Date of Award

Spring 5-8-2020

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Leadership

Advisor

Catharine Biddle

Second Committee Member

Richard Ackerman

Third Committee Member

Craig Mason

Additional Committee Members

Janet Fairman

Ian Mette

Abstract

Twenty-five percent of U.S. schoolchildren attend a rural school. Yet, rural school issues are typically subsumed by debates focused on urban problems and the assumption of ample resources available for their remediation. Because rural schools and students have needs and challenges distinct from those of urban and suburban schools, programs designed by and for rural schools and their stakeholders may be expected to better meet the needs of their students and families. Cobscook Institute’s TREE program is an example of such a program, developed via a cross-sector partnership between university researchers, local educators, and community members. TREE researchers have reported positive impacts on academic, attendance, and behavior outcomes while students were participating in the elementary school-based, trauma-informed support program.

The goal for this quantitative study was not to evaluate the TREE program in situ but to understand how TREE students fare once they leave the program behind and enter into the next phase of their formal schooling. Seventh grade academic, attendance, and behavior outcome data were examined for the first two cohorts of students to leave the program after being promoted to seventh grade at the district junior/senior high school. The Developmental Assets Profile (DAP) and Basic Psychological Needs at School (BPN) assessments were used to quantify mediators of these long-term outcomes. The referent group did not participate in TREE, the low dose cohort participated in TREE for one semester, and the high dose cohort participated in TREE for three semesters. The comparison group were same-grade peers from other district elementary schools (non-TREE).

The most important findings were that TREE students in the high dose cohort experienced a significant decline in most developmental asset scores between the end of fifth grade and the end of their first semester of seventh grade. This inverse correlation between TREE participation and persistence of developmental assets may be a reflection of re-traumatization associated with an abrupt change from the developmentally supportive TREE school to the developmentally mismatched junior high school structure. This suggests the need for researchers and staff of both schools to intentionally plan and implement a transition program to support these students.

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