Studentsin urban school settings often suffer from cultural and environmental factorsthat can negatively affect their perspectives on the value of an education, andthus reduce the level of educational attainment. Research shows that these manyof these circumstances that far outside of their control and can have a majorimpact on their education outcomes. The purpose of this literature review is toexplore and analyze research surrounding these high impact factors and usefurther research to suggest recommendations for minimizing the effect size oftheir impact.Researchshows that these students are often exposed to higher than normal levels ofreported traumas (Adverse Childhood Experiences) that can have major negativeconsequences on the student’s emotional, psychological, and physical health;resulting in a reduction in their average educational experience (Perez, Jennings, Piquero, & Baglivio, 2016). Research regarding”Trauma Informed Care” suggests schools can help students cope with theseexperiences, reducing disciplinary disparity, and hopefully overcome thenegative impact on their educational success. (Crosby, 2015) Thereare also cultural disparities in their views on education and what can only betermed systematic discriminatory practices within the educational system thatcan create an adversarial relationship between the school and its constituentfamilies (Blake, Butler, Lewis, & Darensbourg, 2011).This Literature review will explore research regarding Positive BehaviorInterventions and their possible effect on student engagement and increasededucational outcomes (Fallon, O’Keeffe, Gage, & Sugai, 2015).
Research also shows a disconnect in classroom content and the ability of thestudents to make connections to their lives. Students are unfamiliar with thebackground information necessary to conceptualize material with which they haveno concrete associations (Barton & Berchini, 2013). Research regardingPlace-Based Education structure and implementation offers students the abilityto apply the content directly to their lives and the environment around them,offering the opportunity to turn the abstract, concrete, and increasingeducational success.Reviewof LiteratureAdverse Childhood ExperiencesCurrenteducational research shows that students who are exposed to traumatic eventshave an elevated risk of developing a wide spectrum of physical, emotional, andbehavioral challenges; that when compounded with poverty, abuse, neglect, orviolence creates a stress response that interferes with the student’s abilityto interact with peers in a positive manner and fully realize their educationalpotential. (Anderson, Blitz, & Saastamoinen, 2015).
The challenge thatwe face as educators is, “How do we help these students cope with theirpersonal trauma and help them reach an adequate level of educational success.” Unfortunately, research also states thatAdverse Childhood Experiences have a negative influence on a child’sintellectual abilities and their enthusiasm for educational pursuits, resultingin substantially weakened school comprehension and performance, furthercompounding the problems faced by these students (Iachini, Petiwala, & DeHart, 2016). Whilestudents from all walks of life can be affected by these traumatic experiences,the issues are much more prevalent in urban communities with high levels ofpoverty and a large population of minority residents. Statistical researchexamining incidence of Adverse Childhood Experiences at the intersection ofrace and socioeconomic status claims that nearly 50% of all “Urban/Minority”students have two or more ACEs and that the percentage of minority students thatreceive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (including those considered homeless,fostered, and/or migrant) in Urban schools ranges from 51-66% (Iachini, Petiwala, & DeHart, 2016).
Research also makesa connection between the high incidence of absentee/neglectful parents in urbancommunities and the effect that has on the home life of students. Researchshows that households characterized by abuse and or neglect also have beenassociated with weakened school performance and lead to more absences (Perez, Jennings, Piquero, & Baglivio, 2016) and that parents whoare abusive, neglectful, incarcerated, or absent may be less likely to utilizepositive childrearing practices and less likely to succeed in sculpting theirchild’s behavior management skills during their formative years (Perez, Jennings, Piquero, & Baglivio, 2016). These problems bleedover from their home life and into the school environment, where these studentsstruggle to maintain a healthy existence in the face of cultural bias,socio-economic status discrimination, and systematic oppression. The toxictraumatic experiences in these high risk populations, and the need for moreaggressive drop-out prevention efforts, can not only be addressed at theindividual level, but will require change at the systemic level of educationaladminstration (Iachini, Petiwala, & DeHart, 2016).
Negative Cultural Views Toward Schooland EducationCulturalinfluence on students from urban communities, also those including a highpopulation of immigrant families, likely also affects their (and their parents)ability to understand, navigate, and respond the public-school system that hasmarginalized their needs for so long (Haight, Kayama, & Gibson, 2016 ). Research indicatesthat these communal attitudes towards the need for an education heavily impactsthe student’s view of the importance of educational achievement (Mallett, 2016) and supports thatthis historical mistreatment of African Americans, and other minority groups,within the American educational system has created a view of wariness (orblatant mistrust) of “school” and negatively affected their belief in theirability to obtain a “quality education” (Godfrey & Grayman, 2014). Research suggeststhat the cultural mistrust is carried into the classroom, centering on differencesbetween minority students and their predominately white teacher group whichmagnifies the “disconnect” between the two parties, creating an adversarialrelationship which is expressed in negative outbursts by both sides resultingin a positive feedback loop of “disrespect and discipline” (Blake, Butler, Lewis, & Darensbourg, 2011). This adversarialrelationship manifests as irregular attendance and educational apathy which hasa heightened effect on the vulnerable and already at risk minority students, placingthem at a further risk of additional difficulties such as poor academicperformance, delinquency, drop rates, unemployment, and earlier risk ofsubstance abuse problems (Mallett, 2016). Racial inequity and disciplinedisproportionality statistics shine a continual light on the need for oursociety to deal with the persistent marginalization of African Americanstudents in our educational system.Disconnectedness Between EducationalContent and Environmental Factors Experienced by Urban StudentsCurrentresearch into the urban education disparity focuses on the inability oflow-SES, minority students to make solid foundational connections between thecontent that is traditionally taught in the public-school system and theday-to-day environment that they experience and are more familiar with (Barton & Berchini, 2013).As the achievementgaps in standardized testing continues to widen, these students continue tofall farther behind their more affluent peers. Other schools in these districts(typically suburban, predominately white, with more access resources) tend todrive the curricular decision making processes while the poorer urban schools, oftenwith less experienced teachers, who are not of similar background or culture,and less funding to pursue other sources of materials and programs (Lee, 2012),are left trying to match their curricular needs to a subset of students thatare not able to make the necessary connections with the content to besuccessful (Barton & Berchini, 2013).
Theproblem with a universal perspective of our content (the idea that oneperspective is adequate for classroom purposes) is that it ignores culture;failing to recognize how race, culture, ethnicity, language, gender, or othersocially constructed factors influence the way we “see” the material furthermarginalizes and “white-washes” events in the past that are culturally relevantto those minority groups that lived through those events (Brkich, 2014). Therefore, typicalcontent examples, while fitting for the majority of mid to high SES students,are not adequate to engage the limited background knowledge of low-SES studentsthat reside in Urban areas, typically having limited exposure to environmentsoutside their neighborhood (Brkich, 2014). The need forteachers to be able to differentiate content and learn to make connections withthe student’s environment and background knowledge is becoming more crucial astime passes. Research statistics show that while the nation’s public schoolsystem continues to grow more diverse in its student populations, theprofession of teaching is become less diverse. This could lead to situations inmany schools that the teachers are unable to understand the lives andexperiences of their students (Brkich, 2014). If teachers are not able to find waysto bridge the gap with their students, the achievement deficits that are beingobserved will only widen further.RecommendationsAddressing Adverse ChildhoodExperiences through Trauma Informed TeachingResearchsuggests that programs (such as trauma informed schools) designed for earlyprevention, intervention, and coping skills are essential for mitigating thelong term effects of trauma in the psychological, emotional, and educationalhealth of students (Walkley & Cox, 2013).
However to trulyimplement a Trauma Informed Approach, schools must provide intensiveprofessional development training, supervision, support (for both teachers andstudents) and continual learning opportunities on the effects of trauma on cognitivedevelopment, ingraining the trauma informed approach into the culture andclimate of the school (Walkley & Cox, 2013). Staff members mustbe also be supported throughout the process of implementation and giveninformation regarding secondary traumas that can have a negative impact on theemotional health of the teacher (Anderson, Blitz, & Saastamoinen, 2015).Researchshows the most effective professional development opportunities for schoolsthat are just beginning the implementation phase of becoming a Trauma InformedSchool focuses on: Information about the physiological response to toxic stressand its effects on neuro functioning, stress reduction and relaxationtechniques, positive behavior management techniques, and cognitive reflectivestrategies to help the student build healthy coping skills within the classroomsetting. (Anderson, Blitz, & Saastamoinen, 2015). “The 10 Principlesof Compassionate Schools” fromWashington State Office of Public Instruction (2011), originally published inThe Heart of Learning and Teaching, are a guideline followed for schoolswishing to integrate a compassionate approach to student trauma: “1. Focus on culture and climate inthe school and the community. 2.
Train and support all staffregarding trauma and learning 3. Encourage and sustain open andregular communication for all 4. Develop a strengths-basedapproach in working with students and peers 5. Ensure discipline policies areboth compassionate and effective (restorative practices) 6. Weave compassionate strategiesinto school improvement planning 7.
Provide tiered support for alstudents based on what they need 8. Create flexible accommodationsfor diverse learners 9. Provide access, voice, andownership for staff, students, and community.10.Use data to identify vulnerable students and determine outcomes and strategiesfor continuous quality improvement.
(Wolpow, Johnson, Hertel, & Kincaid, 2016)” IncreasingCultural Awareness within Discipline ApplicationsPositiveBehavior Interventions are an example of research based supports that provide astructure for schools to use in effort to help provide equity in theapplication of discipline and increase academic engagement within marginalizedgroups (Fallon, O’Keeffe, Gage, & Sugai, 2015). PBIS incorporates athree tiered approach to structuring behavioral norms for students by using avariety of positive and negative consequences. Tier 1 encompasses approximately85% of students with whom standard positive reinforcement strategies areeffective. Tier 2 includes 10% of students who show mid range behavioral issuesthat require intervention.
Tier 3 is for the most difficult 5% of students withmajor behavioral problems that require intensive 1:1 intervention programs (Mallett, 2016).Anotherresearch based approach to disciplinary equity is Restorative Practices, whichare student centered behavior management structures that place priority on gettingthe “offending” student to understand how their actions impact their fellowstudents, but also focuses on returning them to the group as a valued member ofthe classroom community (Mallett, 2016). Research supports the concept of theclassroom as an “open community” which increases engagement and class climate,allowing students to build interpersonal relationships with their peers andcommunity; challenging racism, sexism, and other types of social injustices.The outcomes of such a program could be more substantially increased forschools with a high population of minority students whom tend to be morenegative and less trusting of the educational system due to their culturalhistory of marginalization (Godfrey & Grayman, 2014). Studies show thatthe reinforcing of relationships (teacher/student, student/student) within theclassroom also helps mitigate the disproportionality of disciplinary actionsand increases student engagement and their feeling of belonging (Blake, Butler, Lewis, & Darensbourg, 2011) Researchalso supports the implementation of programs that prioritize the improvement offamily engagement in the student’s academic career.
However, the school mustunderstand the perspective of family and give value to their cultural mistrustand wariness. When the school and the students family can come to a state ofmutual trust they are able to focus onincreased outcomes for the student; better attendance, less disciplinaryproblems, and increased academic achievement (Mallett, 2016). Drawingon Cultural and Geographical Experiences to Increase Connectivity with ContentResearch into Place Based Education suggests that teaching methodsand strategies within its framework use the local community and environment asa starting point to teach concepts in all of the core content courses acrossthe curriculum using “hands-on”, relevant learning experiences and teachers inlowSES schools, especially those in urban areas, need to adopt Place BasedEducation methodologies to begin narrowing the divide between the content beingtaught and the actual daily experiences that shape the student’s daily lives (Brkich, 2014).Studentsare experts on their community and when given the opportunity can make contentconnections to the personal lives, but only if they are shown how “abstract”concepts can be applied to their lives. It is incumbent on the teacher torecognize the differences in perspectives (the students expertise, as well astheir own shortcomings) and use them to the benefit of learning environment (Barton & Berchini, 2013). Statistics show,and we discussed earlier, that the vast majority of new teachers in urbanschools do not share the same culture, or life experiences as their newstudents (Brkich, 2014, Barton & Berchini,2013) and building the relationships with the students and their families arecrucial for success in the classroom.Barton and Berchini (2013) outlined three pathways to createconnectivity between the lives of students and the content that is being taught(1) Active Positioning: purposely seeking out opportunites to place the studentin the place of “teacher’ and allowing yourself teacher to become a learnerof the student’s community, or environment.
(2) Critical Navigation: learningto draw upon the richness of of experiences and resources, while challengingthe history of systematic opression that shape their cultural history. (3)Symbolic Engagement with Place: incorporates both the students understanding oftheir relationship with place and challenging the gaps in the teacher’sunderstanding of place, thus building a more trusting and inclusiveunderstanding of individual perspective and experience. Following thesepathways of inclusion allows the students to not only make more meaning oftheir “place”, but also helps them take ownership of their part in theeducational process. When the historically marginalized and oppressed can feelempowered enough to begin to take control of their own outcomes, we can hoepthat the systematic discrimination of these groups will become lessened(eventually dissapating) and we will see the “Achievement Gap” begin to close.