California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II
The field of youth development focuses on research about protective factors that build students’ strengths and protect them from social, emotional, and physical harm. Youth development shifts the focus from fixing negative behaviors to building youths’ strengths and capacity, their resilience, or assets. The Search Institute identified 40 developmental assets as building blocks of healthy development. The list of assets contains both external and internal assets that families and schools can nurture to help students succeed. To view the list, go to the Search Institute (Outside Source) Web page on assets.
Resilience research identified three principles that protect students from risk and help them succeed:1
"These supports and opportunities, referred to as protective factors, have been linked to the development of resilience—broadly defined as the ability to rebound from adversity and achieve healthy development and successful learning. They should be available in all environments in a young person’s world: home, school, community, and peer groups.”2
In California, much of the youth development research comes through the Safe and Healthy Kids initiative. The Resilience & Youth Development Module provides findings from the California Healthy Kids Survey (Outside Source) between fall 1999 and spring 2002. In the fifth and seventh grades, students take the survey, giving school professionals a look at how safe the students feel and whether they perceive that adults care about them and their success (external assets). It also measures their internal assets such as cooperation, communication, empathy, problem solving, self-efficacy, self-awareness, and goals and aspirations. Research indicates that these internal assets protect a young person from involvement in health-risk behaviors and contribute to improved health, social, and academic outcomes. Results from the surveys can be an extremely useful tool in applying for grants such as the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
Kastner Intermediate School, Clovis Unified School District , a 2008 Schools to Watch™-Taking Center Stage Model School
Kastner promotes adolescent resilience by developing student assets. The mission of the school is to provide a safe and nurturing environment that promotes character, respect, and academic excellence. To help students develop those assets—or strengths—staff members support students through small learning communities. The grade-level teams are staffed by a vice principal, a counselor, and a secretary.
In addition, all students benefit from a wide range of support services provided by a part-time school psychologist, a full-time nurse, a part-time school liaison officer, and a full-time district police officer. All staff members serve as mentors and proactively interact with all students, with a special focus on students exhibiting at-risk behavior. An annual needs assessment and climate survey help to inform staff members about potential needs for staff development and targeted strategies.
An active Student Human Relations committee helps to give students a voice about the school climate and to keep staff members alert to any potential areas of concern. Ethnic student clubs help to connect students and build a sense of belonging. In addition, students at Kastner can receive training as peer counselors, peer mediators, or eighth grade WEB (Where Everybody Belongs) mentors for seventh grade students. In addition, Kastner students are invited to participate in Challenge Day sensitivity training that teaches them to identify their own issues and biases and how they can challenge themselves and others accept each other as who they are and celebrate everyone’s contributions. All of these services are available to address the unique needs of adolescents facing very challenging issues in today’s world.
The Kastner population includes 1,200 students in seventh and eighth grade. The demographic profile is 52 percent white, 23 percent Hispanic, 13 percent Asian, 5 percent African American, 3 percent other, and 1 percent Native American/Alaskan.
Several research studies show a positive correlation between academic achievement and developmental assets. Among other things, the research suggests that:
One key asset that schools help students develop is self-discipline. Research found that the amount of self-discipline students reported at the beginning of school was “more than twice” as important as intelligence quotient in terms of student choices. Researchers included final grades, high school selection, school attendance, hours spent doing homework, hours spent watching television (inversely), and the time of day students began their homework in the measures of success. These findings suggest that failure to exercise self-discipline is a major reason for students falling short of their intellectual potential.7
Fortuna Middle School, Fortuna Union Elementary School District
Eighth-grade science students brainstormed methods to study the various effects of drugs and the situations and environments in which a student might encounter drugs. The students decided to develop board games that incorporated the effects of drug abuse and presented scenarios of what to do if students encounter drugs. The students discussed the importance of early education on drug use and decided to teach the sixth-grade students how to play their new drug education game. The eighth graders also created a presentation that explained the project in its entirety. Students copied the presentation and project onto compact disks so the service-learning activity could be shared with other teachers and students.
The students incorporated the language arts content standards through the design and production of the board games. This service-learning activity also included the health education content standards for middle schools in the following manner:
After creating their board games, the eighth graders explained what they learned about short-term and long-term effects of substance abuse to the sixth-grade classes. The eighth-graders followed up the discussion by teaching the sixth graders how to play the board games and coached them on avoidance strategies.
Ventura County Office of Education
In 2007, the office of the Ventura County Superintendent of Schools published Creating Asset Rich Environments for Children and Youth-- A Call to Action: Ventura County CAREs. The document reflects the vision of the Ventura County Building Assets Strengthening Individuals and Communities Commission (BASICO), which was convened by the County Superintendent of Schools. Creating Asset Rich Environments for Children and Youth presents the work of the Commission, including:
Three basic youth resilience tenets form the basis for the CAREs action plan:
1Resilience & Youth Development Module. Prepared by WestEd and the Safe and Healthy Kids Program Office. Sacramento: California Department of Education, 2002, 1.
5Getting Results: Developing Safe and Healthy Kids Update 5; Student Health, Supportive Schools, and Academic Success (PDF; 895KB; 89pp.). Sacramento: California Department of Education, 2005, 34.
6Bonnie Benard, Fostering Resilience in Children (Outside Source), ERIC Digest (August 1995).
7Angela L. Duckworth and Martin E. P. Seligman, "Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents," Psychological Science, Vol. 16, Issue 12 (December 2005).
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California Department of Education
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Sacramento, CA 95814