How to Identify and Support At-Risk Students with Case Management Principles

Schools immerse students in more than just academia — they teach students how to operate in the world, work alongside others, and embrace diverse cultures and points of view. Without these invaluable skills, students may struggle to thrive later in life, no matter their careers. At-risk students face multi-faceted challenges while navigating the school system and may require additional support from staff outside the classroom.

Below, we will discuss what makes a student “at risk,” how to identify an at-risk student, and what educators can do to help them navigate these challenges and achieve balance.

How to Identify and Support At-Risk Students with Case Management Principles

What are at-risk students?

At-risk students face a higher likelihood of struggling in educational settings or dropping out of school altogether. Risk factors for these students can be internal — such as learning disabilities, developmental delays, and behavioral or mental health issues — or circumstantial — including socioeconomic influences, racial inequity, inadequate housing, or unstable relationships.

Because the risk factors for each student are so varied and nuanced, student support teams must be prepared to approach each scenario with an informed, compassionate plan. Case management services and software can help more educators, guidance counselors, social workers, and parents work together on behalf of these students. Below, we describe how taking a case-management approach to the student body can improve a school’s academic success, graduation rates, counseling services, and student well-being.

How to identify at-risk students

When a student is considered at-risk, it’s often due to factors outside the classroom setting. In fact, the factors affecting a student’s performance are likely to be identified before the student is labeled “at risk,” such as a sudden drop in academic performance. The definition of “at-risk” students is determined on the state or district level, usually with clear criteria for evaluation.

According to the Glossary of Education Reform, these criteria often include:
  • Physical disabilities and learning disabilities
  • Prolonged or persistent health issues
  • Habitual truancy, incarceration, or delinquency
  • Family welfare or marital status
  • Parental educational attainment, income levels, employment status, or immigration status
  • Households in which the primary language spoken is not English

With so many different types of challenges, at-risk students require a unique, personalized support plan.

How to help at-risk students

Only by addressing each student’s unique needs with compassion and grace can educators help students thrive in and out of the classroom. Helping at-risk students isn’t just about helping them graduate – it’s about ensuring each child can access the resources they need to cultivate safe, enriched lives with a trusted support network. All of a student’s needs likely can’t be met by one individual, requiring a team effort that includes referrals, mentoring, community resources, and frequent follow-ups.

How to Identify and Support At-Risk Students with Case Management Principles
Address any outstanding needs a student may have beyond academics.

At-risk students are often identified first by their teachers who interact with them every day. While a student’s academic success is a strong indicator of their need for support, it is usually a symptom rather than a cause. Teachers, guidance counselors, and staff members who interact with these students regularly are in a unique position to gain their trust. These staff are more likely to notice early warning signs, ask questions, and receive honest answers when a student seems to be struggling.

Disturbances at home can cause major disruptions to academic performance during school hours. Whether a student is experiencing major changes in their family life, financial struggles, long-term health issues, or behavioral and mental health problems, programs and resources likely exist to help alleviate those stressors so they can focus on their studies. Regularly check in with individual students to get an understanding of their life outside the classroom if you suspect they may be having trouble.

How to Identify and Support At-Risk Students with Case Management Principles
Utilize an all-hands-on-deck approach.

Students may be facing a particular struggle, or several all at once, that is disrupting their school work. These issues often cannot be resolved by one person and require teamwork from the adults tasked with helping these students progress in their studies.

If a student would benefit from financial support, educators can address their concerns with school faculty and social services teams. Students with developmental or learning disabilities may need to work with student success teams and receive supplemental instruction. If a student’s home life is causing them physical or mental harm, educators, counselors, and other mandatory reporters may need to work with social work teams and the student’s parents.

The solutions to students’ risks are as varied as their potential causes. By working together to identify, document, and resolve these issues, the adults in their lives can address many problems at once to improve the student’s overall well-being.

How to Identify and Support At-Risk Students with Case Management Principles
Engage parents when possible.

Educators’ relationships with at-risk students are critical to meeting those students’ needs, and the same goes for their parents. Outreach ensures students and parents don’t feel alienated, antagonized, and unsupported. Whenever possible and appropriate, make sure guardians are informed, engaged, and open to receiving help.

By working alongside students’ guardians, educators can address problems at the source and ensure students receive support around the clock — not just at school. If necessary, get parents involved with support programs and providers to address financial and social challenges that may impact their children. Having parents and educators on the same team can help students feel more connected to and supported by both groups.

How CaseWorthy can help

The key to offering effective support to at-risk students is collaboration. Educators, counselors, administrators, and social workers must all work together to identify students’ needs, develop solutions, and track progress toward defined goals. Case management software like CaseWorthy’s can help teams like these collect, organize, and share student data to keep everyone informed and on track. 

  • Case notes provide staff a space to compile qualitative data, such as activity reports, changes to student behavior, or progress toward goals.
  • Check-ins can track when and where students engage with prescribed programs, appointments, and activities.
  • Powerful reporting with PowerBI allows school faculty to create custom reports on individual students, groups of students, or entire schools.
  • CaseWorthy’s Head Start and Early Head Start Advanced Case Management functionality was designed specifically for compliance with government initiatives to improve student progress.
  • Tiers of access to our secure online portal mean members of student success teams can log in and submit data, reports, and communications to other team members from anywhere.

Whether you’re an educator, counselor, social worker, or parent, you are part of the team that can improve students’ performance, outcomes, and well-being. But you cannot do it alone.

CaseWorthy makes it easier for teams to work together on behalf of students.


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