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Program gives Spokane schools resources to help students rise above adversity


By Jim Allen, Thu., Oct. 24, 2019

Think of it as a well-school checkup.

On Tuesday morning at Bemiss Elementary School, educators and health professionals spoke enthusiastically about something called Resilience in School Environments, or RISE.

A collaboration between Kaiser Permanente and the Spokane and West Valley school districts, the RISE program is expected to lift up teachers and administrators and give them tools to cope with all the challenges of the modern student.

The challenges are many, as are the students – thousands of them in Spokane scarred by adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs.

They include physical, emotional and sexual abuse; emotional and physical neglect; living with a parent who’s an alcoholic or addicted to other drugs; witnessing the abuse of a mother; a family member in prison or diagnosed with mental illness; and a loss of a parent through divorce or abandonment.

A high ACE score is the second-highest predictor of academic failure, after a child being in special education classes.

According to national studies, more than 40% of children have dealt with at least one adverse childhood experience.

That can influence their overall development, impact their ability to learn and put them at increased risk for obesity and other chronic health conditions.

Children bring those problems into the classroom, where many teachers are ill-equipped to cope.

“That’s what piqued my interest,” said Rachel Sherwood, the principal at Bemiss, where eight of every nine children are on free or reduced-price meals and standardized test scores average the 20th percentile statewide.

Developed as part of Kaiser Permanente’s Thriving Schools initiative, RISE includes an on-the-ground regional coordinator dedicated to working with school staff, teachers, districts and the community to better understand the underlying factors of stress in schools and foster more positive school environments.

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