Monthly Archives: January 2012

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


Norcross parents upset by slavery in school math worksheet By David Ibata

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

8:45 p.m. Friday, January 6, 2012

A math worksheet for third graders that used examples of slavery in word problems has angered some parents at a Norcross elementary school, Channel 2 Action News reports.

One word problem stated, “Each tree had 56 oranges. If 8 slaves pick them equally, then how much would each slave pick?” Another said, “If Frederick got two beatings per day, how many beatings did he get in 1 week?”

Such questions can evoke bitter memories in Georgia, where African Americans were enslaved for generations until the Civil War and the elimination of slavery.

“It kind of blew me away,” Christopher Braxton, a parent of a child at Beaver Ridge Elementary School, told Channel 2. “I was furious. … Something like this shouldn’t be embedded into a kid of the third, fourth, fifth, any grade.”

Another Beaver Ridge parent, Terrance Barnett, said, “I’m having to explain to my 8-year-old why slavery or slave or beatings is in a math problem. So that hurts.”

Gwinnett County School District officials said teachers were attempting to incorporate history into math lessons.

“Teachers were trying to do a cross-curricular activity,” district spokeswoman Sloan Roach told Channel 2.

Roach acknowledged the questions gave no context for the issues they raised.

“We understand that there are concerns about these questions, and we agree that these questions were not appropriate,” she said.

Parents told Channel 2 that the school’s principal was collecting the assignments and would shred them so they wouldn’t be circulated.

Officials said that under district policy, the worksheet should have been reviewed before being handed out to students, but that process was not followed in this situation. They said they would work with math teachers to come up with more appropriate questions.

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CaseClosed2: I think slavery should be taught in the schools since it is a part of America’s history, but to use it in a math lesson using slaves as examples was totally uncalled for and unnecessary for kids to learn math. I see it being used as a psychological method and a form of brainwashing students;especially black students into believing they can not accomplish and be all they can be because they are still slaves.SMH

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Posted by on January 7, 2012 in Education News


What’s Happening In Education In Florida

Hopefuls put bull’s-eye on education
GOP critical of federal control, wants school policy kept at state, local levels

Later this month, Florida Republicans will have an opportunity to register their feelings on federal education policy — and whether there should even be a national policy.

“School choice is the civil rights issue of this era,” said Bob Sanchez, policy director of the conservative James Madison Institute in Tallahassee.
It’s also an issue that resonates with Florida’s GOP voters, who have rallied behind tuition-voucher programs, teacher-tenure limits and grading of schools as far back as Jeb Bush’s first, unsuccessful bid for governor in 1994.
While the economy, foreign policy and Washington gridlock have been the talk of GOP debates in recent weeks, all the major Republican contenders have made a point of saying how they differ from President Barack Obama on education. Probably only three, maybe four, candidates will still be viable when Florida votes on Jan. 31, but all have staked out conservative positions that emphasize local control and parental involvement — with less of a role for Washington.
“What I’m seeing in Tea Party rallies is, they’re looking for genuine reform. Education and health care tend to be the sacred cows,” said Apryl Marie Fogel, an organizer of the Titusville Patriots and Central Florida Tea Party group. “We keep throwing good money after bad. I think voters want solutions, someone to say, ‘I want to change the federal Department of Education this way.’ ”
At least four major Republican contenders — Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Ron Paul — have called for abolition of the DOE. Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman have put more emphasis on vouchers, emphasizing math and science curriculum, revamping union rules to make it easier to fire incompetent teachers and always driving decision-making authority as far down as possible.
That’s in tune with much of what Florida has done. Last year’s Legislature approved a law tying teacher salaries to performance and eliminating tenure for new hires. Both Gov. Rick Scott and the legislative leadership are emphasizing STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — in this year’s session, nudging schools away from anything that doesn’t show quick job-finding results.
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Abolishing the federal DOE has been a staple of Republican campaigns since President Jimmy Carter got a Democratic Congress to create it in 1979. In the past few presidential races, GOP candidates have expanded their education platforms from fighting bureaucracy to positions on school prayer, abstinence-only sex education and tuition vouchers for kids in private schools.
Paul, a libertarian, has balked at vouchers but favors income tax credits for parents who opt out of the public school system.
Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman who has staked virtually everything on Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses, has been the most vocal on education — saying she would “turn out the lights” at the DOE as soon as she takes office. Perry included the DOE in his three-agency hit list — with the Departments of Commerce and the one he famously forgot, Energy, in a Nov. 7 debate — and Paul has cited the federal department among his examples of an over-reaching federal bureaucracy.
Sanchez and Fogel recalled that conservative presidents since Ronald Reagan have promised to abolish or greatly curtail the DOE, but said it has grown under Democrats and Republicans alike. President George W. Bush even teamed up with the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., on “No Child Left Behind” — touching off a competition among states to get federal school money by complying with Washington policy dictates.
Sanchez said the proper federal role should be assuring equality of opportunity and protection of civil rights by the Justice Department, not measurement by the DOE.
“What is arguably not needed any more, if it ever was, is an immense federal bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., kowtowing to the teachers unions and creating a blizzard of paperwork for bloated state-level bureaucracies that, in turn, flood local school districts with demands for even more paperwork,” Sanchez said. “Except for the Justice Department’s proper role, the feds ought to butt out and allow the (states) to do their work.”
Bruce Hunter, a policy analyst for the American Association of School Administrators, said the federal government has three responsibilities in education. He said it should protect civil rights of children for an equal educational opportunity, gather and report statistics so states can know how they are doing and fund research and development in curriculum, administration and classroom teaching.

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But he said Congress provides only about 8 percent of what is spent on education, and should not call the shots on how the other 92 percent — state and local tax money — is used by the schools.
“The three primary federal roles have been eclipsed in the last 10 years after passage of No Child Left Behind, where the federal government assumed control of rules about who was qualified to teach, what subjects were most important to teach, how schools would be evaluated and the consequences of poor evaluations,” Hunter said. “All of those functions had been state and local functions.”
Hunter said “a remarkable consensus has emerged” among educators and political candidates — that student performance will benefit from more local authority in school policy.
Tea Party activist Fogel said calls for abolition of the federal DOE are crowd-pleasers for candidates in debates and campaign rallies. But she said the important consideration is what comes next — how a Republican administration would “empower the states” and local governments to get students ready for a competitive global economy.

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Posted by on January 4, 2012 in Education News


TRENTON — With New Jersey facing a crucial period in which its future will be decided, New Jersey Press Media newspapers has taken a hard look at a number of areas where the Garden State will be experiencing significant change. For this 10-part series, we interviewed experts, local difference-makers and entrepreneurs about what New Jersey will look like and what it could or should look like. Today’s topic: Education.

If Gov. Chris Christie and other education reform advocates do get their way as they expect, New Jersey will end teacher tenure as permanent job security, require more of high school students so they can get a new job or go to college, and come up with new ways to judge and track students and teachers.
In addition, there could be more charter school or private-public schools in urban areas, and many school districts could see an end to annual budget votes.
Various administrative and legislative officials confirm that much of that agenda could become law in the first half of 2012.
State Sen. Teresa Ruiz, a Democrat from Essex County who heads the Senate Education Committee, believes that the political conversation has changed and there is growing momentum for an assortment of reform measures.
“It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from, as a union rep, from the principal’s association or a teacher, we’re all talking about what needs to get done to ensure we have great student outcomes,” Ruiz said in an interview.
Christie has long said education reform is one of the “big things” his administration has set out to do, and he had declared 2011 as the “Year of Education Reform.”
In January, Christie hosted a screening of the movie, “Waiting for Superman,” which depicts parents and their children desperate to win a spot in a charter school.
Then in April, Christie gave an address about education to the Brookings Institution, a prominent Washington D.C.-based think tank, which was attended by national experts.
He met with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at Drumthwacket, the governor’s official residence.
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Christie has not passed a signature piece of education legislation so far. But the Republican governor contends he is nonetheless making progress with the Democratic-controlled Legislature and results will be there in 2012.
“There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes, a lot of conversations that have been going on,” Christie told one of his town hall meetings in Teaneck this month.
“We’re working on it. We’ll get there,” he added.
The question is when and what will it look like when it’s done.
A proposed teacher tenure reform remains in legislative negotiations, six months after the bill was initially set to pass. A much-lobbied for school voucher bill appears stymied, and charter school and other measures are still pending.
But the Christie administration has moved on other fronts:
&#; The state is testing ways to measure teacher effectiveness in 11 school districts. Officials hope to roll out a new faculty evaluation system statewide next September for full testing.
&#; The state is in the process of setting new standards for high school graduates — called college and career readiness standards. That effort may ultimately result in a tougher high school proficiency test required for students to earn their diploma. That initiative has long been eyed by acting state Department of Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf.
&#; The state is building out its data system that will help it track test scores in other data in each of the 2,452 schools in the state. Meanwhile, Cerf has reorganized his department and New Jersey is in the process of rewriting general rules to streamline education.
Michael A. Vrancik, a lobbyist for the New Jersey School Boards Association, said he thinks the work done this year will soon yield major changes.
“You’ve got a commissioner who is radically reforming the Department of Education and is setting the stage for these later reforms,” Vrancik said. “You see some shoots in the ground, and you think nothing’s going on, but there’s a lot happening underneath the surface.”

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There is some important legislation that is expected to move soon:
&#; A bill that would allow for public-private partnerships and more charter schools in large urban school districts may soon be on the fast track. It is sponsored by state Sen. Donald Norcross, brother of South Jersey Democrat George E. Norcross III.
The bill will provide for the expanded alternative education in five school districts, which have more than 10,000 students and have the most failing schools. The bill would allow the school district, parents or teachers to petition the state to convert to charter schools. The bill would also let districts create up to two new schools as public-private partnerships.
&#; Another bill, ready for a vote in the Senate and the Assembly, would provide communities options to move school board elections to November and eliminate budget votes for any districts that keep within the state property tax cap. It would end more than a century of voting tradition in the Garden State.
But Christie’s main target, tenure reform for the state’s 94,329 teachers, remains a work in progress.
Even if it were to pass in the next few months, school districts still need a way to evaluate teachers so they can then determine whether a teacher should receive, or lose, the coveted job guarantees.
Christie has proposed ending teacher tenure as a lifetime guarantee. Instead, he wants to replace the system with one whereby tenure is granted and kept only when staff passes teaching evaluations.
Christie, at his Teaneck event, praised Ruiz for taking a “laboring role” in negotiating with the various interest groups.
Ruiz said in an interview she continues to hold ongoing meetings with the teachers unions and others about how best to reform tenure rules so that good teachers are protected and ineffective teachers are dealt with.
“This is a huge topic,” Ruiz said. “It was important to me to engage every single person in the conversation and have a thoughtful process before we revolutionize the way we’ve been practicing what we do in New Jersey.”
Charter school expansion, however, does remain a key point of contention, as parents remain concerned that money taken from local school districts to pay for new charter schools will hurt local schools.
Ruiz said in an interview she would favor a bill that would give communities a say on whether new charter schools are approved.
But perhaps the biggest change that will affect education reform in 2012 is the apparent détente between the state’s largest teachers union, the New Jersey Education Association, and the state’s top power structure.
Christie and Cerf have become a bad-cop, good-cop duo in dealing with the NJEA.
For now, Christie has stopped issuing political fusillades against the union during press conferences, while Cerf has been talking with NJEA leaders about policy changes.
The NJEA has also reversed course and met to talk with George Norcross. Last spring, the NJEA launched a series of ads against Norcross, and he responded by holding a press conference to blast the union.

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Posted by on January 3, 2012 in Education News