The NC Resilience and Learning Project works with high poverty schools across the state where trauma is prevalent in their student population. Our model is a whole school, whole child framework to create trauma-sensitive schools that will improve academic, behavioral, and social-emotional outcomes for students.
How do we do this?
By working in schools to help create a school-wide culture shift so that instead of seeing a student and asking, “What is wrong with you?” we ask “What happened to you?” A culture shift begins by providing professional development and ongoing coaching with school teams that:
- Teaches and supports social/emotional or coping skills
- Builds a positive school climate with supportive relationships where kids feel physically and emotionally safe so they can focus on learning
Resilience in Action
Our Project has two components:
- professional development for all school-wide staff
- and the formation of a steering committee (called Resilience Team) that meets regularly and receives ongoing coaching and technical assistance from project staff throughout the school year.
The first step in our process when we begin working with schools is conducting professional development with all staff in the school (we try to include administrators, student services staff, teachers, custodians, bus drivers, TAs, and cafeteria staff – all who work with students in any capacity). We do a more in-depth training with members of the Resilience Team and then hold an overview training with the rest of the staff either in a standard whole school PD time or during Professional Learning Communities. Training includes an overview of trauma and the research behind adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), how brain development is impacted, the impact in the school setting specifically on learning, behavior, and relationships, and sharing trauma-sensitive strategies and tools that help create safer and more supportive learning environments for all students.
The second component of our Project is working with principals to create a school Resilience Team. Resilience Teams are a steering committee that serves as the champions of this work, taking it to the next level beyond training and awareness. Teams are typically comprised of 6-10 staff members including the principal, counselor or social worker, and a handful of teachers from various disciplines and grade levels.
Teams meet bi-weekly with a Project staff member who will provide ongoing coaching throughout the entire school year. The team first works to identify areas of urgency within their schools – these may be common behavior or academic challenges. From there, the team will set focus areas and goals and begin working on an action plan. The action plan will include school-wide trauma-informed strategies and a detailed implementation plan for each new strategy. Once implementation begins, the final step of the process is monitoring and measuring of outcomes. The Project coach will assist the team with this, helping to collect both quantitative and qualitative data and make tweaks to implementation as needed.
Where We Are For The 2019-2020 School Year
MEET OUR PROJECT STAFF
Director, NC Resilience & Learning Project (based in Raleigh, NC)
Program Coordinator, NC Resilience & Learning Project (based in Eastern NC)
Program Coordinator, NC Resilience & Learning Project (based in Salisbury, NC)
THE RESEARCH, IMPACT & EARLY FINDINGS
The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study found that roughly 64% of the over 17,000 participants reported having at least one ACE.
- Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse
- Physical and emotional neglect
- Household dysfunction: home with mental illness, substance abuse, mother treated violently, divorce, or incarcerated relative
Research shows that ACEs can actually alter brain development and cause chemically toxic effects in the brain resulting in children remaining in a constant state of “survival mode” leading them to continuously have the fight, flight, or freeze response.
In addition to prevalence, the ACE study also looked at the impact that ACEs had on long-term mental and physical health outcomes. The study found that the more ACEs a child experiences, the higher their long-term risk of substance abuse, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, and depression (Anda et al., 2006).
This results in major impacts in children in schools with learning, classroom behavior, and relationships. When a child experiences trauma, brain development may be impacted in a way that causes issues with a child’s ability to think and reason, ability to take in new information, memory, decision-making, and executive functioning – all functions needed for success and learning in school. Additionally, impacts are seen in behavior and emotion regulation; children with trauma often have difficulty regulating emotions which can lead to externalizing behaviors that include hyperarousal, defiance, and aggression or internalizing behaviors that include withdrawing, depression, and wanting to hide or be invisible.
These impacts are seen school-wide with discipline and academic achievement. Research shows that students who experience three or more ACEs score lower than their peers on standardized tests; are 2.5 times more likely to fail a grade; are 32 times more likely to be labeled as learning disabled; and are more likely to be suspended and expelled (Perfect et al., 2016).
There is limited research and literature on trauma-informed schools models at this time, however, it is growing and early findings from other trauma-informed schools initiatives have shown success including:
RESILIENCE & LEARNING IN THE NEWS
News about our project:
The NC Resilience & Learning Project is proud to partner with Dr. Katie Rosanbalm at Duke’s Center for Child and Family Policy for ongoing consultation and support as well as our research and evaluation partner.