Trauma Sensitive Schools: The Difference Maker for Academic Achievement, Social Emotional Well-being

As today’s educators, support staff and school administrators, you have led an educational evolution that calls schools to be more than a place of academics, but to also foster social and emotional learning and wellbeing. While achievement and test scores are still key academic performance indicators, your goals now extend well beyond the classroom where you hope to create life-long learners and engaged citizens.

Knowing what we do about the impact of adversity on the developing brain, Wellpoint Care Network has taken educational innovation one step further with our Trauma Sensitive Schools approach to ensure that all learners thrive.

Children in school

The trauma-sensitive process acknowledges the prevalence of trauma exposure among students and empowers educators to recognize common, as well as hidden, barriers to learning.

Our approach, built on the Seven Essential Ingredients of Trauma Informed Care framework, infuses schools with the core values of safety, trust and collaboration. It acknowledges the prevalence of trauma exposure among students and empowers educators to recognize common (and hidden) barriers to learning.

Once operationalized across a school, school system or entire school district, Trauma Sensitive Schools professional development and consultation equips all school personnel to shape a positive, healthy school climate that supports all students and engaged them in learning. 

Staff Attendance Up. Student Altercations Down.

The Trauma Sensitive Schools approach is a proven model for reducing student altercations, suspensions, and out-of-class time while driving increased educator engagement. 

At the Vel R. Phillips School, part of Milwaukee’s Juvenile Justice Center, the TSS process “started with the adults taking care of themselves so we could continue to do this work,” says Bekki Crowley, special education teacher. Before participating in Wellpoint Care’s Trauma Sensitive Schools training, staff were absent an average of 30.1 days out of the year; students were removed from the classroom 750 times; and there were 83 classroom altercations.

Through training, coaching, and real-life examples, Crowley and her colleagues learned to better understand the impact and prevalence of trauma on the lives of their students. “Our trainer contextualized the Trauma Sensitive Schools concepts and helped us navigate situations,” says Amandla Daniels, a social worker. After applying the principles learned in the Trauma Sensitive Schools training, the average number of staff absences fell from 30 days per year to 12, room removals were cut in half, and classroom altercations dropped by 75%.

Training the Trainer

Transforming the Vel R. Philips School

In the two years since their first Train the Trainer session, Vel R. Phillips School has witnessed clear and positive outcomes.

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Real Change, Not Time-Outs and Fidget Spinners.

At Todd Elementary School in Beloit, the Trauma Sensitive Schools process began with “an assessment of the current reality for students of trauma, which led to an awareness of the impact of trauma” says Brice Gustafson, a teacher there. “It wasn’t based on activities that you implement right away, such as a time-out area or fidget spinners.”

Instead, Trauma Sensitive Schools training focused on relaying the importance of ingredients such as regulation, reason to be, and perhaps most importantly, relationship. “It does take time to take root,” says Gustafson. But eventually, a trauma sensitive culture was evident. “The feeling of our school building changed. Decisions and policies shifted as they were created and administered with a trauma sensitive lens.”

In addition to going through TSS training and coaching, Todd Elementary continues to network with Wellpoint Care and other schools, sharing case studies about successful implementation of the Trauma Sensitive Schools approach.


Creating a Trauma Sensitive School: A Beloit Case Study

Learn how small practices have grown into a powerful classroom culture where students support one another.

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Proactive Approaches that Benefit All Students.

Leaders and faculty at Edgewood Elementary School in Greenfield had been studying trauma-sensitive education for a few years when they invited Wellpoint Care to give a training tailored to their school, so they were already aware of how stress and trauma can impact students’ learning. They also recognized that new challenges like Covid-19 have increased the need for trauma-informed strategies.

Prior to their training with Wellpoint Care, Principal Meg Boyd says that educators at Edgewood knew that kids need support and empathy instead of punishment when they exhibit dysregulation. However, the interventions they knew were mostly reactive, after dysregulation had already impacted student behavior.

Now, she says teachers are equipped with proactive strategies to support all students’ self-regulation, like breaks and movement activities to help adjust energy levels. “We’re able to start using these techniques before the problems start happening.”

They are also seeing results with individual students who have been struggling. Disruptive behaviors have decreased with effective interventions, and “we’re not seeing the same problems over and over again.”


How Proactive Interventions Led to Sustainable Results at Edgewood Elementary

A customized training and implementation plan from Wellpoint equipped teachers at Edgewood with tools to be more proactive in their interventions, instead of reacting to the same issues over and over again.

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