Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Fostering Educational Resilience and Achievement in Urban Schools through School-Family-Community Partnerships

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Fostering Educational Resilience and Achievement in Urban Schools through School-Family-Community Partnerships

Article excerpt

In this era of education reform, school counselors are among educators being held accountable for the academic achievement of minority and poor children. School counselors in urban schools serve a disproportionate number of minority and poor children at risk for school failure. Urban school counselors can play critical roles in engaging their school's stakeholders in implementing partnership programs that foster student achievement and resilience. This article discusses team facilitator, collaborator, and advocacy roles and strategies for urban school counselors and specific types of partnership programs they need to promote to foster academic achievement and resilience in minority and poor students.

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In this current era of school reform, educators are being held accountable for the academic achievement of minority and poor students. This is of particular concern to urban educators because urban schools serve a disproportionate number of minority and poor students, who invariably are at risk for school failure (Wang, Haertel, & Walberg, 1998). Of the 7 million students served by the Great City Schools--which consists of 61 of the largest urban school districts in the country including Baltimore, Cleveland, and Philadelphia--over 75 percent of the students are minority students (Council of the Great City Schools, 2003). School counselors are being urged to take leadership roles in education reform aimed at reducing the barriers to academic achievement for such students (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2003; Bemak, 2000; Butler, 2003; Taylor & Adelman, 2000). Many urban minority and poor students tend to have multiple precipitating factors and stressors that put them at risk for school failure (Atkinson & Juntunen, 1994; Walsh, Howard, & Buckley, 1999). Urban school counselors have the challenge of helping students who daily face risk factors, such as poverty; homelessness; neighborhoods characterized by crime, violence, and drugs; and sociocultural factors such as discrimination and racial and language barriers (Atkinson & Juntunen; Holcomb-McCoy, 1998, Schorr, 1997).

Racial and ethnic minority students in many urban schools often feel powerless in a majority-dominated school culture where language, class, and culture differences are seen as deficits (Cummins, 1986; Noguera, 1996, 2001). These children are over-represented in special education programs and underrepresented in gifted and talented programs (Ferguson, Kozleski, & Smith, 2001). Not only are the lives of a disproportionate number of racial and ethnic minority children characterized by oppression and a lack of privilege, but too often, they are "neglected, labeled, and left to wither in the lowest tracks in our schools" (Lewis & Arnold, 1998, p. 60). Efforts by schools to reduce the minority achievement gap often focus on blaming minority students for what are perceived as individual and cultural deficits residing in them, their families, and their communities (Herbert, 1999). Oftentimes, parents are regarded by school officials as adversaries instead of supporters of their children's education (Huang & Gibbs, 1992; Noguera, 1996, 2003). School officials blame differences in cultural values and family structure for poor academic achievement while parents in turn blame discrimination and insensitivity by school personnel (Atkinson & Juntunen, 1994).

For many educators, the minority achievement gap, especially in urban areas, has come to be accepted as normative and they perceive little hope for transformation in these schools. Little attention is paid to the manner in which school culture and organizational practices unconsciously act to maintain the racial inequities in academic achievement or to the effect of the assumptions, fears, and stereotypes of school personnel on their interactions with urban minority children and families (Noguera, 1996, 2001, 2003). The socio-cultural-political stressors and forces that minority students in urban schools face interact to present very complex, subtle, and seemingly insurmountable barriers to both student achievement and partnerships among schools, families, and community members. …

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