Student Well-Being Letter to the Editor

The Case for a Trauma-Informed Approach

August 20, 2019 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

The opinion essay “The Deficit Lens of the ‘Achievement Gap’ Needs to Be Flipped. Here’s How” (July 9, 2019) sparks an important discussion on how we measure student achievement. Author Dave Paunesku suggests a paradigm shift that is critical to improving our education system: prioritizing a safe classroom environment, understanding students’ “social contexts,” and focusing on healthy relationships. While Paunesku advocates for an environment that may “foster equitable learning and achievement,” he only offers a few suggestions rather than evidence-based practices on how to create this ideal environment.

A trauma-informed approach shows promise in fixing the problems Paunesku discusses, but is absent in his discussion. Such an approach is a whole-school shift that replaces punitive action with care and understanding to foster trust and other critical elements of healthy relationships between students and teachers. These healthy relationships allow for teachers and students to communicate, for teachers to better assess difficulties within their classroom and school, and for school staff to make an effective plan for students and their school systems.

A trauma-informed approach focuses on deficits in school systems rather than in students. Considering that childhood trauma affects brain development, it is irresponsible to ignore individual learning deficits. However, a trauma-informed approach addresses these opportunity gaps on a systemic level, requiring schoolwide action that improves the learning environment and life outcomes of every student.

The results of trauma-informed care have been promising in the schools that have implemented it in places such as Antioch, Calif., and Walla Walla, Wash. Researchers need to place greater emphasis on approaches to overcome trauma’s effects on students to further understand the roots of the opportunity gap. Educators, administrators, and policymakers should embrace this evidence-based approach to increase individual student opportunity, and subsequently achievement, on a systemic scale.

Caitlin Cimons

Research Intern

The Relationship Foundation

New York, N.Y.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the August 21, 2019 edition of Education Week as The Case for a Trauma-Informed Approach

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Opinion Educators, Be Future-Ready, But Don’t Ignore the Present
Being ready for what lies ahead is important, but we also need to gain a better understanding of the here and now.
5 min read
shutterstock 226918177
Student Well-Being Opinion How to Prioritize Student Well-Being This Year
Use the Student Thriving Index to find out where your kids stand. Because you cannot manage what you cannot measure.
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Student Well-Being Spotlight Spotlight on Supporting Teachers & Students
In this Spotlight, evaluate your district and what supports your schools offer, assess attendance policies to avoid burnout, and more
Student Well-Being What the Research Says Child Hospitalizations Spike Under Delta, Particularly in Low-Vaccination States
Nationwide, the number of children and teens hospitalized due to COVID-19 has ballooned nearly tenfold since midsummer, new CDC data show.
2 min read
hopital stethescope 1222194507
Aleksandr Titov/iStock/Getty