“I believe that there is a dire need for counselor educators to include trauma training in the school counseling graduate program curriculum,” Angela M. Powell says.
Every year, the Hogg Foundation gives the Frances Fowler Wallace Memorial Award for Mental Health Dissertation Research to eligible doctoral candidates at institutions of higher education in Texas. Awardees receive a $1,500 scholarship to help cover research-related expenses.
Angela M. Powell is a 2018 recipient. While pursuing a degree in Counselor Education at Sam Houston State University, Powell formulated a study that uses literature on developmental and transgenerational trauma, as well as quantitative methods of data collection and analysis, to shed light on the gap in reading proficiency between male African American and Caucasian students. She hopes her findings will help clinicians, parents and school personnel to not only understand the determinants of academic achievement, but also enhance school mental health interventions at large.
We recently talked with Powell about the aims, methods and contexts of her research project:
Hogg Foundation: At what point did you decide to pursue a doctorate and career in social work, and what influenced that decision?
Angela M. Powell: My decision to pursue a doctorate degree was driven by my experience as a school counselor. After becoming one in 2005, I had the opportunity to fully observe the entire campus and the disproportionalities in out-of-school suspensions, office referrals and special education referrals between African American male students and their Caucasian counterparts. I also noticed an increase in low reading scores among those same students and became intrigued and motivated to explore the source of the issue.
Hogg Foundation: Your study is titled, “The Relationship between Posttraumatic Symptoms and African American Male Students’ Third Grade Reading Scores on Standardized Tests.” What led you to take a professional interest in this topic?
Powell: Third grade is a pivotal point in Texas education, as it is the onset of mandatory standardized testing. Additionally, according to previous studies, it is the point where the academic achievement gap begins to develop between African American and Caucasian students.
Hogg Foundation: What questions are you trying to answer with this research?
Powell: My goal was to determine the factors that predicted low reading achievement on standardized tests, as well as to investigate the impact of exposure to trauma and post-traumatic symptoms on the reading achievement of this population.
Hogg Foundation: How did your research methods and approach help you answer the questions you posed?
Powell: My research methods and approach allowed me to provide counseling professionals with more knowledge on how to work with African American male students who have trauma-related and/or post-traumatic symptoms.
Hogg Foundation: What, from your perspective, is the biggest area of need—or the greatest opportunity—related to this topic? In other words, how could we really move the needle on this front?
Powell: I believe that there is a dire need for counselor educators to include trauma training in the school counseling graduate program curriculum. Also, school counselors should receive training and supervision in working with students with trauma during their counseling internships.
Powell recommends the following related resources:
- How the Brain Learns to Read, David A. Sousa
- Double jeopardy: How third-grade reading skills and poverty influence high school graduation, Hernandez, D. J.
- Examining child maltreatment through a neurodevelopmental lens, Perry, B. D.
- Can traumatic stress alter the brain? Understanding the implications of early trauma on brain development and learning, Carrion, V. G., & Wong, S. S.Carrion, V. G., & Wong, S. S.
- The biological effects of childhood trauma, DeBellis, M. D., & Zisk, A.
- The transgenerational trauma and resilience genogram, Goodman, R. D.
- Traumatic stress, socioeconomic status, and academic achievement among primary school students, Goodman, R. D., Miller, M. D., & West-Olatunji, C.
- Developmental patterns of adverse childhood experiences and current symptoms and impairment in youth referred for trauma-specific services, Grasso, D. J., Dierkhising, C. B., Branson, C. E., Ford, J. D., & Lee, R.