Implementing a framework for creating trauma-sensitive schools
Massachusetts Advocates for Children is an advocacy organisation for children who face significant barriers to equal educational and life opportunities, particularly those who have disabilities, are low income and/or are racially, culturally, or linguistically diverse. Its Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI) is refining its Inquiry-Based Process to provide the necessary materials, resources and guidance to create safe and supportive, trauma sensitive-schools.
“We can never go back to the way things used to be”
– Assistant principal learning to implement TLPI’s inquiry-based approach
to trauma sensitivity
ABOUT THE ORGANISATION
Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC) partners with Harvard University on the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI) that is focused on ensuring that children traumatized by exposure to violence and other adverse experiences succeed in school. To accomplish this mission, TLPI engages in a host of advocacy strategies, including: providing support to schools to become trauma-sensitive environments; research and report writing; legislative and administrative advocacy for laws, regulations and policies that support schools to develop trauma-sensitive environments; coalition building; outreach and education; and limited individual case representation in special education where a child’s traumatic experiences are interfacing with his or her disabilities. Its website, https://traumasensitiveschools.org, contains a more detailed description of its work and links to two key publications, Helping Traumatized Children Learn, Vols. 1 and 2, that are available as free PDF downloads. These publications summarize research on the impact of trauma on learning and guide school teams through developing trauma-sensitive schools.
ABOUT THE OAK FUNDED PROJECT
With Oak’s support, the TLPI is coaching five Massachusetts demonstration schools as they implement TLPI’s inquiry-based process for creating safe and supportive, trauma-sensitive schools. Trauma-sensitive schools support all students, including those with learning differences, in four key areas: relationships; self-regulation; academic and non-academic competence; and physical health and wellbeing. The TLPI team is providing technical assistance to the schools, facilitating the school-level implementation and planning teams, and working with evaluators to monitor the culture change process and assess impacts on student and school-level outcomes. It will use information gained from its evaluation to improve and inform TLPI’s technical assistance, tools, and advocacy for policies that support a growing number of educators to engage in the process of creating trauma-sensitive school environments, both inside and outside Massachusetts.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
What have you accomplished through your Oak-funded programme that you’re most proud to share with your colleagues?
The development and sharing of the inquiry-based process to create safe and supportive, trauma-sensitive schools allows any school to address its own unique urgencies, and in so doing, develop a trauma-sensitive school. TLPI’s process-based approach allows schools to identify and address their unique urgent needs in a way that harnesses the creativity of all staff while integrating and aligning the multiple initiatives and programs that schools must implement.
What’s the most interesting challenge your Oak-funded programme currently faces?
Working with schools and students may not always proceed as planned. However, trusting in the school, the educators and the process ultimately leads to outcomes that are very positive. Change within any school must begin with those urgent needs felt by the staff, and the school must be given time and support to overcome local barriers to success.
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