Session: Grand Challenge for School Social Work: Bridging the Disparity Gap in Schools (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

324 Grand Challenge for School Social Work: Bridging the Disparity Gap in Schools

Sunday, January 20, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:00 PM
Golden Gate 6, Lobby Level (Hilton San Francisco)
Cluster: School Social Work (SSW)
Symposium Organizer:
Kevin Tan, PhD, MSW, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Martell Teasley, PhD, University of Utah
The disproportionate numbers of racial/ethnic minority students who failed to successfully graduate from high school has serious ramifications for society. The average US high school graduation rate for racial/ethnic minority youth is under 65%, and in some states and urban school districts is less than 50% (Heckman & Lafontaine, 2010). Students who do not complete high school face significant personal and professional barriers and are at increased risk of involvement with the justice system. Causes of non-completion include poor psychological and social-emotional well-being, a lack of classroom learning supports, and the experience of exclusionary disciplinary punishments. This symposium features four papers aimed at understanding such causes and proposing solutions to address the longstanding problem of social disparities in schools.

The first paper examines the issue of school inequalities through the Race-Based Disparities in Stress and Sleep model. The model examines racial/ethnic disparities by integrating the influences of macro-, mezzo-, and micro-level contributors to health, mental health, and achievement. Based on data from the School Success Profile (n=5,100 middle and high school students), findings indicate that quality sleep, family support, and reduced peer aggression are critical in promoting positive mental health outcomes for all students.

The second paper focuses on the social-emotional learning (SEL) needs of African American (AA) students in special education (SPED). These students experience significant challenges less common among their peers in general education, including SEL-related needs, yet no studies have examined their mindsets on the importance of SEL. Based on two cohorts of 9th grade students in one high school in central Illinois, findings indicate that AA students in SPED reported significantly lower frequencies of positive social skills than their peers, but reflected no difference in their levels of social skills mindsets.

The third paper focuses on Teen Courts (TCs) as an alternative to exclusionary school practices. Racial/ethnic minority students are disproportionately impacted by punitive and exclusionary disciplinary measures, and evidence-based alternatives are needed to promote academic successes for all students. Following a presentation of a conceptual framework of TC, findings from an evaluation study of a TC program in the Southwestern United States will be presented with recommendations for an intervention targeting racial bias.

The last paper focuses on patterns and mindsets of SEL needs among high school freshmen in one urban high school (70% Hispanic, 30% AA) in New Jersey. While there has been substantial attention in the literature on the significance of SEL needs on student outcomes, few studies have evaluated for patterns of co-occurring SEL issues that can inform the tailoring of interventions based on students' needs. Targeted interventions that are specific to students' needs are far more likely to succeed than more generalized approaches. Latent class analysis identified three to five key patterns of co-occurring SEL needs that reflect pertinent differences in social skills mindsets.

The papers together provide points of discussion for fostering school success for all students. Applications to advance school policy and practice for our profession to bridge the disparity gap in schools will be discussed.

* noted as presenting author
Using the Race-Based Disparities in Stress and Sleep Model to Identify Targets for Effective School-Based Interventions
Kate Wegmann, PhD, MSW, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Ashley Dyke, MSW, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Tara Powell, PhD, MSW, MPH, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Starting Off on the Right Foot: An Exploratory Study of Social-Emotional Learning Needs Among High School Freshmen Students in Special Education
Dominic Combs, MSW, College of Education; Kevin Tan, PhD, MSW, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Patterns and Mindsets of Social-Emotional Learning Needs Among Urban High School Freshmen Students
Kevin Tan, PhD, MSW, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Hasan Johnson, MSW, Rutgers University-Newark; Gaurav Sinha, MSW, Doctoral Student; Summer McLaughlan, MSW, Rutgers University-Newark; Shongha Kim, MSW, School of Social Work
See more of: Symposia