Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16594 Development and Use of the California Healthy Kids Survey Military Module: Comparing Perceptions of Military and Nonmilitary Students, Parents, and School Staff In Eight Military-Connected School Districts

Sunday, January 15, 2012: 9:15 AM
McPherson Square (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Tamika D. Gilreath, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Joey Nuņez Estrada, PhD, Assistant Professor, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA
Diana Pineda, MHA, MSW, LCSW, SD Field Project Manager and Adjunct Faculty, University of Southern California, San Diego, CA
Rami Benbenishty, PhD, Professor, Bar Ilan University & Haruv Institute, Ramat Gan, Israel
Ron Avi Astor, PhD, Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Background and Purpose: Military-connected students face challenges due to transitions and deployments. Recent studies have shown supportive schools shield students from the many effects of depression, despair, alienation, and school failure. However, there are no large epidemiological studies of the characteristics of military-connected schools. To this end a partnership between eight military-connected districts (approximately 117,000 students, 10.1% of whom are military) and the University of Southern California (USC) was established to create data-driven models of responsive and supportive schools. In conjunction with the California Department of Education, we developed three Military Modules that were piloted among the consortium districts and are now available for use statewide via the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS). These modules elicit information from several key informants: 1) students; 2) parents; and 3) school staff. The process of creating these modules incorporated feedback from each of the targeted populations and a review of what we currently know about schools that serve military families. Our study sought to provide data to describe the potential differential educational experiences of military versus non-military youth and their families. Research questions included whether or not there are significant differences between military-connected and non-military-connected students on mobility experiences, behavioral health risks, and perceptions of school climate and resources.

Methods: The CHKS and Military Modules were administered to 138 schools in eight districts surrounding military bases in San Diego and Riverside counties. The present study utilizes data from 32,000 elementary and secondary students, their parents, principals, and school staff. Survey questions asked students and parents about their military connection and perceptions of school resources related to their needs. School staff members were asked about their experiences with military-connected families and if they felt their school provided sufficient services and resources specifically targeting military families.

Results: Baseline needs assessment results from the eight districts in the consortium revealed areas of concern for military-connected schools. Regarding mobility, over 40% of students in 5th grade classes moved at least once during the past year. Approximately 20% of students are moving more than once each year in 9th and 11th grade. About half of the students reported some type of bullying, harassment, and/or property damage. Substance use was particularly concerning across districts. Between 20 and 33 percent of 5th graders in each district have used alcohol, and over 60% of high school students have used alcohol. School violence assessments indicated that between 2% and 13% of students reported bringing a weapon to school. Additionally, between 13 and 39% of students in different school districts and grade levels claim they saw another student with a weapon at school. Our analyses also revealed elementary students feel far safer at school than their secondary school counterparts.

Conclusions and Implications: Results of this large epidemiological study provide impetus to further elucidate experiences of military-connected students. This study identifies needs and resources, encourages data-driven decision-making on appropriate supports for military youth, and assists districts and principals in understanding characteristics of the students and families they serve to increase optimal program implementation.