Background and Need
Nationally, students who have a high ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) score are more likely to suffer long term health problems, perform lower in school, may have lower executive function skills, and need support coping with managing their emotions. ACEs range from physical, emotional, sexual abuse, to traumatic experiences, and childhood food insecurity (McLaughlin, 2016). These experiences, whether positive or negative can leave lasting effects on all parties involved. Most young students lack emotional strategies to cope with these incidents.
A study documents the fact that underserved English Learners, poor students, and students of color routinely receive less instruction in higher order skills development than other students (Allington and McGill-Franzen, 1989). A national survey says 61% of African American students and 51% of Hispanic students have at least a score of 1 on the ACEs Scale. While, only 40% of white students have a score of at least 1 (Sacks, Moore, & Murphey, 2014).
Rather than broaden the achievement gap, teachers are working to close it through a variety of methods. California has been using the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress since January 1, 2014 to assess student learning. CAASPP data in CA for 2018 shows that Hispanic (38%) and African American (32%) students struggle most to pass the ELA test in third grade; compared to 63% of white students passing (California Department of Education, 2018). Similarly Hispanic (38%) and African American (30%) students struggle to pass the math portion of the CAASPP test compared to white students (63%). Economically disadvantaged students have a pass rate of 36% on the ELA Test versus 69% of non-economically disadvantaged students (2018). Economically disadvantaged students have a pass rate of 37% and 69% for non economically disadvantaged students on math (2018).
At a Northern California school, where the study was conducted, there were 358 students enrolled. Of those students, 288 qualify for the free lunch program. The school also had the lowest attendance recorded for the 2017-2018 school year in the district. In 2018 seven percent of African American and 22% of Hispanic third graders passed the CAASPP test for ELA. Six percent of African American and 25% of Hispanic third graders passed the CAASPP test for Math. Of the 50 economically disadvantaged students tested for ELA in 2018, 22% passed. There were 53 economically disadvantaged students tested for Math, only 22% passed. However, of the non-academically disadvantaged students tested in ELA only 20% passed and 25% in math (California Department of Education, 2018). While these scores are close they do not match the pattern of the state CAASPP test.
All schools in the district are full service community schools. The school the study was conducted at holds family nights to promote resources available in the community, receives produce from the Solano/Contra Costa County food bank, has subsidized after school program, as well as Occupational and Speech-Language Therapy on site. The Academic Support Provider is able to refer students to the district clinic at another school site for dentistry and health check-ups. The school has a district psychologist, who comes twice a week, to run assessments to refer students for various services. Additionally, all schools in the district are Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support schools (PBIS). One aspect of PBIS works to teach students what is expected of them rather than to tell what not to do. For example, a student will be told that it is expected that everyone walks safely in the hallway as opposed to using a “no” or “stop” phrase like, “ stop running in the hall.” The school in which the study was conducted at is lacking a consistent check-in system for students to engage with a trusted adult.
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