Constructing the "At-Risk" Student in Education: A Sociopolitical Analysis from 1960-2009
KeywordsChildren with social disabilities--Education
Youth with social disabilities--Education
Student assistance programs
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AbstractIn this thesis, I examine the changing conceptualization of what is called the at-risk' or disadvantaged student from 1960-2009. Using components of theory on education as an institution, the construction of knowledge, and racial formation theory, I specifically argue that research reviews and federal policy serve as sites where these core concepts in educational discourse and policy continually go through a process of rearticulation and legitimation. I use one journal, the Review of Educational Research, to examine this relationship over 50 years, from 1960-2009. I use a quantitative content analysis of research abstracts to explore 1.) how the concept of the 'at-risk student' is rearticulated between 1960-2009 and 2) how this is possibly legitimated through research discourse and changing educational policy over changing sociopolitical climates. I do this by tracing the trajectory of the change in conceptualization with changing policy and political regimes. Twenty-one individual level categories defining the 'at-risk' students emerge and are tracked over time. I conclude by discussing how the relationship between research discourse on the 'at-risk student' and federal policy directed toward the 'at-risk' mutually influence each other using legitimating effects so that this concept remains a stable instrument to structure society. Implications for diversity are discussed.