January 31, 2007
The Indicators of School Crime and Safety report is issued annually by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, using data from several different national surveys, including the National Crime Victimization Survey. The NCVS included data from interviews of middle and high school students, using this questionnaire. Some of the questions the students were asked included the following:
Thinking about your school over the last 6 months, would you strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree with the following:
– Everyone knows what the school rules are
– The school rules are fair
– The punishment for breaking school rules is the same no matter who you are
– The school rules are strictly enforced
– If a school rule is broken, students know what punishment will follow
During the last 6 months, has any other student bullied you? That is, has another student:
– Made fun of you, called you names, or insulted you?
– Spread rumors about you?
– Threatened you with harm?
– Pushed you, shoved you, tripped you, or spit on you?
– Tried to make you do things you did not want to do, for example, give them money or other things?
– Excluded you from activities on purpose?
– Destroyed your property on purpose?
During the last 6 months…did you STAY AWAY from any of the following places because you thought someone might attack or harm you there?
– The shortest route to school?
– The entrance into the school?
– Any hallways or stairs in school?
– Parts of the school cafeteria?
– Any school restrooms?
– Other places inside the school building?
– School parking lot?
– Other places on school grounds?
Did you AVOID any extra-curricular activities at your school because you thought someone might attack or harm you?
Did you AVOID any classes because you thought someone might attack or harm you?
How often are you afraid that someone will attack or harm you on the way to and from school?
How often did you stay home from school because you thought someone might attack or harm you?
How often are you afraid that someone will attack or harm you at school?
How often are you afraid that someone will attack or harm you on the way to and from school?
In your classes, how often are you distracted from doing your schoolwork because other students are misbehaving, for example, talking or fighting?
What answers would be given by our middle and high school students to this questionnaire?
January 26, 2007
“The Mendota Way”: High expectations of students, a strong principal, enthusiastic and committed teachers and staff, involved parents, a supportive neighborhood community, and “a high degree of discipline and control…from a strict dress code to how students behave in hallways and classrooms.” Read Susan Troller’s article (“Successful Students, Successful School: Mendota Elementary Beats the Odds,” The Capital Times, January 26, 2007, via School Information System), and don’t miss her accompanying audio slideshow. It will make your day.
January 25, 2007
This week’s “Take Home Test” in Isthmus includes a question on school safety; responses from Seat 3 school board candidates Pam Cross-Leone, Beth Moss and Rick Thomas are here, from Seat 4 candidate Tom Brew and incumbent Johnny Winston, Jr. are here, and from Seat 5 candidates Maya Cole and Marj Passman are here.
January 22, 2007
The success of the Harlem Village Academy charter school in New York City is spotlighted in a recent New York Daily News article (“Work and Pride Add Up: Harlem School Cheers Math Rank,” January 13, 2007). From the school’s web site:
Village Academies makes a deliberate effort to reach out and recruit New York’s neediest and lowest-performing children. 100% of students are minority, 88% are at or near poverty (qualifying for free or reduced price lunch), and 12% are special education. Students begin an average of two to four years behind grade-level in reading and math, and many enter the school with a history of poor behavior. Students are recruited from New York’s low-income communities, and accepted through an open lottery. [….]
We follow the “broken windows” theory of discipline – no late homework, disrespectful gesture, or other minor infraction is tolerated. Students wear school uniforms, must arrive to school on time and prepared, and are expected to follow a strict, clear and consistent code of conduct.
January 20, 2007
Marc Epstein, a history teacher and academic dean at Jamaica High School in Queens, New York, describes the impact of disruptive student behavior on learning and safety in “Security Detail: An Inside Look at School Discipline,” first published in Education Next in 2003, and now available online here.
January 19, 2007
No Child Left Behind currently requires states to identify schools that are found to be “persistently dangerous,” but, as USA Today reports (“Program to Identify Most Dangerous Schools Misses Mark,” January 18, 2006):
What’s evolved, safety experts say, is a system where states have made it very hard for schools to be classified as unsafe and schools can report incidents as they see fit. [….]
The stigma of a “persistently dangerous” label is enough to keep most schools from being completely honest, said Beverly Caffee Glenn, executive director of the Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community Violence at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
“There’s realty prices to be considered. Would you want to move into a school district where you knew it was unsafe?” said Glenn, referring to the importance schools have on home values. “There’s also the issue: Do you want to be the principal of a school where you can’t control your kids?”
One solution for this problem may be further legislation, like the recently introduced SAVE Act. Or perhaps the better solution is school leadership that does the job and tells the truth, like Philadelphia’s Paul Vallas:
Paul Vallas, who once ran Chicago’s school system, says at least a few of that city’s schools should be tagged as dangerous. As Philadelphia’s current school system chief, Vallas has directed schools to report any serious incident that happens on school grounds — no matter the time or day. They also must report any incident involving a student traveling to and from school.
The result: 29 different city schools have made the list since 2002-03, though only nine are still on the list. No district has logged more.
“I would rather be aggressive about identifying schools that do not have satisfactory school climates rather than somehow try to get around the mandate because other states aren’t being aggressive about enforcing the mandate or setting the standard,” he said.
January 18, 2007
Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) has introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives (the “Safe Schools Against Violence in Education [SAVE] Act,” H.R. 354) which would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (a/k/a “ESEA,” a/k/a No Child Left Behind) to address school safety. Some provisions:
…a student who is attending a public elementary or secondary school that does not have a safe climate for academic achievement, […] or who becomes a victim of a violent criminal offense, as determined by State law, while in or on the grounds of or on a school bus of, or on a school function of, a public elementary school or secondary school that the student attends, [shall] be allowed to attend a safe public elementary school or secondary school within the local educational agency, including a public charter school. The policy shall further provide for the option of counseling or removal of the offender where appropriate. [….]
Each State shall, in developing its policies on how it determines whether a school has a safe climate for academic achievement, include information on school related crime data, without the use of disciplinary action qualifiers [….]
Establis[h] and implemen[t] a comprehensive school safety plan that incorporates input from the community, including local law enforcement, and is updated at least every year. […] Ensu[re] that all members of the school district staff, including part-time employees and substitute teachers, are trained in all necessary elements of the comprehensive school safety plan.
Far too many times, parents are not made aware of serious safety issues in their school, much less their legal options if their school is identified as unsafe. By ensuring that every parent of a student enrolled in a school found to be unsafe is notified of their options in an understandable way, schools will become safer and children will have a better environment in which to learn.
January 17, 2007
The campus sits in what looks to be a solidly middle-class minority neighborhood in the city of Carson. But a closer look suggests the classic profile of a school with poor achievement: The student body is about half black and half Latino, most of the students speak limited English, and the entire student body qualifies for free lunches. Some students come from the surrounding neighborhood, but most are bused from Compton.
“A School Finds A Singular Road to Academic Success,” Los Angeles Times, January 14, 2007 (via Joanne Jacobs).
Read how this school went from underachiever to role model through the vision and determination of a principal who demands accountability and expects high achievement of her students. The “top-ten” list of the strategies that have made Bunche Elementary a success is headed by this one: “1. Begin with classroom discipline.”
January 16, 2007
The Madison Metropolitan School District was the recipient of a “Safe Schools/Healthy Students” grant from the U.S. Departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Human Services, funded through 2002. The MMSD web site’s description of the SS/HS initiative is brief and appears not to have been updated since December 2001, but the “Safe Schools/Healthy Students Cross-Site Evaluation” web site provides a much more detailed description of the goals and requirements of the initiative:
The MMSD will establish and extend programming that minimizes and controls disruptive behavior during school and protects and engages students during peak hours of youth delinquency activities. [….]
The school and community will enhance mental health preventive and treatment intervention services through the implementation of positive behavior teams at the elementary school level, the employment of an ombudsman, establishment of a “safe space” at every school facility, and the expansion of training related to mental health issues for “fronting” personnel. [….]
The MMSD will implement its new code of conduct and design an automated security information management system to achieve a safe school environment. [….]
To enhance and expand efforts to prevent and immediately respond to acts of violence in its schools, the MMSD will assign educational resource officers to all middle schools. Security equipment, partitions, and locks will be integrated into the existing security plans.
The MMSD was one of 143 sites nationwide that participated in the “Safe Schools/Healthy Students” initiative, and was one of 17 “sentinel” sites chosen for an in-depth process and outcome evaluation of the effectiveness of the initiative on a national basis. In addition to the national evaluation, local evaluators were responsible for “designing and conducting a site-specific outcome evaluation to determine whether each intervention has produced its intended effects.”
How did we do?