Skip to content
Printer-friendly version

Text Transcription of Part 1 Bonnie Benard Video

Text transcription of Resilience, School Connectedness and Academic Achievement Video Presentation by Bonnie Benard.

The following is the text transcription for the presentation Part 1: Resilience, School Connectedness and Academic Achievement (WMV; 01:10).

Resilience, School Connectedness and Academic Achievement Video Presentation

June 2006
Sacramento, California

Table of Contents

Introductions

Jack O’Connell

Bonnie Benard

Anyway, it’s a real pleasure to be here and I thank you so much for showing up on a Friday morning, on a hundred and some plus degree day. It’s always a joy for me to be able to share what I guess has not only been my interest but my work and passion for I realize now it’s 20 years since I started getting involved in resilience research. That’s maybe why I have so many gray hairs. It’s really been my work to try and help people understand the findings from this research and how it can inform all of us who work with children, youth or their families, in helping to improve their lives. If we can take some of the lessons from this research and incorporate it into the work we are doing but especially in our schools. I think it’s the school environment that has really been a critical focus and interest of mine. I hope everybody got a packet. There is a packet of materials that has my slides. I’m going to do the first half of the presentation then we’re taking a break. Greg Austin is then going to share just what we’re doing with all this information from the California Healthy Kids Survey.

Return to Top

Resilience Research

Everyone has probably seen the outline which is pretty much what we’re going to be following. When I talk about resilience research I am really talking about long term developmental studies of how young people and as they follow people throughout the course of their life, young becomes middle aged, becomes older, but of how for our focus, especially on how young people have transformed risk and adversity in their lives into healthy development and school and life success. What we’ll see is those are so intertwined, the healthy development and the school and life success. These are studies that have really followed our student population, children that: are born into poverty, have grown up in communities with a lot of violence, living with families where there is substance abuse, a parent in prison, physical abuse, even sexual abuse, parents who have mental illness, also children in foster care, young people who have been in gangs, those who are cocaine exposed. I think when we look at how we’re going to close the achievement gap, we’re going to have to look at what we’ve learned from this research on how we can support their healthy development. The good news is in supporting the healthy development. The good news is that in supporting the healthy development and life success of challenged young people we are really helping all kids.

There are several international studies over the last 40 years. I think probably now I could change that slide to say 50 years. What we’ve learned is that when we focus on providing young people with the supports they need for healthy development that at least 70 percent, and that’s kind of the average figure, a little less in some studies, a little more in others, no study of any at risk population, even multiple risk factors, has really ever found that less than 50 percent of the young people don’t grow up and be successful in their lives. It doesn’t mean they don’t have challenges. There’s probably nobody here that doesn’t experience challenges. The figure has never really been less than 50 percent. When I came across these studies in 1986, they focused on what are we finding in the research that can support practitioners that answers the eternal question we’re always asking, “What works?” To me these studies really answered the question of what really happens. It’s not what happens six months after our program ends or maybe two weeks after our program ends or even five years, but what really happens in that course of a life? It still remains the gold standard of research. I’m going to show you one study; some of you may know it. How many are pretty familiar with resiliency? I mean we live down the road from Emmie Werner. Emmie is a professor of meritus and maybe has fully retired by now. When she did the study she was a professor at UC Davis. This study called the Kauai Study still remains like the gold standard. I always show this to people because there’s so much that you learn when you look at this research. We talk about caring adults or things that sound very fluffy. I always find it’s very helpful for those who like numbers or prefer to see things laid out to show, graphically some of the numbers and statistics.

This study, which was a public health study, began in 1955 and ended in I believe 2000. As far as I know it’s over now. Werner started looking at the question in a whole population, how many children are at risk? Believe it or not, in the 50’s they were using that concept. She decided to go to a place where she could follow a whole community and that was the island of Kawaii. She started with 700 babies born in the year 1955. It was all the children on the island. What she found was that a third of them were born with one to four risk factors that included poverty, and this is her language, parental discord which included domestic violence, abuse, parental psychopathology, that included parental mental illness, as well as alcohol abuse and peri-natal stress. Children born prematurely, born low birth weight; one of those alone is a very powerful risk factor. She also did like a little sub-study of children that had all four of these. She found about a tenth of her population had all four. It was a very multi-cultural population. It wasn’t why she went to the islands. In those days Kawaii was not a state. It was easier to get court records, police records, so it’s a very scientifically well done study with lots of measurements.

For all of us that work in schools probably the most important follow-up book published in 1992 is called “Overcoming the Odds: I think the sub-title is High-Risk Children Grow Up.” What she found, if you can see those little pieces of pie there, is that its to be expected from what we know from risk research, is that with those children born high risk as babies with multiple risk factors, she found that about two-thirds of them as adolescents were in trouble. They were delinquent, had mental health problems, or were pregnant as teenagers. One of the side effects was dropping out of school. Werner really had the eyes to see that there were a third of those children at adolescence that should have been in trouble, actually not only didn’t have any of these problems, but in her words had become competent, confident and caring teenagers. By knowing what had gone on in their lives, this is a study that wasn’t only quantitative but also interviewed people, got case studies, that qualitative piece that really could inform what was going on in these children’s lives. Werner had the eyes to see youth as resilient and was really the very first people to use the word resilience. She continues to follow this population, the first follow up at age 18 was “Vulnerable but Invincible” and that was a book published in 1982. When I looked for it in 1986 it was out of print. Somehow the time was not right for this perspective.

I had to go to the Illinois state library to get the copy I could use. So it follows these people age 32 she publishes the book “Overcoming the Odds” and I think that’s the Resilient Children Grow Up. What she uncovered was actually a similar statistic that was found 10 years later, when she followed these individuals from age 32 into middle adulthood at age 41 and that’s her book “Journey’s from Childhood to Mid-Life: Risk Resiliency and Recovery'. What she basically found if you look at that orange piece of pie is that two thirds of the high risk adolescence had really overcome their challenges and had become in her words again competent, confident, and caring adults. Of course that’s nice language and its based on psychometric measurements but she also looked at their ability to stay in a long term relationship or marriage, whether they held jobs or were living on welfare at the time and most importantly what had happened to these children who had been abused and as they grew up were they part of that intergenerational cycles of abuse. She found that they had become loving parents, so um that’s a pretty phenomenal finding.

It’s really what most of these studies have found. I always liked to look at it graphically. If she were here or if you read her book, she would tell you that only one in six of the people that she followed that had the multiple risk factors were in real trouble as adults. Ok that doesn’t mean people didn’t have challenges with depression or other things but by the counts of adult success, being good citizens, caring parents, they had “made it”. So this is representative of many of the other findings, I think there are probably a lot of messages for us. One of them however that’s so important is that when we look at children with risk factors or high risk kids, or high risk families, or high risk communities, is to know that their risk factors really don’t predict what’s going to happen to them. They are far less predictive than the protective factors that all of us through our work can help put into the lives of children and their families. If 70 percent of them on the average are making it, that’s telling us that risk is probably predictive of 30 percent. This really makes the case for the need to find out what made the difference and let’s stop trying to identify and label the people we work with. It also tells us the behaviors that we deal with that are very challenging in education and elsewhere really don’t predict people’s capacities to change.

Return to Top

Resilience in Action

Emmie talks about resilience as a self righting mechanism. I really like to think about it as the capacity that every person has to transform and change. It’s really never too late. Probably what’s really important to all of us trying to get more specific about it what this means is that it does name specific personal assets or strengths that are associated with life success. It seems if we were concerned about helping our kids we would want to know what strengths can help them in life and make sure that we’re incorporating that into our schools. More importantly what it names are the environmental supports and opportunities that we call protective factors. We also call them external assets. They’re called by lots of different names, but really they name the supports and opportunities that help young people develop those personal strengths that in turn support their life and school success. This is kind of a simple way to look at it. I think it really does offer us clear direction about what we need to be doing. What it also does is lay out what I call a theory of change. You could also see it as a diagnostic tool. It does lay out a framework for we need to be aiming for and the points of intervention that we should be targeting. It tells us that basically if we want positive prevention, and that means preventing young people’s involvement with dropping out of schools, getting involved with drugs, getting pregnant etc, all the things that challenge them to do well in school. If we want those positive prevention and education outcomes, where we need to start, is by making sure that in our schools, we incorporate the developmental supports and opportunities they need to succeed.

This is the little piece we’ll talk about. We know when we can provide these supports and opportunities that meet young people’s developmental needs. What we see are positive developmental outcomes in our young people all associated with life success. This is a real simple model, if you were to look at Casel the Collaborative Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning you would see somewhat of a similar model. If you looked at Search Institute, there are all kinds of different ones. They basically start with the developmental supports and opportunities and kind of a role out in this direction. What we know, and what we’re going to talk about here in the next few minutes, is to focus in looking at schools. This doesn’t say schools alone. It says schools with families and communities can do all of this.

But we’re going to focus our attention on what is it we know about what we can do in schools. I’m going to bring in some of the educational literature that I think maps really well and what we’ve been learning lately about high performing schools, and how well it maps to these resilience research findings. I’m always reminded, when I started working in prevention and education in 1982, Ron Edmonds. How many have heard of Ron Edmonds? I think he’s kind of the grandfather of effective schools research which is what we’re still doing. How do we serve those minority children and help them be successful in our schools? What Ron Edmonds said in 1986, I think this was his book “The School Achievement of Minority Children”, a fairly classic article is that “A school can create a coherent environment, a climate more potent than any single influence, teachers class family, neighborhood, so potent that at least six hours a day it can override almost everything else in the lives of children.”

To me what we’ve seen in resilience research which we never I’m sure knew at the time, is that it is so, so true. What we find identified probably the most often in these long term studies is that the power of a school to be that turnaround place. Moving ahead 20 years when we start taking resilience research and looking at the achievement gap, which wasn’t a term we were using 20 years ago; this is really how the question is now framed. This is from a great article; Manpower Research Development Corporation is doing a lot of these evaluations and studies. I’ll be citing other ones studying what are the core characteristics of these schools that are being successful in closing the achievement gap for high risk kids. The question, I thought it was a very diplomatically framed question is, “what are the key factors that promote academic success among students whose demographic characteristics and school circumstance place them at a high risk of failure?” So it’s still that same question. How do we succeed with children with lots of challenges? What we find, and this is over and over, key findings from resiliency research said, I hope I will show you also are what we’re finding in the current school effectiveness research, is that there are three really big supports and opportunities. We can break them down and you know they get called by different names. But children absolutely and probably more than anything else in their lives need caring relationships.

I was driving up here today, it might have been the Sacramento NPR station, I don’t know if anyone heard it but I just got, I finally got the station right as they were finishing talking about a finding that only one in four people now have somebody they can talk to in their lives. Did anyone hear that? They said compared to ten years ago there was twice that and ten years before that it was more. This is people have written about it using the concept of social capitol and things similar to that. It’s really this social support connection that we all need. High expectations, it’s such a loaded word. Now we’ll break this down a little more. It’s really having people who believe in you. If you want to boil it down, who believe in you and want you to be successful. I like to think of them as child centered high expectations. Then the last really critical protective factor is having those opportunities for meaningful participation and contribution. To have things that you really get engaged in, that grab you, that connects you somehow to a bright future.

Let me say a tad more about it, when we look in the studies and what’s really helped inform resilience research findings is that a lot of the qualitative studies now that are asking young people, well you know at your school you know what do you think helps you be successful. The young people are always talking about it. A teacher, somebody who cares about them somebody who motivates them you know, if it wasn’t for Mrs. so and so I wouldn’t come to school. So a lot of this language not only comes from the research but also from young peoples voices. They’ll talk about somebody whose there for them. The idea of loving support, people who even show an interest in them, who get to know them, not just as a student but as a whole person, who have compassion for what they’re dealing with, who listen to them, who have patience and who basically help them feel a sense of basic trust and safety at school. High expectations, elaborating a little more here, is probably as I said first and foremost is having the belief that the young people can, the young person can overcome whatever challenges they have even if it’s getting a bad grade. It’s that encouragement that you know you didn’t do good on that one but you can do better on the next. Respect, it’s about challenge and support. You can do it; I’ll be there to support you. It’s a firm guidance and that includes structure. Our kids are very desperate to have structure. They like structure with ritual so things are clear they know what the expectations are. It’s being strengths focused.

Helping our young people discover their strengths, not just where they are you know screwing up, but what are the strengths that they have that can help them. People that basically tell them, when I say teaching resilience, is teaching them that they have the capacity to bounce back. This is one throw back in their life journey now but they can persist. Those who basically help reframe their self image from being an at risk person to a person with promise. Ok meaningful participation and this is also a very loaded sort of category and this is about having a safe place that you feel like you belong. You feel like you’re included and a member of a community; that you have a responsibility to this community.

Return to Top

Developmental Supports and Opportunities

People like to say “voice and choice” which I think is a great way to say it, that you have opportunities to make decisions, that activities are child initiated. A word from the famous Perry pre-school studies of how young people in poverty were able to be successful in their adulthood used the term child initiated. We often talk about youth driven experiential skill development. They’re able to develop skills in the context of real life experiences. They have the opportunities to contribute to others and their families, school, or community. They have peer support. Those are the big things that seem to really emerge. I’m going to show you kind of the connections between this current school effectiveness research. What I’d like to start with is what some of the young people say, and I’ve been doing focus groups we’ll talk a little more about this over the last four years and have done focus groups with hundreds of students where, we really explore these protective factors. Asking in their language, how do you know for example that an adult in your school cares about you? It’s always out of the mouth of babes, its so amazing what they say.

We did a little qualitative analysis, I think Robin did one a few years ago oh but this is one of our last six workshops. When we ask young people and these are middle and high school students, there are about 43 in all how do you know a teacher or an adult in your school cares about you? What do they say and do? The most frequent response was that the adult simply says hello and knows my name and greets me using my name. I mean it seems like not too expensive of an intervention. The next most frequent response was that the teacher or adult asked the student how he or she is doing, inquiring not just about school work but the home life as well. Ok the third, and I just went for the top three we heard most often was that the adult was a good listener and that he or she set high standards expecting responsibility from the student but praising success and encouraging the students through their set backs. Then when we ask about high expectations, we really just went after the idea of having somebody believe in you, how you know when somebody believes in you? This is the one that always amazes people and we do a lot. We try to get court or community day school or continuation school students you know people don’t usually have the high expectations for them. We try to get as many of those as we can in our groups.

But here’s the most common response in terms of belief was that the adult offers encouragement making it clear that the student can succeed so they have some hope and some motivation. The next most common response was that the adult does not coddle or baby the student but supports the student while maintaining high expectations. Then the third comment was really about finding out what they’re dreams were. What their goals they had for themselves and their life. Trying to help connect what they were doing in school to their own personal goals. Then the last one when we looked at meaningful participation, we had to break it down into three different types of questions. The first one was what would make school more fun and interesting for you and your friends? What are those things that engage you? What would you like to do in your school? The number one response was group projects and hands on activities in the classrooms. That’s what they loved. They range from science experiments to working with somebody you know on a project, a cooperative learning project.

Then the second one was a request to have social clubs and music at school. Some of them said "like we used to have." That also included, they really wanted to “mix it up." That meant doing things with their teachers, such as games and things like this, but also with students of other clicks, and also younger or older students. They didn’t like how segregated they felt. The last response was they wanted more sports teams, athletic clubs. They wanted to be able to do it. They didn’t want it for just a few people but they want it to be kind of intramural. Just do those kinds of fun things, and there was almost a tie between that one and they wanted more field trips especially that focused on careers visiting workplaces and that.

So it’s very interesting because this is what young people say. We’ll come back to it because in many ways what they’re saying is so much what the research is finding. I’d like to start with their voice. What they’ve said to us is really what evaluation research, and this has been the focus during the 80’s or 90’s, we looked a lot at what are approaches that are getting good academic as well as positive developmental outcomes in our young people. Whether that’s avoiding the alcohol or whether it’s having empathy for other people. So many studies on adventure learning, what we call experiential learning, art space learning, service learning, small group or cooperative learning, project based learning, mentoring, helping others, peer helping, and school to work programs. All of these found very broad holistic outcomes as well as in many of these approaches specific kids did better on academic outcomes, specific kids did better on academic outcomes and on standardized test scores. They didn’t drop out of school. The research is all varied and in most areas there’s some kind of meta-analysis to look at a whole bunch of studies that had different quality of rigor. You see in all of these and it’s interesting because to me what young people are saying so much is exactly what these studies have found. But moving forward a little bit and this is the National Research Council Institute of Medicine, they did a part on the National Academy of Science, when they looked at what are the characteristics, this is the title of the study, Engaging Schools: Fostering High School Students’ Motivation to Learn. I guarantee these people don’t know the resiliency research. We all work in different areas. But the first thing they find is personalization of school experience.

This says to me caring relationships, making connections, high and clear standards, that high expectation piece, meaningful and engaging pedagogy and curriculum. Many of those we just looked at. What we will look at certainly is, none of these things, no school-based intervention will be successful unless we have professional learning community for the adults. So anyways that’s what that study found. That’s a 2004, a wonderful body of research, there’s all kinds of studies that are part of this, is the work of Anthony Burke, at the University of Chicago. Before I show you what he found you know it’s always great when these researchers when someone interviews you and then they speak in real people language. He said basically we’re finding out about not forgetting the people, I think is really easy for researchers to do. That school is first and foremost a social experience. What they found is that schools that they looked at and this is a very large body of research and they work with University of Wisconsin researchers on this too is that schools that had what they call relational trust and you can see how they defined it; through care, respect, competence and integrity, among the students, teachers, administrators and parents were the schools that were promoting academic achievement. These are in poor communities in Chicago and they found schools with high trust levels are three times more likely to report gains in reading and math scores. What we’re trying so hard to do in our schools under the No Child Left Behind. Schools in the top quartile on standardized tests had higher levels of trust. So either way they came at it. Anyway I think this is, I tried to pick ones that I think are the most rigorous, and have types of studies that support this.

Another one is the project and high performing learning communities and this is done by Robert Felner, who is a professor at the University of Rhode Island and also a member of the Carnegie, Adolescent Development Task Force. If you remember the reports Turning Points, actually all of these that they did in the 80’s and 90’s. But his intervention, which included, or it was evaluation, looking at schools and what were the ones that were reducing drop out rates and improving academic achievement for children found that small learning communities and part if this it doesn’t say it here but with having that faculty advisor. These are high schools, where there was a core academic program, high expectations for all students, professional development for the staff, and that had a mission of fostering health and safety for all student and school community members. That’s a little different take on some of these findings, different studies engages families in the education of their students and created a strong community and school to work linkages. All of these you can see over and over in these studies. What he found was the two most powerful components of his project were the small developmentally supportive communities and providing the teacher advisory for each student, that reduced dropout rates 40-50 percent or more in some schools. Ok, I thought that was a good one.

Actually, our colleagues at West Ed. Katherine Walcott, Rose Owens-West, if any of you know them, just recently in 2005 did a really a review of all this literature on high performing learning communities, that’s the new term. Their report is called “High School Reform National and State Trenos”. I thought this was also fascinating. As much as we’d like to think our colleagues are really into youth development, and resiliency and all this stuff that really isn’t the case. They work in their other; you know we have a lot of different silos like everybody does. But it’s interesting when you look and see what they found. Here’s what they found supported high performance. It was a set of high expectations and a rigorous curriculum to support it. A variety of instructional strategies that engaged students and connect them to real world applications, strong connections between students and staff. I mean right there I see the three protective factors.

Leadership in a school culture that is mission driven and focused on helping all students learn. Once again that professional community of faculty and other staff that focuses on teaching and learning and building capacity to close the achievement gap. The last point, also part of caring and support, is to provide the additional supports for students who need them. So that was a, that was just a 2005 summary of so much of the literature that’s out there. This just might be the last one. There’s a whole lot more in fact. I think I just have two more I’m going to show you.

But this is another, this one I just received last week published in May from Man Power research development corporation, that did an evaluation of it has been evaluating three very popular, I think they’re being used in over 2,000, yeah over 2,500 high schools are using these school reform models, Career academies, First Things First and Talent Development. Who here is working with like whole school, high school reform, anybody? We got one person, good. In looking at what are the lessons we’re learning from these approaches, and these are very large cities in all across the country, and this was really the concluding statement by this researcher. The overall message of this synthesis is that structural changes to improve personalization, and instructional improvement, and which he didn’t say in this sentence was to further student engagement, are the twin pillars of high school reform. So once again I personally, and maybe I’ve been living and breathing these protective factors too many years. But I see them in all of this research.

One last one, and this is a person also Man Power Research Development Corporation article published in January, looked at student engagement, which was defined as level of participation and intrinsic interest in school, and found when that was combined with students who perceived that they were academically competent, Defined as positive feelings about ones ability to be successful academically, that those two components are what accounted for in her research achievement in reading and math. This was her conclusion, once again not from resilience research but you think it was, she said, “the findings make clear, supportive teachers and clear and high expectations about behavior are key to the development of both student engagement and perceived competence. The study also makes the case that student engagement is enhanced by learning activities that involve student-to-student interaction.”

Ok, there’s lots more I read one yesterday that was talking about authoritative schools that were “authoritative' vs. 'authoritarian' or laissez fair. When they define what authoritative was, it was warmth plus guidance plus psychological autonomy granting. Once again you can see these supports over and over and the good news is that these aren’t add on programs. They don’t have to be add on programs. There are some programs, programmatic approaches you know like service learning, which does seem to incorporate a lot of this. This is a handout you all have. It’s a chart I created from a wonderful researcher at UC Berkley, Rona Weinstein who’s really written a lot on high expectations in schools. I kind of adapted this myself. What you see in this little handout is that this is something that focuses moving to a resilience perspective and providing these supports and opportunities. Yes it’s something that happens in the relationships, it’s relational, something we can do, and schools can do with their students, their teachers, their parents. It’s a focus on relationships that are caring and encouraging and participatory. Also is reflected in teacher behavior and attitudes and this is kind of the right side here. Look for strengths in each student as opposed to trying to find all the problems but also convey the message that the work you’re doing here is important and I know you can do it and I won’t give up you it’s also conveyed in our physical environment and we get a lot of discussion in our focus groups about bathrooms at school.

In fact, I was just reading an article in a British newspaper this week, I guess there was some big international conference on the physical building of schools and certainly when you look at so many of them they definitely have a prison like feel to them. When schools aren’t painted and the bathrooms aren’t clean, there’s no toilet paper, there’s no soap, it is a definite message about how we value our students. So there’s a message conveyed there. Curriculum and instruction and this are certainly a very rich area. This is talking about integrated, experience based instruction. That uses curriculum that does reflect the cultures, and amazing cultural diversity of our students. Where college core classes are available to all but there is a broad variety, everybody has different strengths that include having vocational, career, technical education. Where a broad range of learning styles accommodated and certainly includes that old word of constructivist approaches. Where still we acknowledge our students, our meaning makes. How we group our students also convey can be a risk based message or resilience based. Certainly the heterogeneous untracked groups, cooperative groups, innovative programs, schools within schools, all of these. Anyway you all can go down and read all of this yourself. I don’t need to read them to you. But in all these of these, these are things schools do, we do them. These are the components and these are the aspects of schooling and we have a choice in how we do them. Let me just say, that last one of discipline. We hear over and over that students want fair and consistent discipline. They want it school wide they don’t want one thing to be ok in this class and not ok in another class. They really would like to have things like peer courts, and have a role in some of the behavioral expectations, in creating them in their schools, to have a voice. They really like things like what we call restorative approaches where young people aren’t just booted out if they’re using drugs for example what we call zero tolerance. But actually you know meet in small groups with people that are affected by their behavior and work out something that keeps the young person connected and responsible. These are things we can do everyday.

There’s lots more strategies. I just want to acknowledge the wonderful work of the Safe and Healthy Kids Program Office and their Update #5 on Student Health Supportive Schools and Academic Success. There’s a whole lot more research. I want to quote this wonderful statement by Superintendent O’Connell who said, “I believe that we can address the social, emotional and health issues facing youth at the same time that we maintain our focus on academic success.” That’s the message that this is all the same person and these all go together. Supporting a young person in all aspects of their life is supporting them to do well academically. This remains one of my very favorite quotes said by Nel Noddngs, I think when she was the dean of Stanford. Basically what we’re talking about here is, “when the traditional structures of caring have deteriorated, that schools must become places where students and teachers talk to each other and take delight in each other’s company. My guess is that when schools focus on what really matters in life the cognitive ends we now pursue so painfully and artificially will be achieved somewhat more naturally.”

Return to Top

Developmental Needs

A big lesson I have to tell you, this was written in 1998; it is obvious the children will work harder and do things even odd things like adding fractions for people they love and trust. So it’s just that little common sense that isn’t real easy to get into policy. I’ve spent most of my time talking way down here at the left end, because that’s the point of our intervention and education. But I want to just play out the rest of this model so it has some logic and makes some sense to you. When we provide those supports, we are really meeting young people’s developmental needs. Another word for that is that we’re engaging their intrinsic motivation. You can call all of these needs, you can change what they’re called, people use different terms but our young people are motivated when they feel safe, when they feel loved and cared about and feel like they belong, when people respect them, when they have some power, when they’re challenged. They want challenge, when they can experience mastery or competency and when things make sense, when there’s meaning. When what they’re doing has some relevance to their life and the future they want for themselves.

So what is really important to me about talking about developmental needs or intrinsic motivation is that at the core of really fostering youth development is the belief that people are driven by these needs and that these are intrinsic forces, which do motivate us. Sometimes when people understand that, when teachers understand it, it’s easier to take that challenging kid in the back of the class you know like that not so personally. Maybe you this is somebody who doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t feel like there’s a place for them. What the big question for youth development practice is how are we meeting our students’ needs? For schools this means in our classrooms. It’s another way to kind of look at this model, well we can evaluate it. How are we promoting those protective factors. But another way is how are we making our students feel safe? And students are happy to tell you, they have great ideas for this. And what’s happening which is really kind of new for the whole perspective, is there’s a whole field of research now called positive psychology. Martin Sullivan, I don’t know if that name rings a bell to anybody. They’re doing all this research on these “human needs' and coming up with so much research that shows when kids feel like they belong it’s associated with life success. I mean you could take any one of those needs. What they’re actually starting to call these human needs is powerful protective adaptational systems. Which is a fancy word but it is elevating what was before just you know Abraham Maslow’s theory of William Glacier’s theory, its really elevating it in terms of constructs that are driving human behavior and that means our students behavior as well. I actually think, I haven’t really given you too much of a definition of resilience.

Resilience is part of our developmental wisdom that really takes the form of these intrinsic drives. When we can meet them in a positive way our kids thrive. When we don’t do it anyone think of some kinds of organizations that actually kids turn to? Gangs, absolutely the first thing I think of about you go down and you can say gangs do that, gangs do that. They don’t do it in a healthy way but they are meeting those needs. Thinking I had to bring in, as controversial as “brain science” is, I think there’s enough of it to show that when children feel threatened by their environment and realize at one time and this was the Oakland Paul Breckenmeiser, when he was head of Oakland Unified student support services said that 40 percent of his students at his schools were in foster care. Then I read other studies of high percentage of students in a classroom could be literally labeled PTSD (Possibly Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). We’re saying we’re supposed to be teaching these children when they feel threatened everywhere they go. If we can’t create our classes as safe places then learning isn’t going to happen. These brain researchers, who I’ve always really liked Renada and Jeffrey Kane, said that when children feel threatened by their environment they down shift. As if they’re thinking into a more fight or flight mode. They really aren’t accessing then their higher order thinking creativity. They use that term 'down shift' thinking versus “self efficacious' thinking which they said when children experience environments that engage their sense of self efficacy, their sense of power that activates their higher order thinking and learning and creativity.

There’s enough of that all that brain research out there to say if we feel safe we can learn. We create these caring environments that meet young peoples needs what do we see next in this basic logic model is that we are basically promoting the kind of holistic outcomes that the California Department of Education cares about and that’s kids social development, emotional development, their cognitive or intellectual, and I call it the moral-spiritual, I don’t know if there was another term they used here. By this I mean feeling a sense of connection and meaning to your life that you feel like you have a place and a role in this world.

This is basically just a little graphic. Our children are that whether we like it or not we can’t just work with their brains. In fact if kids feel like all you care about is how they’re doing on a test they don’t care about coming to school. So we know that when our children are whole and we can create learning experiences and environments that give them the opportunity to be social to be emotionally self reflective, to move around, to be physical, to engage higher order thinking, and creativity and to do things that are meaningful, that’s where we see the good outcomes. What has been very exciting as many of you people know that ASCD this last year created a commission on the whole child. That is one of their big pushes.

Return to Top

Developmental Outcomes

There’s a great report it’s written by Bud Hodgkinson, Harold Hodgkinson from the Institute for Educational Services. They asked him to write a white paper. A wonderful document and Jean Carter the head of ACD wrote this in the introduction. Hodgkinson said, “If stake holders believe schools are responsible for developing the whole child what needs to change? If decisions about programs started with ‘what works for the child?’ how would resources- time and space be arrayed to ensure each child’s success? What would happen if community resources were arrayed in support of children reaching their potential as young adults? If students were truly at the center of the system what could be achieved?” I thought that was so, very beautifully said. This is what could be achieved and this is what I found in looking at so much of these resiliency studies. When children do have those protective factors they develop all of these personal strengths. We don’t have time to talk about them now. They really have social strengths, cross cultural competence, empathy for others, and a sense of humor, all of these that have a lot of wonderful research that shows that this is really connected with kids being successful in their life.

We know they develop cognitive skills, planning skills, being able to see alternatives, critical thinking, resourcefulness, and emotional skills. These are all a sense of self whether you call it self efficacy or a positive identity, initiative, mastery or competency. Self awareness and sometimes resistance, and lastly I call this category moral spiritual, but that sense of purpose, future and all of these words having goals, imagination, achievement motivation, educational aspirations, persistence, optimism, faith, sense of meaning. All of these are associated with kid’s life and school success. This gives me kind of an idea then, when we can break it down, how we want to look for our kids, it’s another way to use this model as kind of a diagnostic tool that says well how is this what I’m doing in my classroom, promoting kids empathy.

Daniel Golman, the big emotional intelligence guru, says empathy and self-awareness are two major things that successful adults all have. How are we doing this, so it’s another way to come at it. I do want to remind everybody all of this research and I’ve tried to bring it out it associated with positive prevention and education outcomes. I want to point out another study, it’s a lot of really nice research coming out of this whole concept of school connectedness, that’s been generated by a congressionally mandated study called the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. Lots of researchers, they got billions of dollars to do their work all over the country. What they basically found is that when young people, when students feel connected to either their family or their schools that is protective against every health risk behavior measure. That is suicidality, teen pregnancy; there are sixteen or seventeen of these measures. That was one of their first studies in 1997. What they’re now finding when they look at academic performance they’re basically finding the same thing. When young people feel connected to school, that they belong, and that teachers are supportive and treat them fairly they do better. These are all of their components that they look at. There are lots of studies coming off of this. I want to kind of summarize, what are the implications for education policy and practice.

Return to Top

Implications for Policy and Practice

All of these things we’ve talked about we should be doing. The real message is that we need to focus on how we do what we’re doing. All of you come from different places, some of you might be curriculum and instruction and working in high performing learning communities and others of you are working in prevention, others in community day school. If we can get the message across that it’s not just about a strategy or intervention, but that it is about everything we do has to involve relationships. We need to focus on this. I have to say it’s very seldom that relationships show up as something that should have a professional development. What I did was take the 11 strategies for comprehensive school reform that you’re focusing on here at California Department of Ed. We could only get one two three four five six on the slide. We talk about things like having high quality professional development. Absolutely that is so critical. Then it has to be what does that look like. What should we be focusing on?

I’m saying lets spend equal time for putting this kind of approach making it something having measurable goals and benchmarks. If this is important shouldn’t we have measurable goals and benchmarks around caring relationships? Are kids feeling like they’re believed in, or having opportunities to participate? We look at parent and community involvement, which is absolutely critical. What does that mean? Well it says parents need to be treated in this same way that we are hoping our students will be. With care and respect and having roles to contribute. So it’s kind of good news and bad news. You don’t have to have another curriculum. It’s not a program; it is about how we do what we do. Another implication, and this one is probably the most challenging of all, is that in many ways the resiliency, and getting kids connected to school, this whole approach, does start with having adults in the system that are in relation to our kids as teachers, school staff, principals, whatever, that they really do believe in their kids. Now this is a big challenge. That kind of starts the model. It’s hard to care, tell kids you believe in them and give them opportunities to be heard if, you don’t believe in them. So how do we do this? This is the real challenge.

I do want to read what a fellow study found. Corbit and Wilson are two researchers studying for several years’ school reform in Philadelphia. In the conclusion of their work, they said “We contend that something else is missing in recipes for urban reform, I will say when we looked at all of those different studies I didn’t see this either an underlying belief that all children can succeed and that it is the schools responsibility to ensure this happens, some educators say all children can succeed if they make an effort, others say all children can succeed if only the parents will help and still others fewer in number assert all children can succeed and its my job to make sure they do. This last philosophy must infuse all efforts to improve urban education.” That’s kind of the tough one. It’s simple yet not easy. Something else among these lines and I have always admired Asa Hillyard, who was one of the multicultural education gurus for many years. Hillyard said “To restructure we must first look deeply at the goals that we have set for our children and the beliefs that we have about them. Once we’re on the right track there, then we must turn our attention to the delivery systems, as we have begun to do, this was the old days this was said in the 80’s, un-tracking is right, mainstreaming is right, centralization is right, cooperative learning is right; technology access for all is right, multi-culturalism is right. But none of these approaches or strategies will mean anything if the fundamental belief system does not fit the new structures that are being created.” That’s the challenge. If we can get our leaders our principals, and this is something Michael Fullan said in terms of helping to infuse this kind of belief, he said, “Hope optimism and self belief among teachers are the vital well springs of successful learning and positive educational change, it is individuals who must hope but it is institutions that create the climate and conditions which make people feel hopeful or less so.” This is where it so much depends on our leaders.

Michael Fullan is kind of the guru in a million books about schools that work. Probably one of the most important implications there is, if we want to move those beliefs besides having more focus on them in our professional development and also having leaders that support this is that we create the professional learning communities that all of these studies have really called for. If we want to sustain educational change. That’s basically saying we want to provide for our staff what our students need to. They need this kind of care and support that meets their needs, so that we can tap into their empathy, humor, problem solving, hope for our children. Hopefully create opportunities for them to come together around a shared belief in human resilience. In that belief that everybody has the capacity to succeed and to learn, I’m going to conclude here with one of Ron Edmonds favorite quotes. Ron Edmonds said in 1986 “We can whenever and wherever we chose successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need to do that whether or not we will effectively teach the children of the poor is probably far more a matter of politics more social science. The limits to research.” I know Deborah Stipech, who’s the dean at Stanford, recently said, you know when it comes, when there’s a battle between politics and research, politics always wins.

All right, thank you.

Return to Top

Questions:   Coordinated School Health and Safety Office | 916-319-0914
Download Free Readers