In Vallejo, CA, schools — where referrals, suspensions, expulsions outnumbered students 5 to 1– there’s no place to go but up

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Dr. Ramona Bishop in her office in a building that was once part of the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, CA.

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When Dr. Ramona Bishop walked into her office on April Fool’s Day in 2011, the Vallejo schools had hit rock-bottom: The system had been in receivership since 2004. Its 14,000 students were racking up nearly 80,000 referrals, suspensions, and expulsions that school year, making it one of the top ten suspending schools in the state. Academic scores had tanked. Only half the students were making it to graduation. And morale? What morale?

The City of Vallejo had just dragged itself out of a 2008 bankruptcy resulting from the double whammy of the housing bubble and the 1996 closing of the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. It emerged emaciated, with all services cut to the bone.

Bishop couldn’t have asked for a more challenging job.

But this woman likes doing turn-arounds. She did one on a smaller scale when she was principal

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Want your ACE score? Now there’s an app for that!

ACE icon Ever wonder why you, your relatives or friends can’t stop smoking, over-eating, drinking, doing meth or other drugs? Why you’re a workaholic, a rage-aholic or shopaholic? Why you’ve shed marriages like a snake sheds skins? Or why you have trouble keeping a job or making friends?

Maybe it has something to do with your — or their — ACE score.

Many people who learn about the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) and take a 10-question survey based on its findings say two things: “Now my life makes sense,” and “Why didn’t someone tell me about this years ago?”

The ACE Study uncovered a stunning link between childhood trauma and the adult onset of chronic disease, social and emotional problems.

The study’s researchers – Drs. Robert Anda and Vincent Felitti — measured 10 types of childhood

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How brains are built: the core story of brain development

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In just four quick and easy minutes, this terrific animated graphic explains how adults and communities help children build healthy brains, and how that process can be derailed by toxic stress.

The Alberta Family Wellness Initiative developed the video, with assistance from the Harvard Center on the Developing Child and the Frameworks Institute.

The only down side is that they didn’t put this on YouTube or Vimeo, which drastically slows down its  movement through cyberspace.

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JFK legacy on mental health to be celebrated in Boston

kennedyFifty years ago this month, President John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act, a largely unheralded piece of legislation that embodied a hopeful vision of what life should be like for people with mental illnesses, addiction and intellectual disabilities: living lives of dignity and sharing in the benefits of our society.

The President’s nephew and former Rhode Island congressman, Patrick J. Kennedy, is organizing the Kennedy Forum October 23 and 24 in Boston to commemorate the anniversary and start a new conversation among diverse leaders to assess what has been accomplished and what is now needed to improve care and achieve equality in all aspects of life. The forum is catalyzing a larger, national

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Survey shows 1 in 5 Iowans have 3 or more adverse childhood experiences

iowaacesIowa’s 2012 ACE survey found that 55 percent of Iowans have at least one adverse childhood experience, while one in five of the state’s residents have an ACE score of 3 or higher.

In the Iowa study, there was more emotional abuse than physical and sexual abuse, while adult substance abuse was higher than other household dysfunctions.iowaprevalence

This survey echoed the original CDC ACE Study in that as the number of types of adverse childhood experiences increase, the risk of chronic health problems — such as diabetes, depression, heart disease and cancer — increases. So does violence, becoming a victim of violence, and missing work days.

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Foster human flourishing, and improved economic production will follow

lifelinesIn a recent New York Times opinion piece, “Lifelines for Poor Children“, James J. Heckman, Nobel Laureate and professor of economics at the University of Chicago, makes a compelling case for quality early childhood programs for disadvantaged children that “more than pay for themselves in better education, health and economic outcomes.” But making these high-yield investments in children from birth to age five will require us, according to Heckman, “to rethink long-held notions of how we develop productive people and promote shared prosperity.”

Heckman points to two long-term research studies that have demonstrated high rates of return on investment: the Ypsilanti, Michigan Perry Preschool project and the Carolina Abecedarian Project, aka “ABC.” Both programs included cognitive stimulation as well as non-cognitive skill development such as training in self-control and social skills, and parenting practices. The Perry Preschool project showed that while the experience did not make lasting changes in children’s IQs as was expected, it did improve their overall, lifetime success in education, earnings and stability overall. The “ABC” project did show lasting effects on IQ as well as on parenting practices and

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