Students At Promise and Resilient: A Historical Look at Risk
WILLIAM FRANKLIN California State University, Los Angeles
The notion of "risk" in education is borrowed from epidemiological models. Although the epidemiological model often used in risk discourse may be helpful in identifying general student and familial characteristics that make success in school difficult, the focus is on risk and vulnerability, not promise, protection, and resilience. The ecological framework proposed in this chapter goes beyond looking at populations at risk to critically examining student/environment interactions that may place students at risk. Moreover, the perspective recognizes that in most student/environment interactions there is likely to be a continuum of risk and protective variables. Thus, the chapter endeavors to: (a) revisit risk in education to show how potentially damaging and uninformative it is, particularly with minority and poor youth; (b) demonstrate that risk is a multifaceted and multicausal construct that must be viewed from an interactive and ecological framework; and (c) argue that the research community must focus attention on how families, schools, and communities can foster the development of all youth, who should be considered more "at promise" for school success than at risk for school failure.
The impetus for this review arose while critically examining the literature on risk and protective factors for poor and minority adolescents. It became increasingly clear that the label at risk may place students more at risk than internal and external factors. Moreover, the notion of risk in education is relatively new but its widespread abuse and use to flag non-normative development, cultural "deficits," and academic problems is old and uncomfortably familiar. At risk, as a classification, disproportionately relies on broad sociodemographic criteria (i.e., race, ethnicity, social class) to predict delinquency or remediation. By definition it is incapable of