BRIDGE Bridges the Gap Between Students and Success in Urban Schools

Children who are enrolled in public schools in low-income communities are at a disadvantage both academically and psychologically. These children experience elevated rates of mental health problems due to their environments, family structures, and financial insecurity. At school, their opportunities are restricted as a result of a less than adequate learning environment, minimal resources, and external factors such as increased drug use and violence. All of these factors contribute to diminished behavioral regulation, loss of motivation, and poor academic achievement. Although there are many programs designed to address these issues in urban public schools, few have had substantial success. Obstacles such as feasibility, accessibility, funding, and implementation have prevented them from achieving success. Additionally, the majority of programs are aimed at meeting the needs of the students as a whole, and do not consider the needs of the teachers and children with disabilities.

BRIDGE, Bridging Mental Health and Education in Urban Schools, is a coaching and consultation program that was designed by a team of researchers and created to address all of these issues in urban elementary schools. To test its viability, one of the creators, Elise Cappella of the Department of Applied Psychology at New York University, led a study using 36 classrooms from five different elementary schools in urban communities. After a brief intervention, Cappella and her colleagues saw results.

BRIDGE was directly responsible for increasing emotional support in the classrooms, which gave the children a feeling of security and improved behavioral regulation. The students felt more confident and saw their teacher as an ally, which directly impacted their motivation for success. Overall, the students exceeded the academic, social, and emotional levels of their peers as a result of the teachers’ participation in BRIDGE. Cappella noted that one significant difference between BRIDGE and other programs is the fact that BRIDGE is delivered to teachers by a variety of mental health professionals. This factor makes BRIDGE a program that can be portable, flexible, and easily administered. Teachers are coached in such a way that they become empowered with valuable resources that help bridge the gap often found between students and teachers in disadvantaged school systems. Cappella added, “It is encouraging that a consultation and coaching component of mental health practice based on actual interactions in the elementary classroom and effective strategies to improve these interactions promotes children’s functioning across domains in urban schools.”

Cappella, E., Hamre, B. K., Kim, H. Y., Henry, D. B., Frazier, S. L., Atkins, M. S., & Schoenwald, S. K. (2012). Teacher consultation and coaching within mental health practice: classroom and child effects in urban elementary schools. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027725

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  • Pauly

    March 26th, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    bridging those gaps one step at a time- magnificent!

  • ada

    March 26th, 2012 at 4:38 PM

    How come only the urban schools get to be these models for test study? How come you never hear about stuff like this in our rural schools? These kids could benefit from that kind of intervention too. I think that the program sounds like it could encourage a whole lot of success, but I would love to see this implemented across the board at any school that needs that sort of bridge program, so that truly there is no child left behind by this education system of ours.

  • Joni Roberts

    March 27th, 2012 at 4:18 AM

    I love that this is a program that puts the classroom back into its important place in society and gives teachers the ability to make meaningful changes in the lives of their students. I think that a lot of times teachers feel lost, like they have nothing more to give when they can’t get through to their students. You give them this teaching tool and they know that they can begin to make a difference in these kids lives again.

  • lillian

    March 27th, 2012 at 4:40 PM

    We definitely need more programs like this, but with budget cuts and teachers leveing teaching for more money, then it is hard to see how that is going to be possible to implement. We are losing all of the good ones, and while the research seems to be right on, if we don’t have anyone good left in the classroom to affect these changes, then we are not going to be in any position to move forward with more successful programs like this.

  • Ted

    March 27th, 2012 at 9:29 PM

    Socioeconomic conditions can hinder the growth of children in such communities.Add mental health issues to the equation and it becomes very tough for these kids.Nice to see a program targeted at this disadvantaged lot and I just hope it gives increased results and a better outcome in the long term.

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