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Research Projects and Outcomes

A primary focus of CAFRU is research and evaluation of programs that counter the impact of complex trauma on individuals, families, systems, and communities. CAFRU faculty and staff conduct research to:

  • Foster long-term success in early learning and K–12 education,
  • Evaluate mental and behavioral programs, and
  • Build understanding of the lasting effects of traumatic childhood experiences.

“Diverted Lives”: The impact of adversity and poverty on transitions to post-secondary education

In cooperation with the Washington State Office of Financial Management’s Education Research and Data Center, Washington State University’s Child and Family Research Unit has completed an analysis of community, school, and individual student characteristics that predict differences in high school graduates transition to post-secondary education. A webinar presented by Dr. Christopher Blodgett reviews key findings that describe the experiences of 2016 high school graduates in Washington. Consistent with previous reports, school poverty is a significant predictor of post-secondary transitions, but the level of adversity reported by students and resulting adjustment challenges provide comparable impact.

Every Child School Ready: Community, School, and Student Predictors of Kindergarten Readiness and Academic Progress

This report tests the value of using community risk and protective characteristics to understand differences in school readiness across Washington State communities. This report uses four years of data from the WaKIDS school readiness system developed in Washington and includes the initial school readiness results and subsequent early academic progress for a group of more than 150,000 students. Findings demonstrate that school readiness is highly predictive of later academic success which is in turn predictive of health and wellbeing and economic success. Several community characteristics within poor communities also can act as buffers to the collect impact of poverty. Findings confirm that understanding the scope of ACEs in a community provides an explanatory tool related to poverty but distinct in terms of its impact. Increasing ACEs in a community serves as an independent risk factor or in combination with poverty to accelerate social and academic risk including school readiness. While understanding individual differences remains an important strategy for understanding risk, the community characteristics of poverty and adversity history add value and provide another mechanism for considering the policies and investments needed to improve overall academic readiness and success in our communities.

No School Alone 2018: Community Characteristics, Academic Success, and Youth Well-being

This report is part of a series of studies addressing the potential effects that community differences have on academic success and youth well-being. In this report, the original No School Alone report is updated with school performance data through the 2016-2017 school year. In addition to updating the initial No School Alone report, changes in the data systems maintained by Washington State’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) permitted an examination of school performance differences for specific populations of Washington students.

The study confirms the previous No School Alone finding that school poverty and levels of community ACES are predictive of academic success based on standardized test results. In addition, school enrollment across specific student groups (ethnicity enrollment, English Language Learner enrollment, poverty levels, special education enrollment) helped explain differences in standardized academic measures in addition to the primary predictors of school poverty and community ACEs. These findings point to unique opportunities for local development of responses suited to the range of resources and challenges defining communities.

The Association between Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) and School Success in Elementary School Children

Recently accepted for publication in the APA journal School Psychology Quarter, this article authored by Christopher Blodgett and Jane Lanigan explores the feasibility of using school personnel as reporters to examine the relationship between the level of ACE exposure and academic risk among a non-clinical and random sample of 2,101 public elementary school children. ACE prevalence was reported for 44% of students with 13% of students having three of more ACE. A dose-response effect was found between the number of ACE and risk of poor school attendance, behavioral issues and failure to meet grade level standards in mathematics, reading, or writing. Results suggest that utilizing staff report of known ACE exposure in students is useful for describing the prevalence of ACE in the school population and that understanding and responding to ACE profiles might be an important strategy for improving the academic trajectory of at risk children.

The Prevalence and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence Intrusion in the Workplace

This study done by Christopher Blodgett, WSU CAFRU Director, and Jane D. Lanigan, Academic Director and Associate Professor of the Department of Human Development WSU Vancouver, examines the prevalence and consequences of intimate partner violence (IPV) in the workplace. Surveys were completed by 1,390 employees in 32 different companies representing different organization types. The cumulative effects of IPV as well as active victimization contribute to negative workplace consequences. With significant numbers of employees experiencing IPV and reporting workplace consequences, the present research underscores the need for employers to develop a more precise means of understanding cost and response. The article was published in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma.

Collaborative Learning for Educational Achievement and Resilience (CLEAR) 2015-2016 Research Brief

In this report, we demonstrate that school staff in 12 active CLEAR schools in the 2015-2016 school year report high levels of program acceptability and evidence of positive shifts in individual staff practices, perception of student behavior, staff-student engagement, and school climate. These results demonstrate that CLEAR is associated with changes in staff associated with school characteristics predictive of improved academic outcomes. In addition, we demonstrate preliminary results that indicate meaningful and statistically significant gains in school-wide academic performance of CLEAR schools. To our knowledge, this report is the first look at how shifts in trauma-informed practice by staff impact school-wide conditions for academic success.

Every Child School Ready

In cooperation with the Washington State Office of Financial Management’s Education Research and Data Center, Washington State University’s Child and Family Research Unit is conducting an analysis of community, school, and individual student characteristics that influence school readiness in children entering Kindergarten and postsecondary educational success. The methodology parallels a previous analysis of community factors that influence academic success and youth wellbeing presented in the report No School Alone (see report, presentation, and press release below under No School Alone) and confirms the value of using poverty and community ACEs as key community risk indicators with updated data drawn from state data systems, economic data, and state youth and household surveys. Initial key findings on school readiness differences and how WAKids Kindergarten school readiness scores predict key indicators of academic success through Grade 2 were highlighted in an online presentation, Every Child School Ready.  Large and systematic differences across schools can be understood by recognizing the impact of locality, individual student differences (ethnicity, race, gender, ELL status), and community characteristics defined by school poverty and community ACEs. The study further demonstrates that understanding the level of adversity in communities is a meaningful predictor of communities’ collective success in supporting school readiness and academic progress even after accounting for the impact of individual student differences, locality, and poverty.
For more information please contact Myah Houghten (509-358-7644 or or Dr. Chris Blodgett (

Funding statement and disclaimer: This study project was funded by a U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences 2015 Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems grant obtained and lead by the state of Washington Office of Financial Management’s Education Research and Data Center and completed under contract by CAFRU. One hundred percent of the $226,409.50 total cost of this project was financed with Federal money, and no non-governmental sources funded this project.

CLEAR Trauma-Informed Schools White Paper: A Selected Review of Trauma-Informed School Practice and Alignment with Educational Practice

‘Trauma-informed schools’ is an umbrella term for several different approaches which share some core proposals for change but otherwise can vary widely. The foundational concepts of good trauma response- that compassion has the power to heal, that placing a priority on the power of relationships is essential for change, and that assuring safety should be a right of childhood- all create hope for better outcomes and point to the kinds of immediate actions that make change a realistic possibility for many. This paper is intended to introduce some key bodies of research that inform the CLEAR model, could be helpful to others, and are not routinely included in many discussions of trauma-informed practice in schools.

No School Alone

Community factors significantly contribute to the individual, peer and family factors that set the conditions for school success. The nature of the community a school serves directly influences the nature of what makes each school a community in its own right. This does not minimize the importance of high-quality educators, effective curriculum and learning materials, strong leaders and engaged parents for school success. Rather, the evidence indicates that these characteristics of schools as healthy communities are directly affected by the conditions in the surrounding community. Passed in the 2014 legislative session, Substitute House Bill 2739 (Chapter 196, Laws of 2014) directs this analysis which examines the effects of community factors such as economic well-being, safety and family challenges on academic and youth success.

ACEs in Head Start Children and Impact on Development

In an ongoing screening for ACEs in young children and their parents, this report provides initial findings of the level of risk in a Head Start population and the predictive power of children’s ACEs and school readiness measures.

Adopting ACEs Screening and Assessment in Child Serving Systems

Drawing information from four research studies addressing adversity and trauma, CAFRU researchers share early lessons and findings documenting trauma effects in K-12 education, early learning, and home visiting populations.

Review of Community Efforts to Mitigate and Prevent Adverse Childhood Experiences and Trauma

In support of planning activities for mitigation efforts addressing adverse childhood experiences in Washington State, CAFRU prepared a review of common community programs aligned with public health practices.



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