This quantitative, causal-comparative study utilized ex post facto data to examine the impact of education support advisors (ESAs) on the discipline, attendance, and achievement of at-risk students in Grades 3-12. Fourteen education support advisors working in 16 elementary and 8 secondary schools of this mid-Atlantic school district consistently mentored and supported 458 at-risk students in Grades 3-12 throughout the school year. Students identified for this study were considered Tier 2 yellow and Tier 3 red zone at-risk based on the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) model.
As caring adults in the lives of these at-risk students, the education support advisors worked with these students for a variety of purposes including, but not limited to, (1) relationship building; (2) goal setting; (3) alternative behavior choices; (4) tutoring; (5)character education; (6) mentoring; (7) in-class support; (8) parent conferences; (9) discussions on making better choices; (10) discussions on the importance of attending school; (11) examination of previous and year-to-date attendance; (12) academic and discipline data; and (13) ways to overcome and rise above life's challenges.
In addition to the demographic information of gender, race, socioeconomic status, and grade, five specific data-points for each student for 2 consecutive years were collected for this study. This data included the total number of days absent from school, the total number of discipline referrals the student received, the discipline code assigned to each of the discipline referrals, the final annual academic grade the student received in reading, and the final annual grade the student received in mathematics. For the participants in this study, an education support advisor was consistently present in the child's life the second school year. Percentage and statistical analysis on these data-points was performed to determine the impact of an education support advisor on the attendance, discipline, and achievement of these students.
The results of this study revealed that, for the entire group of study sample participants, 44% reduced their number of days absent, 44% reduced their number of office referrals, 33% decreased their severity of behavior exhibited, 29% improved their final annual reading grade, and 31% improved their final annual math grade. Overall, 80% of the students in the study sample improved in one or more of the five possible categories studied. For the entire study sample participants, utilizing the paired sample t test, the only dependent variable in which a significant statistical difference was indicated at the .05 significance level was the severity of behavior for all students, high school students, African American students, and free and reduced meal (FARMS) students.
These findings may have implications for other school systems experiencing on-going difficulties with the attendance, discipline, and achievement of at-risk students. The recognition that the personal involvement of a caring adult in the lives of these students deemed at-risk may be helpful in addressing many of the issues faced by at-risk students.