At-Risk Students: Definition, Characteristics & Programs

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  • 0:01 At-Risk Students
  • 1:03 Examples of At-Risk Students
  • 1:55 Characteristics
  • 3:08 Programs for At-Risk Students
  • 4:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Brian Fraga
This lesson examines the term 'at-risk' as it pertains to our students in education. We'll look at warning signs for at-risk students, both those that are easy to recognize and those that may be less obvious. Finally, we look at different programs schools offer to assist these students.

At-Risk Students

Whether we are teachers, counselors, or administrators, we want all of our students to experience academic success within our classroom and overall achievement in school. But the reality is that not all students will reach their academic potential and will be seen as at-risk students.

How do you know which of your students are at-risk? Before we can find them, we first must clearly define what at-risk means. An at-risk student is one that is considered to be in danger of not graduating, being promoted, or meeting other education-related goals.

There was a time when class sizes were relatively smaller, compared to classrooms today, which made it easier to pinpoint students that were at-risk. As classroom sizes increase, it becomes more challenging for us, as teachers, to get a clear, academic picture of what our students are capable of doing in the classroom and to know whether they meet the definition of being at-risk.

Examples of At-Risk Students

Let's look at a few examples of students to see if they would qualify as being at-risk students.

Suzy is a fifth grade student. During the first semester of school, Suzy had turned in all of her class assignments, and her lowest test score was an 85. Now it's the middle of the second semester, and Suzy's grades are suffering. She occasionally turns in an assignment and her test scores are averaging 72. Does this make Suzy an at-risk student?

What about Devon? He is continuously late for class or simply does not attend class. Does that make him an at-risk student? Wayne is constantly getting into trouble at school, or is disrupting class. Would he be considered at-risk?

The answer to each of these examples is yes. You might be getting a picture of what an at-risk student is like, but let's look at the characteristics more closely.


We can easily monitor students' grades, attendance, and office referrals to determine whether they might be at-risk, but there are other risk factors that might need to be considered that aren't as easy to track. Additional risk factors may include, but are not limited to, socioeconomic status; academic background; behavioral, cognitive, or physical problems; family or community environment; and school capacity to meet student needs.

There are numerous factors that could indicate a student is at-risk. Let's examine some of these in more detail:

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