Positive Psychology and Academic Achievement in an Urban High School Setting

Students from urban, low socio-economic high schools present many challenges to educators. Often these students have experienced trauma, homelessness, and poverty. Traditional interventions in public schools focus on academic achievement, however, it is clear that these students require academic, behavioral, and psychosocial interventions and supports. Many urban schools have adopted behavioral systems of support such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports and/or Restorative Justice. These systems of support have positively impacted observable behaviors, however, they fall short of impacting student’s emotional well-being and psychosocial health. A relatively new field of psychology, positive psychology, has shown that interventions based in positive thinking have positively impacted performance. Few of these interventions have occurred in urban high school setting. This study used a mixed methods approach to study the impact of a positive psychology intervention on academic achievement within an urban high school. The findings indicated that student’s test scores did increase after the intervention and students reported that this intervention had a lasting impact on high school experience.