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Trauma-informed Practices
September 2020


What does the research say about evaluating trauma-informed practices across school districts and schools?

Ask A REL Response

Thank you for your request to our Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Reference Desk. Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 RELs that, by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. Ask A REL provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations in response to questions about available education research.

Following an established REL Northwest research protocol, we conducted a search for evidence- based research. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, Google Scholar, and general Internet search engines. For more details, please see the methods section at the end of this document.

The research team has not evaluated the quality of the references and resources provided in this response; we offer them only for your reference. The search included the most commonly used research databases and search engines to produce the references presented here. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The research references are not necessarily comprehensive and other relevant research references may exist. In addition to evidence-based, peer-reviewed research references, we have also included other resources that you may find useful. We provide only publicly available resources, unless there is a lack of such resources or an article is considered seminal in the topic area.


Baker, C. N., Brown, S. M., Wilcox, P. D., Overstreet, S., & Arora, P. (2016). Development and psychometric evaluation of the attitudes related to trauma-informed care (ARTIC) scale. School Mental Health, 8(1), 61–76. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Due to its high prevalence and associated risk of poor academic and health outcomes, adverse childhood experiences and trauma are considered a public health epidemic. In response, there has been a surge of initiatives aimed at helping institutions and individuals serving people with histories of trauma to adopt a trauma-informed care (TIC) approach. However, significant roadblocks to TIC research and practice include an unclear operational definition of TIC and the shortage of psychometrically robust instruments to evaluate TIC. To close these gaps, we used a partnership-based approach to develop a direct, efficient, and cost-effective measure of TIC focused on evaluating the TIC-relevant attitudes of staff working in schools, human service systems, and other settings serving individuals with histories of trauma. We then conducted a psychometric evaluation of the resultant measure, the Attitudes Related to Trauma-Informed Care (ARTIC) Scale, with a sample of 760 staff employed in education, human services, and health care. Study findings established support for the psychometric properties of the measure. Specifically, confirmatory factor analysis indicated that the seven-factor structure fit the data well. Scores on the ARTIC demonstrated strong internal consistency and test-retest reliability over 6 months for the 45-item and 35-item composites, the seven subscales, and the 10-item short form. Construct and criterion-related validity were supported by correlations with indicators of familiarity with TIC and staff- and system-level indicators of TIC implementation. The current study has implications for accelerating research on TIC and facilitating data-based decision making related to the adoption and implementation of TIC."

Chafouleas, S. M., Johnson, A. H., Overstreet, S., & Santos, N. M. (2016). Toward a blueprint for trauma-informed service delivery in schools. School Mental Health, 8(1), 144–162. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Recognition of the benefits to trauma-informed approaches is expanding, along with commensurate interest in extending delivery within school systems. Although information about trauma-informed approaches has quickly burgeoned, systematic attention to integration within multitiered service delivery frameworks has not occurred yet is essential to accurate, durable, and scalable implementation. In addition, there is a critical need to concurrently build a strong evidence base regarding trauma-informed service delivery in schools. In this paper, the literatures on trauma-informed approaches and multitiered frameworks for school-based service delivery are connected with the goal to provide suggestions toward building blueprints for trauma-informed service delivery in schools. Drawing from the literature on implementation blueprints for school-wide positive behavior supports, sections are organized around current knowledge about trauma-informed approaches with regard to blueprints for (a) implementation, (b) professional development, and (c) evaluation. Critical issues, strategy recommendations, and directions for research are discussed."

Dorado, J. S., Martinez, M., McArthur, L. E., & Leibovitz, T. (2016). Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools (HEARTS): A whole-school, multi-level, prevention and intervention program for creating trauma-informed, safe and supportive schools. School Mental Health, 8(1), 163–176. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"The University of California, San Francisco's Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools (HEARTS) Program promotes school success for trauma-impacted students through a whole-school approach utilizing the response to intervention multi-tiered framework. Tier 1 involves school-wide universal supports to change school cultures into learning environments that are more safe, supportive and trauma-informed. Tier 2 involves capacity building with school staff to facilitate the incorporation of a trauma-informed lens into the development of supports for at-risk students, school-wide concerns and disciplinary procedures. Tier 3 involves intensive interventions for students suffering from the impact of trauma. Program evaluation questions were: (1) Was there an increase in school personnel's knowledge about addressing trauma and in their use of trauma-sensitive practices? (2) Was there an improvement in students' school engagement? (3) Was there a decrease in behavioral problems associated with loss of students' instructional time due to disciplinary measures taken? (4) Was there a decrease in trauma-related symptoms in students who received HEARTS therapy? Results indicate preliminary support for the effectiveness of the HEARTS program for each of the evaluation questions examined, suggesting that a whole-school, multi-tiered approach providing support at the student, school personnel and system levels can help mitigate the effects of trauma and chronic stress. Key areas for further studies include (a) an examination of data across more HEARTS schools that includes comparison control schools and (b) disaggregating disciplinary data by race and ethnicity to determine whether disproportionality in the meting out of disciplinary actions is reduced."

Harden, T., Kenemore, T., Mann, K., Edwards, M., List, C., & Martinson, K. J. (2015). The Truth N'Trauma Project: Addressing community violence through a youth-led, trauma-informed and restorative framework. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 32(1), 65–79. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"This paper describes the implementation and evaluation of a youth violence prevention and intervention program on Chicago's south side. Forty-four high school-age youth from violence-exposed urban communities participated in a nine-month, multidisciplinary, after-school program aimed at supporting their development and positively impacting their communities. Restorative practice principles informed planning, implementation, and evaluation of the program. The youth developed skills in leadership, trauma-informed practice, documentary production, theatre, and participatory action research. This paper discusses the program, an initial evaluation of its impact, and potential practice and research implications."

Ijadi-Maghsoodi, R., Marlotte, L., Garcia, E., Aralis, H., Lester, P., Escudero, P. et al. (2017). Adapting and implementing a school-based resilience-building curriculum among low-income racial and ethnic minority students. Contemporary School Psychology, 21(3), 223–239. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Although youth are at risk for exposure to adversity and trauma, many youth, especially ethnic and racial minorities, do not have access to mental health care. Resilience-building curriculums can teach important internal resilience skills and provide support to students who may not receive prevention or treatment services. We adapted a resilience curriculum initially used for military-connected youth facing adversities related to parental wartime deployments, to meet the needs of low-income, predominantly racial and ethnic minority students in a large urban school district. In this article, we describe the cultural adaptation, the implementation process, and the evaluation of the trauma-informed resilience curriculum using pre-post surveys and focus group discussions. We found significantly improved overall internal resilience scores, as well as significantly improved scores on subscales of problem-solving and empathy among students receiving the curriculum. The focus groups revealed that the curriculum enhanced connections among students, as well as students and teachers, and served as a way to destigmatize mental health issues. The acceptability of the curriculum as well as implementation successes and challenges are described. We provide suggestions for future steps for school psychologists and school social workers for implementing this curriculum."


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: "Trauma-informed", "Trauma-sensitive", Schools, Practices, Strategies, Evaluation, Evaluating

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.