The intersection of trauma-informedness and multi-tiered systems of support: administrators' understanding and implementations of the integrated framework of intervention

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Wolf, Lindsay Dietrich
Sciuchetti, Maria B.
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Meeting the needs of students in schools has been challenging for many years. Consequently, schools have responded with comprehensive intervention systems aimed at academic, behavioral, and social-emotional concerns. Concurrently, Felitti et al. (1998) produced the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study that has begun to cross-over into the educational realm. Most educators have a rudimentary understanding of Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS) and an introductory comprehension of ACEs, trauma impacts, and subsequent responses. More concerning, however, is the minimal research indicating a comprehensive understanding of how trauma-informedness integrates into MTSS. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore administrators’ perception, understanding, and implementation of using a trauma-informed lens in educational decision making, specifically regarding MTSS implementation. Borrowing components of both grounded theory and phenomenology, constant comparison analysis was employed, resulting in five themes. Those themes were: 1) professional development is critical but varied; 2) integration of MTSS and trauma-informedness is important but very much a work in progress; 3) building level administrators critical role in providing structure, cultivating others, and exemplifying; 4) culture of understanding impacts decision making; and 5) varied level of understanding of MTSS and trauma-informedness. Findings suggest that although principals have awareness of MTSS, trauma-informedness, and an integration of both, there is still a great deal of uncertainty and inconsistency with the development of an integrative framework. Limitations, recommendations for future research, and implications are presented within this dissertation.