Monthly Archives: January 2012

A Job Well Done

First Students Graduate From Oprah Winfrey School Written by Associated Press

HENLEY-ON-KLIP, South Africa (AP) — Johnson Mncube remembers the first day at Oprah Winfrey’s boarding school for underprivileged South African girls, when 11- and 12-year-olds were crying at the thought of being separated from their families, and he said he almost wanted to put his own daughter in his pocket and take her home.

Five years later, Mncube was joyful she stayed. On Saturday, he gazed proudly at his daughter, dressed elegantly in white for the first graduation ceremony at Winfrey’s school. Bongekile Mncube is headed to the University of Johannesburg to study politics and economics, and vows to one day help “build the economy of this country.”

“We are so thankful to Oprah,” said her father, a pastor and small businessmen who never went to high school. “We pray that God helps her to fulfill the vision that she had.”

Elgar’s “Pomp and circumstance” rang out Saturday as the graduates marched in, some unsteady on new high heels. The ceremony saw cheers and tears, including Winfrey’s own.

Winfrey’s school is an attempt to wield philanthropy and celebrity against South Africa’s social and educational crises. High-achieving students from poor families were admitted after a rigorous application process in which Winfrey was deeply involved, and she has visited regularly to counsel her girls. She held a last, late-night “pajama party” with the graduates Friday.

Winfrey told reporters after the ceremony that her girls would continue to be able to rely on her support. A counseling unit had been set up to help the graduates budget time, money and priorities in university.

In a graduation speech, Winfrey praised the teachers, administrators, social workers, psychologists and family members she said had ensured the students succeeded. Winfrey said she has learned it takes a team to support students, especially those who have experienced the poverty and personal trauma that define so many South African lives.

Winfrey said she sees the students as her daughters, and listed the blows they have experienced: “Divorce. Violence. Molestation. The loss of one parent. The loss of another parent. Sorrow. Sadness. Grief.”

The first class to graduate from the school overcame adversity to see 72 of the 75 original members graduate. All 72 are headed to universities in South Africa and the United States. Across South Africa, more than half a million members of the class of 2011 disappeared before the 496,000 remaining took their final exams, and only a quarter of those who graduated did well enough to qualify for university study, according to government figures.

“I’m one proud momma today,” said Winfrey, who wore eye shadow and a flowing gown in green, a school color.

Quoting Maya Angelou, she called the graduates “phenomenal, phenomenal, phenomenal women.”

Graca Machel, whose husband former South African President Nelson Mandela inspired Winfrey to open the school, called on the graduates to change the world. Mandela has retired from public life and did not attend the ceremony. He attended the opening of the school in 2007.

“You are leaders,” Machel said in her graduation speech. “But be humble. Listen. Learn. Try, and try again.”

Winfrey, among the wealthiest women in the world, spent $40 million to build the school, giving it facilities many South African universities might envy. But she said the school’s success was owed to teachers who came early and stayed late, social workers like one who traveled hundreds of miles (kilometers) to rescue a student who had encountered violence during a visit home, and parents who instilled discipline despite difficult home lives.

Winfrey asked staff and family members to stand for applause during the ceremony.

Winfrey encouraged all South African schools to raise their expectations, saying the experience of her school showed young people would respond by excelling. From the start, Winfrey’s students were told they should set their sights on university.

Despite the money and intentions, the school has had trouble. Soon after opening, a woman working as a dormitory matron was accused of abusing students. She was acquitted in 2010. Winfrey, who has spoken of being abused as a child and called the allegations against the matron crushing, and has said the trial’s outcome was “profoundly” disappointing.

Winfrey settled a defamation lawsuit filed in Philadelphia by the school’s former headmistress, Nomvuyo Mzamane, who claimed Winfrey defamed her in remarks made in the wake of the scandal.

Last year, a baby born to a student at the school was found dead.

Winfrey said Saturday there were times when she was discouraged, but that “I always held the vision that this day was possible.”

Winfrey noted the gradates were born in 1994, the year apartheid ended, “into a nation that said: You are free. You are free to rise. You are free to soar.”

Graduate Bongekile Mncube took Winfrey’s words to heart.

“The world should watch out,” she said. “We’re about to take over.”

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Posted by on January 15, 2012 in Education News


Dr. Ivory Toldson Charts Black Successes, Not Failures

Name: Ivory Toldson, PhD

Age: 38

City of Residence: Washington, D.C.

Occupation: Associate professor at Howard University School of Education, senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Negro Education

His Work: As a professor, Dr. Toldson publishes reports that directly challenge the negative statistics of Black America, with a particular focus on the Black male. To Dr. Toldson, we are “living examples of every positive outcome we desire.”

Dr. Ivory Toldson discusses why its important for teachers to put abstract information into context for their students, so that students understand how that information can be applied to real life circumstances.

On His Brotherly Walk With Dr. King:

Throughout my life, brotherly love has helped me to remain steadfast and resolute about improving the conditions of black men, despite the negative portrayals of black men in the media. It surprises no one that the black male prison population is larger today than at any point in history. However, few people know that the black male college population is also larger today than at any point in history. In addition, the rate increase in college enrollment has expanded for black males over the last 10 years, while the rate increase in incarceration for black males has decreased.

As an educational researcher, instead of looking at the achievement gap between Black and White students, I’d rather look at the academic experiences of high-achieving Black students, particularly those from poor neighborhoods. Instead of looking at how many Black males with disabilities end up in special education, I’d rather look at how many of them end up in honors classes (about 12 percent). We have over analyzed Black problems when we have living examples of every positive outcome we desire. It’s time for Black America to dial down the “crisis” mantra, and lift every voice to a more positive and accurate reflection of our journey. This is not to deny the problems facing the black community, but no people can fix their problems without recognizing their assets.

Read more here…

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Posted by on January 14, 2012 in Education News


No Surprise here

African-American Boys Receive Less Attention, Lower Grades And Harsher Punishment In School

A recent study by the Yale University Child Study Center shows that Black children — especially boys — no matter their family income, receive less attention, harsher punishment and lower marks in school than their White counterparts from kindergarten all the way through college. A subsequent article published in “The Washington Post” reported that Black children in the Washington, D.C. area are suspended or expelled two to five times more often than White children. It’s a national trend that needs to be addressed.

Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project joined Roland Martin on Washington Watch to discuss this disturbing trend.

CaseClosed2:A boy I know whose mother was in the hospital didn’t finish his homework and was initially suspended until his mother intervened and the suspension was dismissed. Parents if you find your child is being wrongly suspended speak up for your child and if necessary get yourselves an attorney because the facts are there that this is happening. There are those in power, mainly teachers and school staff, who are trying to destroy black boys by sending them from the classroom to prison.

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Posted by on January 12, 2012 in Education News


TimeOut Rooms

School puts troubled kids in ‘scream room’By
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. — Parents, many of whom have children at Farm Hill Elementary School in Middletown, Conn., are outraged about the way the school is dealing with misbehaving students.

Teachers and staff put the children, including those with special needs, in what parents call “scream rooms.”

“My 1st grader is there and is not learning because there are so many behavioral problems at that school,” Tricia Belin said.

One parent described the rooms as, “scream closets, where kids bang their heads off of concrete walls.”

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“The building custodians had to go in and clean blood off the walls and clean urination off the floors,” the parent said.

At a Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night, many parents questioned the use of the rooms that the district calls “timeout rooms.”

“I learned last year from my daughter that she was put in a closet that had holes in the walls and no windows and (was) locked in there,” one mother said.

Jane Majewski said Caleb, her high-functioning autistic son, needs the quiet of the timeout room to calm down, but she understands other parents misgivings.

“If you start using a timeout room and other children are in the school, they are going to be traumatized. Parents are going to be traumatized,” Majewski said.

To address the behavioral issues, Supt. Michael Frechette outlined a plan that would provide additional staff and resources at Farm Hill Elementary.

Frechette directed NBC Connecticut’s questions about the so-called “scream rooms” to Board of Education Chairman Gene Nocera.

“We are looking at it very carefully — location, how we implement the program, and if corrective actions need to be taken, we will be doing that quickly,” Nocera said.

Nocera and Dr. Frechette will also be at a Farm Hill PTA meeting on Thursday night to further address parents’ concerns.

CaseClosed2: I don’t believe screamrooms is a good idea especially when kids are banging their heads against concrete walls until they are bloody. In cases where students are so unruly they cannot be calm down, the best recourse would be to contact the parent and make the parent come to the school to deal with their disruptive child. In addition until the parent arrives at the school, there should be someone in the school who knows how to deal with disruptive students without locking them in rooms which could be more traumatizing long term to the child.

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Posted by on January 11, 2012 in Education News


A Genuine Honest Mistake

Jack Persyn, 13, was in chess club before class when he discovered a short knife in the bag he brought to his Georgia school, station WXIA reports.

Persyn’s aunt had bought the bag from a yard sale, and gave the purchase to the teen without checking inside first, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports. After Persyn told his Lanier Middle School teacher that he accidentally brought the weapon to class, the teen received four days of in-school suspension, a punishment his father Bill Persyn says is excessive.

“There was never a safety issue,” Persyn told WXIA. “No harm was done. It was a genuine honest mistake, yet he got pulled out of class for four days. I can see a one-hour detention if they had to do something, but this is nonsensical.”

AJC’s reporter Maureen Downey contacted the Gwinnett schools, and received this statement from director of media relations Jorge Quintana:

“Gwinnett County Public Schools does not have a zero-tolerance policy. We look at situations individually and take appropriate disciplinary action. While we are not at liberty to confirm or discuss the discipline this young man faces, we know our administrators followed procedures as stated in the Student Conduct Code.
The rules call for more severe action against those students who do not self-report weapons they have in their possession. It’s important to understand that these rules are in place, in part, to prevent future incidents and rule violations. Without these rules in place, others could easily claim they were not aware of what they had in their possession.”

According to a report by WFIE, the knife measured 1.5 inches long.

CaseClosed2: I don’t get this… why would a school suspend a student if he reported he accidentially brought a knife to school? He did the right thing and was punished. SMH

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Posted by on January 10, 2012 in Education News


Lessons In The Psyche Of Black Boys

For those who want to understand the pysche of black people watch this film and take notes…

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Posted by on January 8, 2012 in Education News


How Could This Be In Washington, D.C.?

In Washington area, African American students suspended and expelled two to five times as often as whites

By Donna St. George, Published: December 28
Across the Washington area, black students are suspended and expelled two to five times as often as white students, creating disparities in discipline that experts say reflect a growing national problem.

An analysis by The Washington Post shows the phenomenon both in the suburbs and in the city, from the far reaches of Southern Maryland to the subdivisions of Fairfax, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

Last year, for example, one in seven black students in St. Mary’s County were suspended from school, compared with one in 20 white students. In Alexandria, black students were nearly six times as likely to be suspended as their white peers.

( Column | Black boys: We see them differently )

In Fairfax, where the suicide in January of a white high school football player who had been suspended brought an outcry for change, African American students were four times as likely that year to be suspended as white students, and Hispanic students were twice as likely.

The problems extend beyond the Washington area to school districts across the country and are among a host of concerns about school discipline that sparked a joint effort by the U.S. Justice and Education departments in July to look into reforms.

Experts say disparities appear to have complex causes. A disproportionate number of black students live below the poverty line or with a single parent, factors that affect disciplinary patterns. But experts say those factors do not fully explain racial differences in suspensions. Other contributing factors could include unintended bias, unequal access to highly effective teachers and differences in school leadership styles.

In the Washington region, many school leaders said they are increasingly focused on the problem and grappling with ways to close the gap.

In Montgomery, Deputy Superintendent Frieda K. Lacey said the district has trained principals and administrators in new approaches, which include involving a team of administrators in suspension decisions.

Still, she said, much remains to be done. Nearly 6 percent of black students were suspended or expelled from school last year, compared with 1.2 percent of white students. The gap remains even as suspensions are down since 2006 across all racial groups.

She pointed to one unsettling statistic: 71 percent of suspensions for insubordination, a relatively rare offense in the county, were handed out to black students. African Americans make up 21 percent of students in Montgomery’s schools. The goal is to dig deeper into the data, offer more professional development and share best practices, she said. “We don’t try to minimize the data,” Lacey said. “We just try to talk about it the way it exists.”

The Post’s analysis found that in the Washington suburbs alone, more than 35,000 students were suspended or expelled from school at some point last school year — more than half of them black students.

In interviews, many school officials noted successes in reducing overall suspensions during the past several years and cited cultural-sensitivity training and positive-behavior initiatives that are more proactive about discipline.

But along with the issue of disparities in many school systems is increasing concern about the subjective nature of many offenses.

In Maryland and Virginia, as in many other places, one of the most common causes of student suspensions are what many call “soft” — or discretionary — infractions: disrespect, defiance, insubordination, disruption and foul language.

Fairfax Deputy Superintendent Richard Moniuszko said the county recently began probing disparities to determine which schools and offenses produce the greatest gaps. Some offenses, he said, allow educators significant latitude in how they respond.

Suspensions have surged nationally since the 1970s, fueled in part by a zero-tolerance culture. As suspensions ticked up, racial disparities widened between blacks and whites — and, to a lesser extent, Hispanics and whites.

The most recent national figures, from 2006, show that 5 percent of white students are suspended, compared with 15 percent of their black classmates, 7 percent of Hispanics and 3 percent of Asians.

“We associate getting kicked out of school with something really really bad, but there has been a sea change in recent years in what kids get suspended for and how often we use suspension,” said researcher Daniel J. Losen, who recently authored a report on suspension and disparities for the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado.

In Prince George’s, where a majority of students are black, Karyn Lynch, chief of student services, says that for two years, the district has been working to reduce suspensions overall: scrutinizing data, using suspension alternatives and, recently, expanding a positive-behavior initiative to all middle schools.

Lynch says she thinks that disparities will fall away as the system continues to make progress on suspensions. As for why the race gap exists, “I think some of it is cultural sensitivity, believe it or not,” she said.

For parents and students, the disparities are troubling.

Lea Collins-Lee, an African American parent in Prince George’s, said her eldest son was first suspended a decade ago for placing an extra dessert on his cafeteria tray. Last month, her youngest son, now 18, was suspended for five days after a tussle that she said he did not start.

“I really do think it’s harder for black kids,” she said. “If they get into a fight, it’s a gang fight. If white kids get into a fight, it’s a disagreement.”

In Fairfax — with a suspension rate among whites of 1.5 percent and a suspension rate among blacks of 7 percent last year — “you have a lot of minority families that don’t trust the system, and this is one of the reasons why,” said Ralph Cooper, past chairman of the Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee, which makes recommendations to the county’s School Board.

The stakes are high for those who get booted out of school.

Out-of-school suspensions mean lost classroom time and, for some, disconnection from school. A recent landmark study of nearly a million Texas children showed that suspension increased the likelihood of repeating a grade that year and landing in the juvenile-justice system the next year. It also was linked to dropping out.

In that research, African American students were more likely to be suspended for discretionary offenses and less likely than whites to be suspended for severe violations, such as selling drugs or bringing a gun to school.

“If they are not involved with the more-serious offenses as often as whites are, what’s going on with those discretionary offenses?” said study co-author Michael Thompson, of the Council of State Governments Justice Center.

Experts say disparities arise from an array of issues.

They may be driven by unconscious bias or unequal access to teachers who do better engaging students in learning and managing behavior problems when they occur. The leaders of a school system — or of an individual school — strongly influence how often suspensions are meted out.

Mike Durso, a principal for 32 years in Montgomery, Arlington and the District who is now on Montgomery’s Board of Education, said every school has some teachers who make more discipline referrals than others. “I really think it goes back to the training and expertise of teachers and the approach of the school administration,” he said.

Disparities are common in both suburban and urban districts, although urban schools tend to use suspension more, experts say.

“I think people assume it has to be this way,” said Angela Ciolfi of the Legal Aid Justice Center, which in November published a study probing Virginia’s suspensions. But, she contends, “when schools pay attention to who gets in trouble and why, they find they are able to reduce misbehavior overall and also address the discipline gap.”

An increasing number of studies have looked into whether poverty, family background or other characteristics explain racial disparities, said researcher Russell Skiba of Indiana University.

“It is not just a matter of kids coming from poverty,” Skiba said. “Poor kids do get suspended more. But that does not explain why poor black kids get suspended more than poor white kids and why affluent black kids get suspended more than affluent white kids.”

In the Washington region, Anne Arundel County’s racial disparities led the county’s branch of the NAACP to lodge a complaint with federal officials in 2004. Over the years, school leaders made progress on academic disparities, but with discipline, “we haven’t seen any change or any progress,” said Jacqueline Boone Allsup of the NAACP, which filed another complaint this year.

Next month, the district will begin a formal audit to understand more about how and why suspensions occur and to identify patterns. One focus, said Carlesa Finney, the school district’s director of equity assurance and human relations, is “soft” offenses with more subjective criteria.

“One child from one group may get referred for something that another child from another group doing the very same thing doesn’t get referred for,” Finney said, adding that the school system will move aggressively to tackle the problem.

Database editor Dan Keating and staff writer David S. Fallis contributed to this report.

CaseClosed2: Could the problem possiblybe tha black students especially black bys are being taught by far too many white teachers who view any form of behavior disruptive because they lack understanding of the black psyche? Training, by white teachers, in this area is definately needed.

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Posted by on January 8, 2012 in Education News