-developed screening approach, a total of 117 students (38.5%) met criteria for risk in at least one academic or emotional area. These results were compared to those obtained using a teacher nomination form, which had been developed collaboratively by the teachers and researchers, that specified signs of emotional and academic risk. The teacher nomination procedure resulted in the identification of 39.3% of the at-risk student population (average sensitivity rate = 35.7% across teachers). Sensitivity of teacher nominations was higher when identifying academic risk (average = 59.9%) as compared to emotional risk (average = 27.9% and 39.6% of students with low school satisfaction and high stress, respectively). Findings support the collection of data from students (surveys of stress and school satisfaction) and school records (course grades) when identifying AP/IB students to consider for targeted services within a Multi-Tiered System of Supports.

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School Mental Health, v. 11, p. 210-227