North Carolina Resilience and Learning Project

Our Mission: To ensure the academic success and improve the social and emotional well-being of children impacted by trauma

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:

  1. Teaches and supports social/emotional or coping skills
  2. Builds a positive school climate where kids feel physically and emotionally safe so they can focus on learning

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:

  1. Teaches and supports social/emotional or coping skills
  2. Builds a positive school climate where kids feel physically and emotionally safe so they can focus on learning

Read the Committee on Trauma and Learning’s Full Report

The NC Resilience & Learning Project One-Page Infographic

THE RESEARCH

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.

ACEs include:

  • 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.

THE IMPACT

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 as students with trauma have more discipline referrals and suspensions, are more likely to be retained, have more school absences, and have lower test scores and academic performance.

EARLY FINDINGS

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:

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Suspension Rates by 30-90%
Office Referral Rates by 20-44%
Incidents of Physical Aggression After 1 Year by 43%
Suspensions After 5 Years by 95%
Student Depression Symptoms

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Students’ Ability to Learn by 28%
Time on Task While in Class by 27%
In School Attendance by 34%
Test Scores
Student Self-Esteem

OUR PROJECT

Our Project has two components:

  1. professional development for school-wide staff
  2. and the formation of a steering committee (called Resilience Team) that meets regularly and serves as the champions of this work.

Professional Development

In-depth Resilience Team trainings starting at the beginning of the year to provide an overview of trauma and the impacts on children and learning as well as provide guidance in brainstorming a wide variety of trauma-sensitive strategies that can be implemented in schools.

A two-hour, all-staff training will be provided in each school to give an overview of trauma, the impact on students, and how to create trauma-informed schools. This training is not just for teachers but for every adult in the school building who interacts with students including cafeteria workers, custodians, all administrators and student support staff, and all teachers.

Resilience Teams

Teams will be formed at the beginning of the process and should be made up of a variety of school staff including the principal, student support staff such as the guidance counselor or social worker, and teachers from various disciplines and grade levels.

Teams will meet bi-weekly and first work to identify areas of urgency within their schools that they see as common behavioral or academic challenges within their school. They will then begin creating and implementing school-wide, trauma-informed strategies. A Project staff member from the Forum will be a part of these meetings to provide coaching and technical assistance throughout the action planning process.

2017-18 PILOT YEAR

The Forum established two district partnerships for the 2017-18 pilot year:

  • Edgecombe County Public Schools
  • Rowan-Salisbury Schools

After district level conversations, schools were selected:

  • Edgecombe: Stocks Elementary School & Pattillo Middle School
  • Rowan-Salisbury: Koontz Elementary School

Work is underway in all three pilot schools; initial meetings with principals were held before school began, Resilience Teams for each school have been formed, and trainings have started and will continue through the early fall.

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