Impact of a Career Intervention on At-Risk Middle School Students' Career Maturity Levels, Academic Achievement, and Self-Esteem

By Legum, Harry L.; Hoare, Carol H. | Professional School Counseling, December 2004 | Go to article overview

Impact of a Career Intervention on At-Risk Middle School Students' Career Maturity Levels, Academic Achievement, and Self-Esteem


Legum, Harry L., Hoare, Carol H., Professional School Counseling


The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of a 9-week career intervention program on at-risk middle school students' career maturity levels, self-esteem, and academic achievement. This study was based on a pretest and posttest design using a control group. Data were collected from 27 at-risk middle school students representing the experimental group and 30 at-risk middle school students making up the control group. Modes of measurement consisted of the Crites Career Maturity Inventory (measuring attitude and competency levels), the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory, and grades. Data for this study were coded numerically and analyzed using inferential t tests and analysis of covariance. Qualitative interviews were conducted with teachers of 5 randomly selected participants from the experimental group to compare self-esteem and academic achievement prior and subsequent to the treatment. Although results revealed that the sample's career maturity attitude and competency levels and academic achievement improved, such increases were not statistically significant. Recommendations for future research and implications for school counselors are discussed.

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The readiness of at-risk students to develop the kinds of skills that will prepare them to pursue a host of career options and eventually make them marketable to future employers is a challenge presently confronting educators, parents, school counselors, and pupils in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Education (1995), Fouad and Keeley (1992), McLaughlin and Vacha (1992), and Rojewski, Wicklein, and Schell (1995), high school dropouts typically (a) show behavioral problems in the classroom, (b) have poor grades and test scores, (c) exhibit chronic absenteeism, (d) have parents who do not have high school diplomas, (e) have a sibling or siblings who dropped out of high school, (f) are in the lower sociocconomic bracket, and (g) have career maturity levels that are lower than those not considered at-risk for failure. Students considered to be at-risk are in jeopardy of dropping out of school. Unfortunately, these high school dropouts confront obstacles preventing them from succeeding in the world of work.

Current data indicate that 11.2 percent of our country's 16-to-24-vear-olds are high school dropouts (U.S. Department of Education, 2000). Approximately 68 percent of men and 45 percent of women who have not obtained a high school diploma enter the labor force (U.S. Department of Labor, 2001). These individuals do not possess the necessary skills required to succeed in today's job market. As an example, the unemployment rate of high school dropouts is 28.2 percent, whereas the unemployment rate of high school graduates is 18.4 percent (U.S. Departmcnt of Labor, 1999). In a like manner, it is estimated that female high school dropouts can expect to earn $238,000 less during their lives than female high school graduatcs (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2001). It is estimated that male high school dropouts can expect to earn $462,000 lss during their lives than male high school graduates (U.S. Department of Commerce). Thus, as the United States begins the 21st century, an issue that is gaining prominence is the career developmental readiness of at-risk students to enter the world of work.

At-risk pupils who are involved in career exploration and awareness activities at the middle school level are more likely to establish an effective program plan of study for high school, thus better preparing them for their future career selections (Medina & Drummond, 1993; Pittman & Chalker, 1994; Rojewski, 1994; Rojewski et al., 1995). This supports the notion that beginning career interventions at the high school level is ill-advised, suggesting instead that career interventions need to begin at the elementary or middlc school level to be effective. By the high school years, many at-risk students are well on their way to dropping out of the educational system (Cairns, Cairns, & Neckerman, 1989; U. …

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