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Trauma-informed Pilot Project

Overview

Students are impacted profoundly by traumatic experiences, which affect their attendance and likelihood to graduate. A trauma-informed approach to education is designed to be a community response to support these students and their families. This includes policies and practices that create safe school environments and professional learning regarding the signs and symptoms of trauma, promote resiliency and wellness among students, their families, and staff, and reduce re-traumatization.

The purpose of the Trauma-informed Pilot is to identify replicable elements of a high school-based trauma informed approach to education, mental health, and intervention strategies. Findings from this pilot could provide guidelines to other districts and schools to implement trauma-informed practices in a more structured and systematic manner and to develop intentional partnerships with health partners in their local networks.

Pilot schools

The Chief Education Office received funding from HB 4002 (2016) and SB 182 (2017) to conduct the pilot with two high schools. The CEdO identified a small set of high schools that fit research-based criteria and invited those schools and districts to apply. The final applicants we divided into matched pairs and two schools were randomly selected: Central High School and Tigard High School.

Partners

The pilot program is directly administered in a joint partnership between the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), and the Chief Education Office (CEdO). A steering committee is composed of staff from the three agencies. One of the committee’s role is to provide recommendations to Chief Education Officer on pilot schools’ request for significant change(s) on Work Plan and budget. The Oregon School Based Health Alliance provides technical assistance to the pilot schools.

Project activities

Each month, CEdO/ODE and the technical assistance provider meet with a leadership team at each pilot school set up to build support system for trauma-informed implementation. The team consists of the school principal/superintendent, associate principal, head of counselor, dean of students, school psychologist, special program director, etc. Work that has been completed so far includes:

  • Trauma-informed school coordinator. Each schools hired a full-time Trauma-informed School Coordinator (TISC) with expertise in trauma-informed principles/practices, project management, and coaching. The TISCs are supported by a technical assistance provider and the Chief Education Office Research Team.
  • Professional development. At the start of the pilot, both schools provided all-staff training provided on trauma-informed topics by Multnomah County’s Defending Childhood Initiative. School coordinators provide ongoing support and professional development to all staff and facilitate the dissemination of trauma-informed practices.
  • Learning through cohorts. Each school formed a cohort consisting of a variety of educators (teachers, counselors, administrators) to learn and share trauma-informed principles and materials beyond initial all-staff training. Each cohort meets monthly and engage in a variety of activities, including developing and translating locally-driven trauma-informed strategies using rapid learning cycles, reviewing policies, procedures, and practices using a trauma-informed lens. CEdO is examining the cohort approach to disseminating the cohort’s learning to staff beyond the cohort. 
  • Systematic Implementation of Trauma-informed Practices. Schools developed and executed workplans to move the schools toward goals of becoming more trauma-informed on identified domains. A leadership team at each pilot school examines and aligns existing school programs, systems and structure to commit and support trauma-informed implementation.
  • Research and Data Collection Activities. Summative and formative data were collected from staff to examine for changes and document elements important for implementing trauma-informed practices school-wide. Data included attitudes toward trauma-informed practices, self-perceived (a) knowledge on foundational information about trauma, (b) understanding of intersection between trauma and equity issues, and (c) self-care and vicarious trauma. We are also examining student data, including academic data (e.g. attendance, discipline, and office referrals), health data from the Oregon Healthy Teens Survey and the Student Wellness Survey for trends.

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