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Trauma and student achievement

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Response to Oct. 10 post, “Seeing the varieties of traumatic experience in Philadelphia’s students,” by Paul Jablow

Great article on students and trauma. I hope the District takes it to heart. Schools are closed because of low test scores. Low test scores are largely the result of the effects of the trauma of poverty on student learning. These effects have never been acknowledged or addressed by the School District.

Pressured by the requirements of NCLB and now Race to the Top, with its battle cry of “No excuses,” the District has put all of its efforts into test prep while students’ real needs are ignored. Subjecting children who are traumatized to lengthy standardized testing creates an inordinate amount of stress. Then closing their neighborhood schools only increases that stress.

I have seen it in students I work with whose neighborhood school was closed in 2013.

They feel displaced. Their new school does not have the resources to deal with this new trauma. These students really miss their old school and the community it provided. Some of them started cutting school rather than go to the new school.

I hope the District starts to address the effects of trauma on student achievement instead of using its fallout as an excuse to close schools, restructure faculties, and destabilize school communities.

Deborah Grill

The writer is a retired Philadelphia teacher, school librarian, and member of the Alliance for Philadelphia Schools.

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