Archive for the ‘Delaware Schools’ Category

Digging Deeper: The Shocking pervasiveness of ACEs and Trauma among Delaware Students

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Digging Deeper
“Digging Deeper” is a recurring feature at the Rodel blog where we take some data on Delaware public schools—and put it under the microscope. In the spirit of our Public Education at a Glance, we’ll present a straightforward look at the numbers, and search for some deeper meaning.

 

Delaware kids are experiencing trauma at alarming rates.

Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are alarmingly prevalent among Delaware’s children. One out of five kids in Delaware have experienced two or more ACEs.

However, it’s not just low-income kids or kids of color that are afflicted. Trauma and ACEs impact all children, regardless of race, socioeconomic background, or ability.

Trauma doesn’t stop at the schoolhouse doors, either. Educators grapple with the effects of trauma in the classroom, and ACEs can have a negative effect on the cognitive, social and emotional development of children. Trauma can have a significant impact on school performance, including school engagement and academic achievement.

The Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health created this brief on ACEs among Delaware kids. Below is a deeper look at what it says and what it means for Delaware kids.

A Look Across Delaware and the U.S.

The highest rate of ACEs is in Sussex County, with 26 percent of children experiencing two or more ACEs.

 

 

ACE is a term given to describe all types of abuse, neglect, or other traumatic experiences that happen to individuals under the age of 18 years old. ACEs surveys measure experiences such as living in poverty, divorce and separation, neighborhood violence, parent serving time in jail, racial discrimination, and domestic abuse. ACEs are often reported by adults, who are asked to recall their own childhood experiences. Researchers then cross-examine those results with any existing chronic conditions and economic outcomes of those being surveyed.

 

ACEs have the power to alter the course of childhood development and lifetime outcomes. Trauma and toxic stress can impact healthy brain development, leading to chronic issues, such as social, emotional, and cognitive impairment. Kids with ACEs are more likely to have chronic health problems and to have parents with poor health, according to the Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health brief on ACEs.

 

In Wilmington, more than one third (34 percent) of children report experiencing extreme economic hardship. That is nearly eight percentage points above the national average of 26 percent. More than 4,600 children living in the city of Wilmington reported having two or more ACEs.

We can prevent ACEs, and promote resilience.

The social and emotional development of kids sometimes falls by the wayside in schools. However, social and emotional learning (SEL), a focus on the whole child, and approaches to teaching that take into consideration the effect of a student’s environment and social factors are just some of the ways that ACEs can be prevented. As educators, parents, and service providers continue to grapple with children experiencing trauma, a stronger focus on SEL will be necessary.

  • Promote and encourage positive, protective childhood experiences. Protective childhood experiences (PCEs) counter the effects trauma by providing a buffer for toxic stress. This can include support from family and friends, a sense of belonging and acceptance, stability at home, and clear rules and expectations from parents. See more about positive childhood experiences in the report, Balancing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with HOPE.

 

  • Resilience to traumatic experiences matter, and so do preventative measures to trauma. Building resilience and establishing coping mechanisms is important for students living with trauma. However, an exclusive focus on resilience can miss the role vulnerability plays. Some children are more susceptible to chronic, toxic stress and trauma, particularly those that are living in poverty and others living in the margins of society. Alongside the individualized approach that PCEs offer, a focus on changing the social factors that contribute to trauma is essential. By mitigating the factors that place kids at risk of experiencing trauma and toxic stress, such as poverty and discrimination, we can take a more preventative approach to ACEs.

 

  • Bring trauma-informed practices into classrooms. A trauma-informed view shifts an educators thinking from “What is wrong with this student?” to “What happened to this student?”

 

 

  • Learn more about social and emotional learning by checking out the new Social and Emotional Learning Rodel offers an overview of the importance of SEL in schools, as well as brief exploring Delawarean educators’ perspectives on SEL.

When Kids Fall Through the Cracks, it Costs Taxpayers Double

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Investing in Education
It’s not just kids, parents, and teachers who feel the impact of our public schools. If you’re a citizen of Delaware, then you are—in one way or another—affected by our state’s education system. Check back regularly as we take a closer look at how When Students Succeed, We All Win.

With a budget deficit nearing half a billion dollars, Delaware needs to invest where it counts. The school-to-prison pipeline—which gets its name from the research-supported pattern that the more times a student faces in-school and out-of-school suspensions, the more likely they are to drop out of school and become incarcerated—is harmful for students and costly for the state.

 

An investment in education, coupled with efforts to make school more engaging and to make discipline policies more equitable will not only save lives down the line, but thousands of dollars as well.

 

Implicit Bias and Zero Tolerance Policies Fuel the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Students of color and students with disabilities are more likely to be suspended from school than their peers for minor infractions. In the 2012-13 school year, more than 18,000 students were suspended or expelled from school—that was 13 percent of the overall Delaware student population, according to Delaware Department of Education information obtained by the ACLU of Delaware. Often, these disparities are worsened by zero tolerance policies and implicit bias.

 

Zero tolerance policies require a one-size-fits-all approach to disciplinary infractions. They do not allow teachers and administrators to look at each situation on a case-by-case basis, according to this policy brief from Delaware Education Research and Development Center at University of Delaware.  These policies result in unfair suspensions and expulsions.

 

Implicit bias is the manifestation of unconscious racial prejudices and stereotypes that result in discriminatory or exclusive behavior. In the case of the school discipline, the result are far more referrals for students of color for disciplinary action, according to an issue brief from the Kirwan Institute.

 

Action You Can Take

 

  • Reach out to your school board to ask about discipline policies in your district.
  • Talk to your school leaders about programs that divert students from suspension and expulsion, such as restorative justice.
  • Parents should request for discipline data that is broken down by sub-groups to be available to the public. Using the data, we can see where discipline disparities exist and work to rectify them.
  • Students and parents should advocate for cultural competency training for educators at all levels. In order to curb the role implicit bias plays in the school-to-prison pipeline, school personnel should be able to recognize the role implicit bias plays in their interactions with all students.

 

As school districts and state officials tirelessly search for ways to save money, it is essential that we address the preventative measures that can be taken to keep kids out of the criminal justice system, and in school.

Funding is Fundamental to Progress

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With the state’s budget situation casting a cloud of uncertainty in education (and beyond), the time seems right to take a look at education funding through the lens of something that is more than certain—that student needs have changed drastically since our school funding formula was developed in the 1940s.

 

We often talk about an equitable, student-centered funding system as a standalone concept. But it’s not. It’s fundamental to ensuring the success of all types of students with a spectrum needs and interests.

 

A student whose native language is not English.

A student who changes school districts halfway through the year.

A student hoping to graduate high school with college credit.

A student who wants to supplement her traditional classes with online/distance learning and community experiences.

 

These are just four examples, highlighted below, of students that could benefit from the state transitioning to a more flexible, student-centered funding system. Most states use a foundation formula, where a base amount of money—rather than units—is allocated consistently for each student, to which funding can be added based on designated student needs, such as low-income, English learners, and students with disabilities. In other words, a student’s needs are taken into account as money is distributed.

 

Funding is Fundamental to… English learners

Since 1997, Delaware has experienced a 433-percent increase in English learner students. Yet Delaware is one of four states that does not provide additional resources for English learners, meaning districts and charters must cobble together other funding to meet legal requirements for serving English learners. In other words, a school with 100 EL students receives the same amount of state funding as a school with 10 EL students—$0. Dedicated funds for EL students could help districts and charters provide a wide array of services, including hiring additional certified instructors.

Last year, Rodel was one of 22 organizations that signed a letter urging the state to consider a more equitable, student-centered funding formula. These Delaware student narratives were developed to accompany this letter. Learn more at www.educationequityde.org.

 

Funding is Fundamental to…transient students

As a research assistant for the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration providing staff support for the Wilmington Education Advocacy Committee, I had the privilege of hearing testimonies from Wilmington parents, teachers, administrators, and community leaders. One challenge that stood out from their stories was the challenge of responding to students moving across districts. These effects may be most acutely felt in Wilmington, where moving just a few blocks can switch your school district – as it happened to me last summer – or for students with special needs who are entitled to certain services.

Funding is Fundamental to…college and career-bound students

There is a lot of momentum in Delaware for ensuring students graduate high school with credits/credentials and real-world experiences that set them up to success in whatever postsecondary path they choose. Today more than ever, there are more options available for students such as earning early college credit through Advanced Placement and dual enrollment courses, enrolling in a career pathway, or gaining work-based learning and leadership experience. But we have some work to do. We learned from the College Success report that we’re still not preparing enough young people for college coursework, and it’s possible that we’re not providing enough access to challenging courses to kids in high school, especially to students of color or students from low-income families.

 

We know that Delaware is one of about 15 states that does not allocate funding in its state formula for low-income students, which could be used for these purposes and others. While some districts may cover the costs of this offering this rigorous coursework, others may not be able to. As Mike Griffith, senior school finance analyst for Education Commission of the States, points out: “There are some states where high school students can take dual and concurrent enrollment and come out of high school with a free associate degree. And this is not a small group of elite students—but it’s open to every student. With an improved formula, your school will have greater flexibility to offer more after-school and summer school courses, and we can do so much more for our at-risk kids.

Funding is Fundamental to…personalized learning

I’ve also heard from members of the Rodel Teacher Council that the unit count funding system is one of the barriers limiting the state’s ability to scale up personalized learning models like innovative school design, reimagined teacher roles, and flexible course offerings for students. In their Student Centered Learning Structures policy brief, RTC members illustrate the connection between personalized learning and the state funding system through a fictional student named Maya.

According to RTC members in this brief, “In order for Maya and her classmates to have opportunities for online/distance learning, community experiences, and other activities related to their specific needs and interests, Delaware’s funding system will need to shift to be more student-centered.”

Funding is Fundamental to….all of Student Success 2025

Rodel is committed to supporting implementation of the Vision Coalition of Delaware’s Student Success 2025 recommendations, which are divided into six core areas including “Fair and Efficient Funding.” But it’s clear from the examples above that funding is not just a standalone core area of Student Success 2025. It affects our ability to implement recommendations across all core areas. Reevaluating how the state allocates its finite dollars could open up possibilities such as:

  • In “Educator Support and Development,” the full possibilities of implementing exciting educator career pathways are not outright hindered, but limited by barriers such as the unit count and teacher of record policies.
  • “System Governance, Alignment, and Performance,” recommends we provide LEAs with flexibility to “develop shared service arrangements” and other efficiency measures. At the moment, the state dictates what purposes units can be spent on, such as energy or behavioral health specialists, rather than provide support and incentives for efficient local resource decision-making.

 

For these reasons, Delaware’s funding system will continue to be a hot topic until we can ensure that state resources are being allocated in a way that most efficiently, equitably, and effectively allows all students to succeed.

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