psychology Tag

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

Washington State University is leading the online implementation of a program aimed at reducing school truancy that could positively impact schools not only across the state, but also across the nation.

WARNS logoThe Washington Assessment of the Risks and Needs of Students program, also known as WARNS, uses data-driven procedures to track and improve interventions with students. As indicated in the Becca Bill, which requires children from the age of 8 to 17 to attend a public, private or home-based school, unexcused absences may be an early warning sign for unaddressed problems with school failure and dropout rates.

Paul Strand, WSU Tri-Cities professor of psychology, Nick Lovrich, WSU Regents professor emeritus, Brian French, professor and director of WSU’s Learning and Performance Research Center and Psychometric Laboratory, and Bruce Austin, research associate in educational psychology and the LPRC, have worked since 2014 to evaluate and refine the Washington Assessment of the Risks and Needs of Students program, also known as WARNS.

WSU psychology professor Paul Strand

WSU psychology professor Paul Strand

The program was developed in 2008 to assess students on a scale of six needs that have been linked to truancy, delinquency and/or dropping out of school: aggression-defiance, depression-anxiety, substance abuse, peer deviance, family environment and school engagement. Within the program, schools can use the data to develop and implement a plan for at-risk students through school community truancy boards to help prevent and/or correct student behavior.

WSU’s recent evaluation of the program supports using the WARNS as a global screening assessment of risks and needs, citing its reliability and validity. The evaluation was published in SAGE Publications this spring.

“A critical component to the use of scores for decisions about youth is building this line of evidence,” French said.

When children stop going to school, Strand said it can have a substantial effect on their attitude and success in school.

“What happens is kids fell behind in their credit accumulation and when they get to be a sophomore or junior, it starts to feel like a lost cause,” he said. “We want to try to identify truancy problems as early as possible because the less days that kids go to school, the less well they do. It is true that kids that go to school regularly may still struggle, but they struggle less than kids that don’t go.”

WARNS program now available online to schools

WSU’s Learning and Performance Research Center houses the online implementation of the assessment, which is offered to individual high schools and middle schools for $275 per year plus a $1 charge for each student assessed. Districts can also sign up for a subscription for $500 for both middle school and high school WARNS plus a $1 charge for each student assessed. The costs of the program are to ensure the technical integrity and continued development of the assessments.

Strand said he and his colleagues are excited to be in the stage of online implementation because the resource is invaluable for schools across the state.

School buses

Photo of school buses, courtesy of Alex Starr on Flickr

“We are in a position now where schools can use this,” he said. “We want to get the word out about how to use this system. We think the cost is minimal compared to the benefit that both schools and students could experience.

For more information on the assessment, including how to get started using WARNS, visit warns.wsu.edu.

The WSU researchers are also developing programs for elementary schools, as signs of delinquent behavior can begin at early as fifth-grade, Strand said.

“Where truancy really begins to show a problem is about seventh-grade, but even in the fifth- and sixth-grade, you can start to predict who the kids are who will have problems,” he said.

The team’s research for the WARNS program was supported by $150,000 and $98,000 grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a $21,400 grant from the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts, a $25,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Priority Spokane and a high-risk, high-reward grant from the WSU College of Education.

“These funds help support the development of the Platform for Supporting Successful Outcomes, on which WARNS resides,” French said.

Use across the state and nation

Currently, approximately 80 schools across the state are using the platform, in addition to a school district in the state of Georgia. Schools in California, Ohio and Connecticut have also expressed interest, Strand said.

“Schools in Spokane County, for example, experienced increased graduation rates, of those that were using it,” Strand said. “Now, we’re working with a group that is part of WSU’s Learning and Performance Research Center to put the whole program into an online platform, with the help of WSU’s Social and Economic Sciences Research Center. Students can take the assessment and get immediate feedback. We’re also making it very affordable so schools have the means to access this resource.”

Alejandra Cardoso, a recent graduate of Washington State University Tri-Cities, was chosen as one of three representatives from Washington state to participate in the Council for Opportunity in Education’s National Policy Seminar March 19-22 in Washington, D.C.

The seminar affords the TRIO and GEAR UP communities the opportunity to help educate members of Congress, congressional staff and the president’s administration officials about the history and success of the programs, while giving the participants a chance to represent the interests and desires of low-income and first-generation students, veterans, adult learners and students with disabilities in the policy arena.

“It is really an honor,” Cardoso said. “What I’m looking forward to most about the conference is the opportunities to develop myself as a leader, as well as the opportunity to connect with other students with both similar and different backgrounds.”

Cardoso said she hopes to use the experience to share her own story of how the TRIO program at WSU Tri-Cities helped her be successful in her academics, which led her to successfully obtaining a position as a crime victim advocate with the Support, Advocacy and Resource Center in Kennewick, Wash., immediately following graduation last spring.

Cardoso said she was raised in an environment where school wasn’t considered valuable. She said she dropped out of school her junior year of high school, and that it wasn’t until after she had her first child at 17 that she considered going back to school to complete her high school diploma. The TRIO program, both at the community college level, as well as at WSU Tri-Cities, helped ensure her success in obtaining a bachelor’s in psychology.

“I never really saw myself as a college student,” she said. “What really got me interested in going when when I first worked at my first job at WorkSource. Seeing the social workers there inspire me to drive for my own success in that field. The TRIO program at WSU Tri-Cities kept me on track toward obtaining that goal.”

After transferring from Yakima Valley College to WSU Tri-Cities, Cardoso said she got really involved in the TRIO program, which provided her with support services ranging from tutoring, to counseling about academic and person-related issues and much more.

“The TRIO staff always try to help you as best as they can,” she said. “Just knowing that there was someone out there looking out for me and willing to help me, as long as I was willing to help myself, was crucial.”

In her current role as a crime victim advocate for SARC, Cardoso is fulfilling her dream of helping individuals get out of their despairing situations in order to live a better and more prosperous life. Specifically, she helps victims of harassment, assault, child abuse, identity theft and more.

“I’m the first person in my family to graduate from high school, let alone a university,” she said. “Now, I’m working on my master’s, which will allow me to further help individuals suffering with dangerous and undesirable situations. TRIO and WSU Tri-Cities helped me get to where I’m at now. I’m excited to share my story with others at the national policy seminar and I hope that I can help inspire positive change at the national level.”

For more information on the national policy seminar, visit http://www.coenet.org/policy_seminar.shtml.

According to a survey completed by psychology students at Washington State University Tri-Cities, wearing a hat may have no impact on initial likability of a person, which opposes general procedure in personality studies.

Senior students Grace Taylor and Bertha Zanotti said hats are regularly removed from personality studies in order to prevent them from distracting or distorting the perception of a person’s personality. In other words, they are believed to have an impact, whether that be positive or negative, on a person’s likability upon first impression and may create a bias for that person.

hat-student-study-1“We actually figured hats would make a person more likeable,” Taylor said. “That didn’t end up being the case.”

For their study, the students selected three photos of models and used Photoshop to digitally place hats onto each of the models. In contrast, they also presented the same three photos of models, but without hats. They then had 43 participants complete a survey rating their general likability of each model. Some of the statements survey participants rated included “This individual talks to a lot of different people at parties” and “This individual starts conversations.”

“We found that hats had no correlation with likability, whether that be positive or negative,” Taylor said. “Our results were found to be non-statistically significant either way, meaning the models wearing hats were not liked any better or worse than the same models not wearing hats.”

Taylor said there currently isn’t a lot of other research investigating the impact that hats may have on likability of a person. She said she would love to investigate the matter further by completing the same study on a larger scale.

The students completed the study as part of their “research methods” psychology course at WSU Tri-Cities. They presented their results during WSU Tri-Cities’ Undergraduate Research Symposium and Art Exhibition this week, which features more than 100 student research and art projects. Today, Dec. 15, marks the last day of the symposium. For more information on the symposium, visit https://tricities.wsu.edu/dec-13-15-wsu-tri-cities-students-to-showcase-research/.