A Response to Students with High ACE Scores: Lasticity

I recently published a book with Columbia Teachers College Press (released April 21, 2017) titled: Breakaway Learners: Strategies for Post-Secondary Success with At- Risk Students.  The book is the product of my experiences as a college president and Senior Policy Advisor to the US Department of Education under the Obama Administration; it is also informed by my own experiences as a breakaway students — with a high ACE score.  The book replete with in the trenches experiences and true stories.

The book speaks about how our current approach to the many children and adults with high ACE Scores is that of a deficit model.  We keep trying to deliver things to “cure” them. Grit, resiliency and mindsets — in addition to additive educational services — are proffered. But, this is not enough, howsoever beneficial they may be. The achievement and equity gap is growing.  That is because these approaches presume trauma can be “fixed.”

Instead, we need to help students more forward — because they are forever changed by their experiences (so are Veterans by the by).  And, we need institutions that serve the many students with high ACE Scores to change their culture and deploy different approaches within the institution.  Consider among other things: reciprocity, transparency and trust.

The book uses a new term to describe this process of success building: lasticity.  It is a made up word that I hope will enter our lexicon.  People can be lactic. So can institutions.  Lasticity is a sign of success and its absence allows us to build lasticity and encourage its flourishing.

Lasticity has foundational building blocks (five to be specific) and then actions that animate it (the 6 T’s to be specific).  It’s key is that it is iterative and enables institutions to foster success by altering how they view at risk kids and adults.  And, not all toxic stress or trauma or abuse are easily identified and handled effectively.

One other key feature here that is noteworthy:  we often do not see or handle the positive aspects of trauma.  Yes, they exist but we largely ignore them. Hypervigilance can be a plus.  But, we need to recognize its benefits and its limits, and we need to help traumatized students and those exposed to abuse and toxic stress to appreciate these positives.  We need strategies to animate these positive — using them to the students’ benefit.

Breakaway Learners has its own website: http://www.breakawaylearners.com.  There are also some articles that have been written on how the concept is animated. Lasticity is at the core of this new book — and my hope is that readers will see its power to change the success trajectory for students with high ACE scores.  And, if it does that, it can enter our lexicon proudly.

Here are some links to pieces that, in addition to the book, may be of interest on lasticity:



Thoughts, comments and suggestions welcomed, especially those that proffer ideas for how the term lasticity (as a noun and adjective) can enter our lexicon — to enable a wide audience to foster students success for kids and adults with high ACE Scores. What could be more important, to use Robert Putnam’s term, than helping all our kids?