Happy Holidays! Goodbye 2010, bring on 2011!!!

 

A basic disclaimer: all opinions below are mine and in no way represent the opinions of the Christina School District Board of Education of which I am merely one member.

As 2010 comes to a tumultuous and furious close in the world of education in Delaware, I wanted to share some thoughts about 2010 and what I look forward to in 2011.

First, I am thankful for all of the hardworking, dedicated professionals in the Christina School District and all they do to help our students succeed. We truly have some of the best administrators and teachers in Delaware serving our kids. When it comes to support, the custodians, paraprofessionals, food service, librarians, facilities, bus drivers, and secretaries are the ones who make sure we run smoothly so we can keep our focus where it belongs. For all employees, I am sincerely grateful and wish each and every one a great holiday season!

Education in Delaware is a contact sport of late and I want to acknowledge a few things about where CSD is and may be going as we approach the New Year. As many who follow this space know, I am no fan of the Federal usurpation of local control vis-à-vis competitive grants that make for a tawdry landscape of winners and losers amongst our kids. That said, the DOE has somewhat masterfully, if not brutally, bent DE code to enforce that DE is going to make deep changes to how poor performing schools will be addressed. I remain less than enthusiastic about the prospects for success, but have made some decisions about how I intend to help Christina’s schools perform at the best in this new order.

I believe the Board of Education in Christina is ready to embrace a radical approach to fixing our schools that need help. For me, that means lending the most sincere and considered approach to having the DOE as friends in the process.  Understand this: friends can only be true if they are willing to submit to blistering criticisms from time to time. If the DOE and Christina hope to make Glasgow and Stubbs two models of excellence, we must negotiate our differences and get to the work of helping our students succeed.

This means may things to many people. To me it means that equity is critical and different for every student. Excellence is not. Christina will need to DOE to help us travel down the new road laid out by DCAS and lend maximum support (read $$). In the absence appropriate resources, success will not stand a chance. In the presence of adequate resources, much else will still be needed to succeed. Examples of “much else” include but are not limited to: outstanding leadership, professional development, effective governance, and genuine collaboration of stakeholders. I am committing that I intend to help CSD hold up our end of the bargain on all of those fronts. The Board of Education has recently embarked on several transformative initiatives. I am hopeful that trend will continue in 2011 and am further hopeful that the current BOE, which has 3 seats up for election in May 2011 will remain on its current trajectory of liberating Christina from its unfortunate reputations in student achievement and other operational deficiencies. These have been in decline over a number of years for a variety of reasons in my opinion, but we have begun to apply the brakes. I hope to see Christina find a path to travel upon that has the DOE with us. During this journey, I intend to keep the DOE  honest with sometimes brutal criticism and I hope keep the corporate interests as far away from CSD as possible.

I am most proud in 2010 of our complete, ideological repudiation of our previous code of conduct based on the flawed tenets of zero tolerance, the passing of a new board policy sanctioning the digital recording of board meetings, and the recent decisions to assert local control in personnel contract issues. I still believe the strategic plan needs considerable revisions going into 2011 to react to the new landscape of Delaware education and that the BOE has considerable work to continue in revising our own governance manual to allow the BOE to be as nimble and deft as is necessary in the future. Finally, we must find a way to have the DOE and CSD be better partners in 2011 and I intend to work very hard to make this the strongest district in the state with their help! It should be an exciting 2011 in CSD!

On a personal note, I have finished my classwork for my MBA at the University of Delaware and will walk on 1/9/11. I would like to thank my wife, son and parents for their support and my fellow board mates for understanding why I did not always have time for evening commitments on occasion. I will end by posting two videos that I find highly allegorical and related to my motivations….This will be my last blog post of 2010! I need my rest because 2011 will be off to the races when Dr. Lowery approves PZ plans for our two schools and we get down to business! See ya next year!

and this  one….

 

 







Feliz Navidad!

Live From Daryl’s House – a monthly free live performace webcast feauring Daryl Hall. A monthly Internet webcast featuring Daryl Hall playing along with some of his friends and colleagues in an intimate setting.

Feliz Navidad!, posted with vodpod

School Board Elections: Christina has 3 seats up in 2011.

Christina School District: 2011 School Board Election

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2011 School Board Election

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Nominating District “B”: Term expires June 30, 2016

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Nominating District “F”: Term expires June 30, 2016

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Well Harry Ried tried…..Duncan get his way with unqualified teachers….#EDreformHYPOCRISY

John Affeldt: Congress Lowering Standards for Teachers; Hiding Truth from Poor, Minority Parents

 

As I reported on this blog last Thursday and updated since, Congress seems ready to lower the standard of teacher owed every child in the country — particularly impacting children in poor and minority communities — and to hide that fact while they’re at it.

Slipped in at the 11th hour into the Continuing Resolution to fund the government, the provision at issue proposes to call novice teachers still learning how to teach in alternative preparation programs on nights and weekends “highly qualified” under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). That designation relieves districts of having to tell parents of the teachers’ sub-par preparation and allows their continued concentration in poor and minority schools.

Pushed by Teach for America so that they can continue to operate business as usual, it appears more important to Congress to change the law to accommodate TFA than to ensure the equity provisions of NCLB operate as intended. Alternate route trainees (only a few percent of which are actually from TFA) are disproportionately concentrated in low-income, high minority schools despite NCLB’s requirement that teachers lacking full credentials be equitably distributed across schools.

The problem is that actual parents and students in schools where these alternative route trainees teach don’t want their classrooms to be the exclusive training grounds. They also want the disclosures that NCLB promises as to which teachers have been fully prepared to teach their children and which haven’t.

Secondly, serious concerns have been raised by researchers about exposing children to a churn of these novice teacher-trainees in low-income schools–both because these teachers on average do not seem to produce the same achievement gains that fully-trained teachers do (i.e., those who have graduated from traditional or alternative preparation programs like TFA) and because the interns are churning through and not staying around for the long haul.

And that will be the biggest loss under NCLB if amended: states and districts will be relieved of having to develop policies that attract and retain fully-prepared teachers to the neediest schools. Instead, they can continue to maintain the status quo of having so-called “highly qualified” alternative route trainees learn on poor peoples’ children–and then move on.

Of course, these same parents and students want Congress to enact new laws requiring states and districts to evaluate teachers for effectiveness and to equitably distribute effective teachers too. But it’s not an either or proposition, especially since effectiveness cannot meaningfully be measured for two to three years in. Parents want their child’s new teacher to be adjudged fully-prepared and ready to teach on day one.

Responding to some of these concerns which were noted by Valerie Strauss in her Washington Post blog today, Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Committee that covers education, issued the following statement:

“There is broad, bipartisan agreement among members of Congress and the Obama administration that it is the intent of Congress for alternative-route teachers to be considered highly qualified, consistent with the regulation that has been in place for several years. Chairman Harkin strongly believes that teacher quality is essential to student success, and intends to address this issue as part of a comprehensive ESEA reauthorization. While that process is underway, the 9th Circuit’s decision – which reverses a previous court ruling in favor of the regulation – could cause significant disruptions in schools across the country and have a negative impact on students. Maintaining current practice is a temporary solution, and underscores the need to act quickly and reauthorize ESEA early in the next Congress.”

Senator Harkin’s statement fails to acknowledge that what the courts have called an illegal expansion of the “highly qualified” teacher definition has never been part of the law, and was rejected by Senator Kennedy and Congressman Miller early on. To write what was an illegally expansive regulation into law will be a major change from the past. To permit a teacher who may have only just enrolled in preparation to be called “highly qualified” before they have met any training standards defies common sense. To visit those underprepared teachers disproportionately on low-income students and students of color — and on special education students who are among those most often taught by underprepared teachers — and then hide that fact from parents and the public under a “highly qualified” moniker flies in the face of the equity, transparency and accountability that NCLB and our leaders apparently stand for.

The fear of “significant disruptions” in the teaching force has no basis, as the court case is currently being appealed and no classroom assignments will be upset mid-year. Furthermore, where there are needs, schools will continue to hire less-than-highly-qualified teachers, as is the case in several hundred thousand classrooms today. NCLB permits such teachers to continue to be employed as long as they fill shortage areas, are publicly disclosed and equitably distributed.

If this were just about enacting a “temporary solution” to avoid short-term disruptions, the language would not seek to modify the highly qualified teacher definition for the next 2½ years. Instead, it has now become more important to maintain the status quo of using poor and minority schools as the proving grounds for these trainee teachers than enforcing teacher equity as NCLB called for and as parents are demanding.

There is a real disruption here — and it’s been to the democratic process. Significantly modifying the standard of teacher quality owed every child in the nation is not something that should happen at the close of session, in the dead of night, behind closed doors in an appropriations bill, but where it is supposed to — in the light of day during the ESEA reauthorization, with time for deliberation and public input.

[Update: 12/21/10: As expected, the Senate and House enacted the Continuing Resolution today. Congressman George Miller issued a statement explaining his vote in favor of watering the down the highly qualified teacher standard he played a significant role in writing. Miller maintained the vote was necessistated by the possible "major and unpredictable disruptions to schools across the country" if the 9th Circuit's decision were to be implemented. Both Harkin and Miller have now referred to disruptions without articulating just what these disruptions are. As I explained to Congressman Miller's staff on Monday, no disruptions are anywhere on the horizon given the status of the case on appeal and the desire of all parties to avoid any "disruptions." Certainly no imminent disruptions have been identified that warrant enacting this significant amendment to the ESEA without proper public processes and deliberation.]

[Disclosure: I am the lead plaintiffs' counsel in Renee v. Duncan, the case that produced the recent 9th Circuit decision striking down the Department of Education's regulation awarding highly qualified status to teacher trainees.]

 

The News Journal Editorial Board shows the world why it has no business offering opinions on Education. #RTTT #DSEA #fail #edreform

My Comments in RED.

Christina teachers, district must iron out differences | delawareonline.com | The News Journal

All the players agree, at least in public, that the idea of making our schools better is for the sake of the children(who doesn’t?).

So far, Delaware’s various interests have been able to come together on that point (100% false: the DOE and Governor along with WSFS CEO and Rodel have pushed an agenda of reform with almost zero meaningful stakeholder input). And it certainly is a big reason why the state was awarded the federal Race to the Top money.(This is correct, and so disappointing)

Part of Delaware’s plan was to identify and then turn around the schools in most need of help.(Yes, but only using Federally prescribed plans based on failed strategies from Chicago which are failing to this day…see Renaissance 2010)

Four schools have been identified. The Department of Education then asked the school administrations and the teachers to come up with turn-around plans (100% false: The DOE asked the district to come up with the plan and for the district to work out a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the teachers to execute whatever plan it created within these four fatally flawed models). The next step is checking the plans and making the schools better. If the plans are unacceptable, the state will step in to fix them.

Two of the schools, so far, are on target (Proof? The fact that DOE says they are OK? The fact that the NJ did not pen an article on their plans? Do you even know how or why their plans have any chance of success?) . Two are not (There is no win here if you would engage in basic rudimentary analysis).

The two that are not (the fact that our Union did not sign is proof positive that they are concerned…with EXCELLENT reasons about the ability of these plans to be successful and treat its educators as professionals) are in the Christina School District. Now, the district’s education association has found fault with the administration’s proposed fix (FALSE: they have simply asked to be respected and if the NJ Ed board would do their job they would ask questions and find answers,,,, I sure do  wish the editorials would aspire to do the work Nichole did to get the story right///AND the administration’s proposed fix is guided once again by four fatally flawed turnaround models, as such, it has innumerable faults).

This is troubling (Why? Because a prominent advertiser at the News Journal is upset?). The Delaware State Education Association has worked closely with the Department of Education (Certainly much closer than they should in many peoples estimation), the school districts and the business community (What in the WORLD are they doing in this space…banks have destroyed our economy and used the SEC to do it!!!!!) in developing a method to better education in the state (says who? you?). The philosophy is a simple one: Teachers want better schools, too. This cooperation works better than the antagonism setting off sparks in neighboring New Jersey (hey hey we agree here!, Christie is a poor leader in education).

We are not privy to the internal differences between the Christina teachers(yet feel compelled to jump in..nevermind…I know why…) and the district administration or where the sticking point is. We do know that it would behoove (why?, a real reason please….why?) both sides to get it right.

Wow, just wow. Four words I didn’t think I would say: Thank You Harry Reid. #TFA #TNTP

FROM: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-affeldt/senate-poised-to-call-nov_b_798046.html

Buried deep in the nearly 2,000 page Senate omnibus appropriations bill that Harry Reid just pulled is an amendment slipped in on Tuesday that seeks to lower the standard of teacher owed every child in the nation under No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

The provision, which has grassroots and community groups across the country up in arms, would have permitted teachers still training in night or weekend alternative preparation programs (known as interns in some states) to be labeled as “highly qualified” teachers. That designation relieves districts of having to tell parents of the teacher’s sub-par preparation and allows their continued concentration in poor and minority schools.

The attempt to insert the controversial language comes just weeks after a panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Renee v. Duncan agreed with low-income students and community organizations that teachers still in training are not “highly qualified” under NCLB and, as such, would have to be publicly reported and equitably distributed. Teach for America, which has vociferously opposed the lawsuit and has substantial clout on Capitol Hill, is the most likely suspect behind the covert attempt to overturn the court’s decision through stealth legislation.

(Full disclosure: I represent the plaintiffs in Renee; only a policy wonk following this stuff closely would understand the import of the 7 lines on page 1068.)

Evidence in Renee and elsewhere, consistently show that alternate route trainees disproportionately teach in low-income and high minority schools, contrary to NCLB’s command that poor and minority students have equal access to fully-prepared and experienced teachers. Nearly a quarter of California’s interns, for example, are teaching in schools with 98-100% students of color compared to less than 2% in schools with the lowest population of students of color.

“Why would the Senate agree to allow low-income children and children of color to continue to be disproportionately taught by the least experienced teachers?,” Jeremy Lahoud, Executive Director of the grassroots student group, Californians for Justice (CFJ) and a plaintiff in Renee, asked in a statement Thursday. “Our communities want equal access to the same fully-prepared, highly qualified teachers more affluent communities have.”

On Thursday, CFJ and a coalition of grassroots community organizations representing over half a million students and parents across the country sent a strongly-worded letter to Congress, in an attempt to put the brakes on the “highly qualified teacher” amendment. The groups argue that their schools should not be the exclusive training ground for these novices in-training. They also object to the fact that the amendment will relieve states and districts from having to disclose to parents and the public the under-preparation of alternate route trainees and their disproportionate concentrations. 

The letter also quotes Congressman George Miller and the late Senator Kennedy, key architects of the “highly qualified” provisions, criticizing the regulation struck down in Renee and a later much-derided California attempt to water down the full certification requirement of NCLB that Miller railed against.

[Read more about the details of the "highly qualified" standard and the requirement that such teachers be equitably distributed under NCLB.]

Alternative certification programs led by Teach for America have opposed the court’s decision in Renee, suggesting that districts will be forced to fire their intern teachers and students will be left in classrooms without teachers. Their argument appears to have found some traction for some unknown Senator who slipped the 11th-hour amendment into the voluminous legislative package without public discussion.

But the Department’s own data (see section 1.5.1 of each report) shows that, in the most recent year reported (2008-09), hundreds of thousands of core classes were taught across the country to millions of students by not highly qualified teachers–173,373 core classes in the ten most populous states alone. Nearly all of these teachers have even fewer qualifications than interns, yet none of them has been fired.

Teach for America and other alternative certification proponents also argue that intern teachers are just as effective as fully-certified teachers. Their arguments have met with heavy criticism from researchers, however, who note that these studies either compare alternate route trainees to teachers with even less training or only examine graduates, as opposed to current participants, of alternative preparation programs. (There is no disagreement that graduates of alternative programs, who thereby earn full credentials, are properly deemed “highly qualified” and are as equally desirable as other fully trained teachers.) Studies that compare alternate route trainees to fully-certified teachers consistently show greater student gains associated with the fully-prepared teachers.

The community groups in their letter to Congress and the plaintiffs in Renee have been clear: they are not seeking to end alternate route programs. They do object, however, to the disproportionate placement of alternate route trainees in low-income communities of color–especially when doing so obviates the need to enact policies that attract and retain permanent, fully-prepared teachers versus the churn of temporary interns–and they want full disclosure of the under-prepared teachers’ qualifications.

Congress has been widely expected to consider a number of major changes to NCLB when it reauthorizes the ESEA. Past proposals, however, including one put forward in 2007 by George Miller, Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, have not included any major changes to the “highly qualified teacher” definition. Which makes this last minute end-run to modify the ESEA all the more surprising.

The irony of the amendment has not been lost on parents and students. As William Browning from ACTION United in Pennsylvania said today, “It’s so wrong that a law that was meant to promote transparency, accountability, and parental participation is being gutted through a last minute, behind-closed-doors appropriations act with little public participation or scrutiny.”

With Reid’s pulling back the omnibus spending bill, the amendment is dead for now, but its 11th-hour introduction does not bode well for an open and democratic debate on teacher quality equity going forward.

Bullying: Evidence-based Programs

Bullying: Evidence-based Programs

 

The following programs related to bullying are from the Evidence-Based Program Directory on FindYouthInfo.gov. Click on a program name to learn more.

Level Program Name Description Age Range
2 Olweus Bullying Prevention Program The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is a universal intervention developed to promote the reduction and prevention of bullying behavior and victimization problems. The program is based on an ecological model, intervening with a child’s environment on many levels: the individual children who are bullying and being bullied, the families, the teachers and students within the classroom, the school as a whole, and the community. The main arena for the program is the school, and school staff have the primary responsibility for introducing and implementing the program. Schools are provided ongoing support by project staff. 6-14
2 Second Step®: A Violence Prevention Curriculum Second Step®: A Violence Prevention Curriculum is designed to reduce impulsive and aggressive behavior in children by increasing their social competency skills. The program is composed of three grade-specific curricula: preschool/kindergarten (Pre/K), elementary school (grades 1–5), and middle school (grades 6–8). The curricula are designed for teachers and other youth service providers to present in a classroom or other group setting. A parent education component, “A Family Guide to Second Step®” for Pre/K through grade 5, is also available. 4-14
2 Steps to Respect®: A Bullying Prevention Program Steps to Respect®: A Bullying Prevention Program is a research-based, comprehensive bullying prevention program developed for grades 3 through 6 by Committee for Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving children’s lives through effective social and emotional learning programs. The program is designed to decrease school bullying problems by 1) increasing staff awareness and responsiveness, 2) fostering socially responsible beliefs, and 3) teaching social–emotional skills to counter bullying and promote healthy relationships. Thus the program also aims to promote skills (e.g., group joining, conflict resolution) associated with general social competence. 8-12

If you’d like to learn more about how programs like this were accepted into the Evidence-Based Program Directory on FindYouthInfo.gov, go to the Background & Methodology page. This section includes a description of the meaning of the level assigned to each program.

If you’d like to nominate a program for inclusion in the Evidence-Based Program Directory, go to the Nominate a Program page, which explains the process.

 

Preventing and Responding to Bullying: What Not to Do

Bullying: What Not to Do

 

Preventing and Responding to Bullying: What Not to Do

In recent years, increasing numbers of educators, health professionals, parents, and other adults who interact with children and youth have come to understand the seriousness of bullying. Bullying among children is aggressive behavior that is intentional and involves an imbalance of power and strength. Many proven and promising prevention and intervention strategies have been developed. Unfortunately, some misdirected intervention and prevention strategies have also been developed.

  • Many schools and school districts have adopted “zero tolerance,” “student exclusion” or “three strikes and you’re out” policies towards bullying, in which children who bully others are suspended or expelled from school. Although suspension and expulsion of students may be necessary to maintain public safety in a very small number of cases, these practices are not recommended as a broad-based bullying prevention or intervention policyfor the following reasons:
    • These policies affect a large number of students. Recent surveys of elementary and middle school students indicate that approximately one in five students admit to bullying their peers periodically (Melton et al., 1998). Even if policies are limited to physical bullying, the numbers of affected children are still significant.
    • Threats of severe punishments, such as suspension or expulsion, may actually discourage children and adults from reporting any bullying that they observe.
    • Bullying can be an early marker of other problem behaviors. Children who frequently bully their peers are at risk of engaging in other problem behaviors such as truancy, fighting, theft, and vandalism. Children who bully are in need of positive, prosocial role models, including adults and students in their school.
  • Conflict resolution and peer mediation are common strategies for dealing with conflicts among students. Many schools also use peer mediation and conflict resolution to address bullying problems, but this is not recommended for the following reasons:
    • Bullying is a form of victimization, not conflict. It is no more a “conflict” than are child abuse or domestic violence.
    • Mediating a bullying incident may send inappropriate messages to the students who are involved (such as, “You are both partly right and partly wrong,” or “We need to work out this conflict between you”). The appropriate message to the child who is bullied should be, “No one deserves to be bullied, and we are going to do everything we can to stop it.” The message for children who bully should be, “Your behavior is inappropriate and must be stopped.”
    • Mediation may further victimize a child who has been bullied. It may be very upsetting for a child who has been bullied to face his or her tormenter in mediation.
    • There is no evidence to indicate that conflict resolution or peer mediation is effective in stopping bullying.
  • Group therapeutic treatment for children who bully, including anger management, skill-building, empathy-building, and seeking ways to build the self-esteem of bullies, may be well-intentioned, but they are often counterproductive.
    • Students’ behavior may further deteriorate, as group members tend to serve as role models and reinforcers for each others’ antisocial and bullying behavior.
  • Often, school administrators and their staff adopt a short-term, piecemeal approach to bullying prevention. Bullying may be the topic of a staff in-service training, a PTA meeting, a school-wide assembly, or lessons taught by individual teachers. Although each of these efforts may represent important initial steps in the adoption of a comprehensive, long-term bullying prevention strategy, they likely will do little to significantly reduce bullying problems if implemented in a piecemeal way. To reduce the prevalence of bullying we need a change in the climate of the school and its exceptions for student behavior.

View References

Resources

Best Practices in Bullying Prevention and Intervention

This tip sheet from Stop Bullying Now! offers ten strategies that represent “best practices” in bullying prevention and intervention.

Bullying Research NetworkExternal Web Site Policy

The Bullying Research Network serves as a virtual clearinghouse to support national and international research initiatives in effective bullying prevention and intervention. The central objective is to unite researchers in bullying prevention and intervention in order to further our understanding of the complex social ecology underlying bullying dynamics. Members engage in web-based dialogue about cutting-edge methodologies and strategies; apply for extramural research grants and contracts; implement exemplary, evidence-based models in field settings; and disseminate this information to educators, students, and parents.

Blueprints for Violence PreventionExternal Web Site Policy

Blueprints is a national violence prevention initiative to identify violence prevention programs that are effective. The initiative has identified 11 prevention and intervention programs that meet a strict scientific standard of program effectiveness. The initiative has also identified 18 promising programs.

State Laws Related to Bullying Among Children and Youth (PDF, 2 Pages)

A number of states have passed laws addressing bullying among school children, and many others have considered legislation. Most laws have been in effect since 2001. Their passage was motivated, at least in part, by tragic shootings at several U.S. high schools in the late 1990s and later reports that many perpetrators of school shootings had felt bullied or threatened by peers.

FindYouthInfo.gov

FindYouthInfo.gov is a website created by the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, a collaboration of 12 Federal agencies that support programs and services focusing on youth. A searchable program directory on FindYouthInfo.gov provides visitors with information about effective community-based efforts that address youth risk and protective factors.

From the homepage of FindYouthInfo.gov, select risk factors associated with bullying (e.g., aggression or violence) and the database will return a list of evidence-based programs. By clicking on an individual program, you will access additional information about the intervention, evaluation, outcomes, references, and contact information for program staff.

National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP)

NREPP is a searchable database of interventions for the prevention and treatment of mental and substance use disorders. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has developed this resource to help people, agencies, and organizations implement programs and practices in their communities.

To find bullying-related interventions in NREPP click Find Interventions. There you can search by keyword (e.g., bullying) or topic (e.g., violence prevention) and narrow your search by age, study design, and other options.

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS)External Web Site Policy

The Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports has been established by the Office of Special Education Programs, US Department of Education to give schools capacity-building information and technical assistance for identifying, adapting, and sustaining effective school-wide disciplinary practices.

National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence PreventionExternal Web Site Policy

The National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention provides training and technical assistance to Safe Schools/Healthy Students and Project LAUNCH grantees funded by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The National Center provides information for school districts and communities to support planning, implementation, and sustainability of initiatives that foster resilience, promote mental health, and prevent youth violence, bullying, and mental and behavioral disorders.

To learn more, check out our youth topic page on bullying.

 

Report: Only 1 percent of ‘bad’ schools turn around – CSMonitor.com

Report: Only 1 percent of ‘bad’ schools turn around – CSMonitor.com

 

By Amanda Paulson, Staff writer / December 14, 2010

A lot of attention is being given to the idea of school “turnarounds” lately – the concept of taking a poorly performing school and drastically changing the staff, curricula, or other elements in an effort to make it much better.

Skip to next paragraph

But a study out Tuesday underlines just how hard it is to actually turn around a failing school.

The study, “Are Bad Schools Immortal?,” examined more than 2,000 of the worst-performing district and charter schools in 10 states over five years. It found that very few of them closed, and even fewer – about 1 percent – truly “turned around.”

“So far, [turnarounds] happen rarely and unsystematically,” says Chester Finn, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which released the study. “And nobody to my knowledge has a proven recipe for making it happen in a reliable or predictable or scalable way…. It’s like finding a needle in a haystack.”

That may be bad news for the Obama administration, which is investing some $3.5 billion in school-improvement grants to try to address America’s chronically bad schools. The money can be used in four ways, which include smaller steps – such as replacing the principal, adding time to the school day, and changing curricula. There are also more-drastic steps like closing a school, reopening it as a charter, or implementing a turnaround model in which most of the staff is replaced and a new principal is given increased autonomy.

But the study comes with some caveats, including the fact that those more-extreme turnaround models have only recently been getting more attention. They were tried very little in the time period (2003-2009) that the study examined.

“We haven’t actually been investing resources in this question for very long,” says Justin Cohen, president of Mass Insight Education’s School Turnaround Group in Boston. “We’ve been spending a lot of money on light-touch stuff…. I think the conclusion you should draw from this is that you need to try something dramatic.”

Some chronically poor-performing schools probably do need to be closed, Mr. Cohen acknowledges. But others, he believes, can turn around quickly if important elements are truly changed and not just tweaked. And to be successful, he says, districts can’t shy away from political lightning rods such as changing collective-bargaining agreements or the terms of employment for administrators.

“We can’t just do more of the stuff we normally do,” Cohen says. “Fixing a failing thing is fundamentally different from improving a well-oiled thing.”

Even so, Mr. Finn says, the study makes it clear that a true turnaround – in which a school improves drastically in a short period of time – is extremely hard to achieve.

Under the fairly tough standards of the report – the author looked for schools that had managed to climb from the bottom 10 percent in their state to above the average – just 1.4 percent of district schools and 0.4 percent of charter schools succeeded. A few more schools made modest improvement – defined as getting out of the bottom quartile for the state – but it was still less than 10 percent, for both district and charter schools.

Eleven percent of district schools and 19 percent of charter schools closed.

Particularly troubling about that last statistic, says report author David Stuit, is that charter schools, by design, are generally supposed to close if they can’t perform well. In general, they get a formal renewal process at least every five years.

So while the slightly higher rates of closure were expected, “it’s not much cause for celebration,” Mr. Stuit says. “Seventy-two percent remained open and remained persistently low-performing.”

The difficulty of turning around bad schools means that more of the worst ones should simply be closed, Finn says. But he also understands how hard that is to do. Parents, teachers, and kids are generally attached to their school – no matter how bad – and shutting a school down is always controversial. Even closing a charter school can be tough on kids.

Fordham is a charter authorizer for several schools in Ohio, and Finn remembers with regret one Cincinnati school that never performed well. “We realized, these kids have nowhere better to go, even though we can’t stand that school,” he says. In the end, Fordham simply walked away, telling the school to find another authorizer, rather than close it themselves. Eventually, it was shut down by the state.

 

After Firings Halted, Some Bemoan State Of R.I. School #npr

After Firings Halted, Some Bemoan State Of R.I. School : NPR

 

After Firings Halted, Some Bemoan State Of R.I. School

 

Central Falls High School in Rhode Island became a poster child for failing schools earlier this year when the district proposed firing all of its teachers. The teachers subsequently agreed to concessions and a new performance plan, and many are now back in the classroom. But some teachers and their students say conditions at the school have only gotten worse.

 

Some School Board Members are very cool: #ShapeofaHeart #JacksonBrowne

Jackson Browne: Singer, Songwriter, School Board Member – TIME

 

Jackson Browne: Singer, Songwriter, School Board Member

Musician Jackson Browne in November joined the board of a network of charter schools in South Central L.A.

Larry Busacca / Getty Images for NARAS

Jackson Browne is a commercially successful and critically acclaimed musician. (When he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Bruce Springsteen did the honors.) He is also a longtime activist on causes ranging from Tibetan independence to opposing nuclear power. And now he has added school board member to his résumé. In November, Browne, 62, joined the board of the Inner City Education Foundation (ICEF), a high-performing network of publicly funded charter schools in South Central Los Angeles. With 15 campuses and 4,600 students, ICEF’s schools are among the best in the city; 100% of its graduating seniors get into college and 91% are still enrolled three years later. This is no fairy-tale operation, however. The school made news this fall when fiscal problems prompted management changes, and just this week ICEF announced a new $10.5 million infusion of funds from individuals and foundations.

But the money issues haven’t stopped Browne from describing ICEF’s founder, Mike Piscal, as an incredible example of rolling up your sleeves to solve a social problem. I spoke with the Hall of Famer turned school board member about his sympathy for parents who opt out of traditional public schools, why he never went to college and what qualifies him to help bring education reform to inner-city students. (Watch a video about reforming America’s schools.)

You have a history of activism on a host of issues. Why education?
I’ve always supported education, especially music education in Los Angeles public schools. It goes hand in hand with my other activism. There should be access for everyone, and public education doesn’t effectively address this right now.

There are a lot of schools in Los Angeles, so why choose ICEF?
Fernando Pullam [ICEF's music director]. We formed a foundation, the Success through the Arts Foundation. We went from supporting music programs to helping put on school plays, a film program, and college counseling. His teaching was a great lightning rod for these kids to grab hold of their lives and make the effort. And it showed that there was something waiting for them if they did.

Fernando was in [a Los Angeles public school] before he went to ICEF. In South Central, schools have none of the resources that schools in more affluent parts of town do. But they literally penalized us for our efforts. They cut resources to the school because they saw that they had an affluent group giving support. So we didn’t say we weren’t going to work in the district, but we followed Fernando to ICEF. (Read “Who Is Best Qualified to Run a School System?”)

What do you bring to a public charter school board?
I’m committed to preserving the arts and music programs, and my experience doing fundraising and benefits will be an asset. More generally, it’s crazy that the arts are not funded by the schools, because they are a huge aid to human development. And it’s the first thing that gets cut, as though it’s something extra. The values you get from working in a community in a class play or an orchestra teach you how to be part of a community in general. These are answers to problems from gang membership to consumer culture.

What’s your own educational background?
I have a high school education. I didn’t think I had the time to go to college and didn’t think I’d be able to learn what I wanted to learn. I was in school during the free speech movement when Berkeley blew up and, of course, the civil rights movement was going on. It was revolutionary, and I really felt school was on the side of the status quo. I got into a debate with one of my civics teachers. I objected to his characterization of the free speech movement as crazy. I said, “What do you mean ‘crazy?’” And it got worse from there. He was going to discuss how they looked and their demeanor — not the ideas. I got bounced out, not because of anything I did. I did what you were supposed to. I asked questions. (See the 10 best college presidents.)

Charter schools are controversial, and ICEF is as well. Does your involvement bring you into conflict with people you’ve worked with on other issues?
The self-empowerment of charters is very much like the movements to improve water quality or oppose nuclear plants. There is no question that the charter school movement is very important and is an expression of people’s desire to do something excellent for their children. That goes hand in hand with my impulse as an artist. To take matters into my own hand. (Comment on this story.)

People have developed the expectation that there is someone they can elect to take care of this for them. It’s not true. In every case, we’ve shown again and again you have to do this yourself.

Honestly, I think people are faced with a dilemma — when your kids are growing up, you cant wait for them to fix the school system. I’ve heard activists speak about this, that if you want to have great public schools, you have to be a public school parent. But I found the school for my kid was not really equipped to deal with my son’s needs. So I believe in fixing the public schools, but I sympathize with parents who don’t have the time. Their kid will be out of school by the time it’s fixed. All the questions about unions and teachers, I think they’re real. But I’m moved most by parents who will do whatever it takes to get their children a great education.

 

RI ed chief: Closing troubled school an option

RI ed chief: Closing troubled school an option – Boston.com

 

RI ed chief: Closing troubled school an option

  

December 13, 2010

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I.—Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist says closing a troubled high school where the entire teaching staff was fired, and later rehired, is an option if things don’t improve.

Gist met Monday with teachers at Central Falls High School. The teachers were fired last year in a drastic effort to improve the school. They were later rehired after agreeing to a longer school day and other changes.

But the start of the new school year has been rocky, with reports of poor student behavior and erratic teacher attendance. Some teachers haven’t shown up consistently enough to be able to give their students grades.

Gist says she and the teachers discussed all those problems during their closed-door meeting on Monday.

She says officials will consider shutting down the school if the situation doesn’t improve.