The Association Between Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) and School Success in Elementary School Children

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We explored the feasibility of using school personnel as reporters to examine the relationship between the level of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) exposure in a nonclinical sample of public elementary schoolchildren and academic risk. We selected a random sample of 2,101 children from kindergarten through 6th grade classroom rosters at 10 elementary schools. Students were 50% male, 78% White, and 55% free and reduced meal program participants. School personnel reported their factual knowledge of 10 ACEs and academic risk in a database controlled by the schools. Data were de-identified prior to analysis. A high prevalence of ACEs exposure was reported (44%), with 13% of students experiencing 3 or more ACEs. Binary logistic regression analyses revealed a dose–response effect between the number of ACEs and risk of poor school attendance, behavioral issues, and failure to meet grade-level standards in mathematics, reading, or writing. Using elementary school personnel reports of child ACE exposure minimized family burden and potential intrusion while producing prevalence estimates consistent with those of caregiver report from the National Survey of Children’s Health. Results suggest that understanding and responding to a child’s ACE profile might be an important strategy for improving the academic trajectory of at-risk children.

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