"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Thumbs Up to a Gates Grant*

I would normally scoff at such a headline, but I'd wager that this small grant - $250,000 - has more promise than anything else the Gates Foundation is currently funding.

From WSU Today:
Gates grant helps WSU promote student success
Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010

By Judith Van Dongen
WSU Spokane

SPOKANE - A $250,000 grant awarded to WSU by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help elementary schools in eastern Washington deal with students affected by trauma, improving their chances of academic success.

The grant, which is part of the foundation’s Pacific Northwest Community Grants program, will fund a project led by the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) of eastern Washington, a unit of WSU Extension. The project will implement a school-based intervention model for students who have experienced multiple stressful disruptions, also referred to as complex trauma.

Adverse events that contribute to complex trauma include homelessness, parents’ divorce or separation, substance abuse by a family member, and witnessing or being exposed to violence, among others.

“Based on results from a survey we conducted among school professionals, we estimate that one in four children in Spokane elementary schools has experienced two or more traumas,” said Christopher Blodgett, director of AHEC and the principal investigator on the project. “We also know that these children are much more likely to fail academically, or experience attendance or other school behavior problems.”

Nationwide, complex trauma affects an estimated 25 to 30 percent of all children, a number that by far exceeds the capacity of the formal social and health services delivery system.

[Continued here]
As someone with experience working with children in a variety of settings, and ample time around children who have experienced a traumatic event, I do believe we can better equip schools to deal with the diverse needs of our kids.  As this article states (although I can't confirm it), 25-30% of children experience complex trauma.  That is a serious number of our children that are dealing with heavy issues at a very young age, and you better believe it impacts the classroom and learning environment.

* - As long as the program isn't evaluated primarily based on test scores.  The inclusion of some quantitative measures is certainly acceptable, of course.

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