A qualitative study of kindergarten students at risk for poor educational outcomes in an urban school

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Special Education

First Committee Member

Marjorie Montague - Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

Daryl Greenfield - Committee Member


The purpose of this research was to conduct a qualitative study to analyze kindergarten students who are at risk for poor educational outcomes. Currently, there are numerous instruments for screening kindergartners across academic and social domains. These instruments generally have limited reliability and validity, are often unidimensional (e.g., focusing on academic skills and abilities), and are usually child-centered rather than multivariate in nature. Increasingly, however, alternative types of assessment that focus upon the individual student in context over extended periods of time are being used instead of standardized instruments. A qualitative contextual approach for identifying students who are at risk was used in this study to gather information about students that could lead to early and preventive interventions.Twenty-nine students from one kindergarten classroom were observed in a variety of school contexts during the first 3 1/2 months of school. After 3 months, the observer, along with the classroom teacher and her paraprofessional, identified students they believed to be at risk. Additional data about the at-risk students were collected from parent and school staff interviews, preschool and public school records, and standardized test scores. These data were organized according to social, academic, family and other relevant contexts in order to understand better the nature of the students' risk. Based on these data, recommendations for interventions were made. In addition, the dynamics within the classroom were described to evaluate how the needs of the children were addressed.This approach to identification of at-risk students is important given the increasing numbers of children who are associated with risk, particularly children in low-socioeconomic urban areas who may eventually qualify for special education programs or face other detrimental outcomes. The results of this study suggest that a contextually-oriented assessment approach may have implications for school referral policies and special education practices.-7-.


Education, Early Childhood; Education, Elementary; Education, Special

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