A setting that promotes social and emotional well-being and resilience is particularly important for students who face challenges at home or have a history of stressful or traumatic events in their youth, commonly referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Supporting students in this way can lead to better health and educational outcomes for individuals while also creating a positive school environment for all.
Resilience in School Environments (RISE)
New Kaiser Permanente program trains teachers to help traumatized students
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Some students come to school with bigger challenges than forgetting a pencil or having their dog eat their homework. They may be dealing with domestic violence, substance abuse, crushing poverty or other trauma that leaves them unable to learn as easily as their peers. A new Kaiser Permanente program is attempting to improve the chances for traumatized children in selected Riverside, Los Angeles and Orange county schools. “We’re retraining their brain and their nervous system how to feel that, how to feel safe,” Michelle Kurta told a classroom full of educators from Ina Arbuckle Elementary School in the Jurupa Unified School District. “Then, and only then, can they learn how to read.” Kurta, who works for the nonprofit Los Angeles Education Partnership, has been the coach for Ina Arbuckle staff during Resilience in School Environments Project (RISE) training. The program is funded by a two-year $2.5 million grant. Kurta’s hope is that, by the time the program ends, it will have made a permanent change in how Ina Arbuckle staff and teachers relate to their students “So that it becomes, not so much like all the teachers are doing ‘trauma-informed practice,’ but that it’s just how they do what they do.” In addition to Ina Arbuckle, RISE training is being offered to educators at Los Angeles Unified’s Parmelee Avenue Elementary, San Fernando Middle School and Young Oak Kim Academy; Inglewood Unified’s Hudnall Elementary and Morningside High School; and Santa Ana Unified’s McFadden Intermediate School and Cesar Chavez High School. Schools in Northern California, Colorado and Georgia also are participating in the program. “Our focus in first grade is learning to read,” said Ashley Cameron, who teaches first grade at Ina Arbuckle school. She went through RISE training in the summer. “You can’t expect a student to focus on learning and learning how to read and the different components of reading if they’re not feeling safe at home and safe when they come to school.” At Ina Arbuckle, the RISE training has been available to the entire staff, including custodians. “Instead of being reactive to students who were having emotional or behavioral issues, (we) can be proactive,” Cameron said. “Instead of just disciplining them, really understanding the root cause of why they’re acting like this and how we can help them manage those emotions.” During the first four months of the 2017-18 school year, Cameron believes she’s seeing an impact from the new training. “I have seen a lot of growth and progress, especially with students who are dealing with a lot of trauma in their lives. I’ve seen a lot of growth, especially with them being able to manage their own emotions,” she said. “And when they can manage their own emotions, they’re better equipped to handle stress and listen and learn to our classroom learning.” The RISE program is a natural outgrowth of Kaiser Permanente’s previous efforts to improve health at public schools, according to Roberta Tinajero, Community Benefit Manager at Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “We have been working with schools in the past several years on healthy food and physical activity,” she said. “We’ve heard from schools that they need assistance in the areas of emotional and physical wellness. We also know there’s a correlation between education, emotional wellness and physical health.” The company leaned on the Los Angeles Education Partnership for help identifying districts and schools that would be good candidates for the program. Once the program wraps up, Kaiser Permanente will look at whether student attendance and staff retention improved, whether discipline referral notices for students declined and whether surveys of the school community show a change for the better, Tinajero said.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) & Resiliency