Exploring Resilience Among Vulnerable Students in California


Research has shown that adversities during early childhood can negatively affect development in the near-term and place children on a path to poorer academic and health outcomes throughout the lifecourse. Innovative mechanisms, such as the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), exist to help school districts more effectively support and improve the educational outcomes of these high-need student subgroups (i.e., English learners (EL), those who meet income requirements to receive a free or reduced-price school meals (FRPM), foster youth, homeless youth, students with disabilities/exceptional needs, migrant students, and runaway students). Districts identify and support vulnerable students based on current needs, but they are effectively blind to the adversities, public service interactions, and other formative experiences that happened before students entered school, despite the important curricular, instructional, and financial implications. This disconnect also thwarts research into resilience, limiting our understanding of why some students succeed despite negative experiences, how these ‘resilient’ children differ from those who follow the more typical trajectory following adversities, and whether certain programs, supports, environments, and/or characteristics offset risk in these vulnerable children.

Through the linkage of educational, program, and physical fitness data for all public school students born in 2004, 2005, and 2006 to birth records and California Health and Human Services (CHHS) Agency program data (e.g., child protection), this longitudinal cohort study aims to answer these important questions. Specifically, this project will:

  1. Help to ‘fill in the gap’ for the educational system about children’s public service trajectories and characteristics before age 5;
  2. Analyze the extent to which those interactions relate to designation as an LCFF-identified vulnerable population and to later educational and health outcomes; and
  3. Explore the individual, family, and school/district factors that contribute to children’s resilience.

Overview of Findings

Analysis in progress.



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