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Failing Schools or Failing Paradigm ?

 Yes, money matters in Education. Money is absolutely necessary,  but money is Not sufficient.


A key variable has been missing from the discussions about a new Education Paradigm: Childhood Trauma. Childhood trauma is broad in scope and deep in neurological  impact.  It affects students in classrooms all across the country, but most urgent in urban settings.     The elephant in the room.


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Greetings All - I am jumping in as I have what may be a somewhat unique perspective on the topic of funding (or fueling) the work we are generally engaged in from within various roles. As a central office admin for 10 years I knew that content literacy (ie, reading, math, science, etc) was important. From a resiliency and asset management perspective, I also knew that learners impacted by trauma/neglect/ACE's were at a distinct disadvantage with peers who did not contend with such adversity.


In my role, I oversaw all the funding for multiple programs from a central office level. There are ways to fund training/support for staff which in some cases are defined within the law already. While not specifically stating it as "trauma-informed care" or referring to "ACE Study" research, funds are often earmarked within state and federal grants as allowable and advisable areas to train staff, such as:

1) supporting students with special needs to access learning environments (Special Education)

2) supporting All Certificated Staff to create supportive learning conditions (Title II, Improving Teaching Quality Grant)

3) breaking down barriers to communication and engaging families in the schooling process (Title 1 Parent Involvement)

4) supporting family engagement who experience language barriers (Title III/federal and STBIP/state funds)

5) regional mental and behavioral health funds (e.g., in some counties a "1/10th of 1% of sales tax fund exists specifically intended to create systems of care, train PreK-12 staff in such topics as trauma-informed care, and to provide acute care services and coordination to such services)


Of note, in Washington State there has been a recent change in what is known as the Learning Assistance Program, or LAP, funds. Consider the language in legislation and how this might open up conversations about how to use funds in accordance with the WA State legislative intent:


The new LAP law addresses the use of best practices and strategies as a way to increase student achievement. 

RCW 28A.165.035


Section (2)

Use of best practices that have been demonstrated through research to be associated with increased student achievement magnifies the opportunities for student success.


New LAP requirements stipulate that:

  1. OSPI convene a panel of experts to develop a menu of best practices and strategies proven to increase literacy in English Language Arts (ELA). Districts must select best practices and strategies from the ELA menu β€” available July 1, 2014 β€” and updated annually. RCW 28A.165.235 Section (3)
  2. OSPI convene a panel of experts to develop a menu of best practices and strategies proven to increase math literacy and address disruptive classroom behaviors β€” available July 1, 2015 β€” and updated annually. RCW 28A.165.235 Section (3)

There appears to be an opportunity to influence how the conversation around addressing "disruptive classroom behaviors" is positively influenced by staff within districts, across districts, and regionally so that the WA State legislative intent results in practices that align with what we are seeing as research and field evidence-based practice. For more information about this topic, I invite you to explore Washington's OSPI page on the new LAP requirements and timelines for providing a menu of best practices to which districts will be aligning. ( ).


The main point of my comment here is three-fold:

1) there are funds, but you need to know where to look, who to talk to, and when decisions will be made about how those funds will be spent

2) new directions in research re: supporting students, staff and families that did not exist do now - so educator yourself and be ready to make a (new) case for how those funds could be used

3) avoid the most common pitfall of all - either/or thinking - which asks you to believe that its either literacy OR trauma-informed training. Find ways to integrate the disparate research areas and synthesize why both/and thinking should prevail.

I would love to hear what experiences others have had (good/bad/ugly) in advocating for fund to be used in particular ways to build capacity through training, professional development, and/or community engagement. There is strength in just having the dialogue!


Steve Dahl 



Thank you Wendy !


I couldn't agree more regarding both teacher training and schools(and teachers in classroom)  providing social services.  


My post on "Do children have the right to be safe ?" contains a section on the U. S. Educational System shortfalls (vs. legal and healthcare systems).  In spite of seemingly being the most broad, most frequented, most convenient (neighborhood), and probably most crucial system to receive children in efficient  'brain states.   Acknowlegement of, and response to childhood trauma is weak, to non-exisitent, again,   "the elephant in the room"...

Last edited by Daun Kauffman

Thank you Daun for this insider's summary regarding the elephant in the room named TRAUMA. I have made the comment that really the public school is the largest social service agency we've got but nobody but me views it that way (I guess that sounds like a bleeding heart liberal). The remedies seem overwhelming, but your emphasis on an environment of safety instilled by training the adults make sense. As a mental health professional who has had some experience working in public schools, I have long wondered why teacher education does not require more basic psychology and social work type preparation. I think teacher education programs should require practicum rotations at residential treatment centers for kids and other community based programs that serve families living with toxic stress and trauma. It seems as evident as Maslow's Hierarchy to this psychology major: a kid simply is incapable of "putting on his thinking cap" when he is struggling to meet his basic needs.  Thanks again and I will continue to read and share your posts.

OK, got the link to work.  Thank you for sharing.  Results seem impressive !  


Would you fill in some blanks on total student population before/after ?  number of "engagement coaches" ?  class size before/after ?  have you gotten same results at other schools ?  Did you get the same results in 2013/2014 school year ?  Are you still there for 2014/2015 year ?  Did you share results/get response from SDP ?



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