Skip to Navigation

Research and Policy Outlook

Printer-friendly versionSend to friendPDF version


It has been replaced with view:
The view url belongs here:


On our Research & Policy Outlook site, find summaries of research studies and perspectives on policy directions that support the mission of unity. You can also access descriptions of The Unity Center’s comprehensive demonstration projects, as well as evaluations of The Unity Center’s learning experiences, partner programs and curriculum. 

Student Success: What’s Violence Got to Do With it?

For many students, the fear of failing a class is less daunting than the fear of being assaulted or harassed. School violence disrupts learning, reducing students’
potential for academic success. The Center’s partnerships, statewide curricula and interactive learning experiences will offer school stakeholders tools for reducing violence, strengthening youth developmental assets and creating a learning environment in which students can thrive.

School of Fear: Violence on California Campuses

The California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS), the primary instrument used state-wide to increase understanding of students’ health behaviors and academic performance, reported that nearly 30% of the middle and high school youth it surveyed were targets of bias-based harassment—bullying or physical violence inflicted because of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender; religion, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability. Research suggests that proactive measures are needed to dismantle bias-related violence and reduce its detrimental impact on students’ capacity to succeed academically.

If you want students to read, write and do math, you’ve got to first have a climate that is conducive to learning. Ron Stephens, Executive Director of the National School Safety Center in Los Angeles County

School Environment Indicators 

Suspensions and drop-outs: whether students are removed from school for violent behavior or drop out for fear for their safety, the problem seems to be growing. In 2007, California public schools suspended students more than 332,000 times for violence or drugs—a five percent increase from 2006. More than half (57%) of high school drop-outs surveyed in a national Gates Foundation study cited that their schools failed to keep them safe. In-class disruptions and the threat of imminent violence distracted their attention away from academics to staying out of harm’s way.

I remember a week where I was bullied so much, I felt like slitting my wrists. Student participant in the Challenge Day program

Mental Health and Resilience Assets: The CHKS also shed light on the profound effects bias-related attacks had on students’ mental health and resilience. Victimized students were more likely to report feeling sad and hopeless—feelings closely associated with clinical depression—as well as less emotionally connected with other peers and adults. Perhaps not surprisingly, targeted students were more
likely than others to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, use illicit drugs, or carry a weapon to school. These risky behaviors and attitudes reflect a lack of external and internal assets—positive experiences and qualities essential to raising successful young people.

It is likely that academic improvement efforts will be more successful when schools strive to promote the health and well-being of their students. California Healthy Kids Survey

School-wide achievement: CHKS studies indicate that school climate impacts the Academic Performance Index (API), a summary measure of California schools based on students’ standardized test scores. The California Department of Education considers the API the cornerstone of the Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999 and a critical component of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Because school ranking and funding is tied to API, it remains a priority concern for school administrators. The CHKS found that school safety and student resilience/assets were among the four most significant factors affecting school API. As the percentage of students who perceived high levels of three assets—caring relationships, high expectations, and opportunities for meaningful participation—increased, so did API. Those schools with significantly lower percentages of students with these three assets ranked at the bottom of the scale.

The Unity Center: Building Capacity to Strengthen Youth Developmental Assets

The Center’s Tools for Change approach provides a learning-outcome framework for building many of the assets that the national education research firm, Search Institute, has identified as critical to young people’s development. The chart highlights actions and tools that strengthen these assets and provides corresponding examples of learning experiences planned for the Center. The Council is collaborating with educators, community organizations, and youth to develop curricula, programs, online networks, and evaluation tools that can be implemented and modeled nationwide.