NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negron Jr. appeared on C-Span’s Washington Journal on March 12 to discuss NSBA’s viewpoints on federal bullying policies and the overall concern of bullying and cyberbullying in schools. Negron answered numerous challenging questions from callers with a wide range of opinions from around the country.
School Board News Today, an online publication of NSBA, provides timely and relevant stories and analysis from NSBA and other news outlets to school board members, administrators, and all others interested in K-12 education.
Articles in the School Climate category
The very high-profile moves to dismantle collective bargaining and curb the power of public employee unionsincluding teachers–in several states have generally been applauded by school boards.
After all, school boards and administrators should have more power to dictate working conditions that could significantly impact student performance, such as the length of the school day and year, as well as use factors other than seniority when layoffs occur.
But recently some board members have expressed concerns about the voracity that governors and lawmakers have pushed these proposals as they grapple with tight budgetsand whether their school districts would be hurt as well.
The Washington Post reports that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has announced a budget Tuesday that “envisions slashing aid to local governments and school districts, which he has said could translate into 12,000 layoffs over the next two years.”
John Ashley, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, has been watching a very ugly situation unfold in his state. In a Feb. 15 letter to the leaders of the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee,
Nearly eight years ago, I wrote a story about the increasing stress on public school students. It was largely anecdotal; while I was able to find studies showing that college students were under more stress including one that noted a doubling of the number of students being treated for depression between 1989 and 2001 at one Midwestern university there was nothing quantitative about K-12 students.
But maybe this qualifies: On exam days at the Rockingham County (N.C.) Schools, a largely rural district of 7,500 students near Greensboro, school staff had to throw out as many as 20 exam booklets because students vomited on them.
Twenty booklets in a district of less than 8,000 students — is that significant? I don’t know, but it sounded like a lot to me.
Now comes an article in the New York Times, also about college students, that again suggests student stress is rising. For example, the percentage of students who described their emotional health as “above average” in a comprehensive 2010 survey was 52 percent, down from 64 percent in 1985. The survey, titled The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010, also found that the percentage of freshmen who had felt “frequently overwhelmed” their senior year of high school increased to 29 percent from 27 percent the previous year.
This trend is surely related to the struggling economy and the lack of available jobs. But might the increasing stress also be due, in part, to our relentless drive for higher student achievement? High academic achievement is great, of course, but are we pushing this objective to the detriment of other, “softer” goals we have for our students, such as growing up emotionally stabile, learning how to be good citizens, and developing a love of learning?
In a few months, ASBJ readers will receive one very pointed answer from education researcher and critic Alfie Kohn. The title of Kohn’s April story? “Feel Bad Education.”
Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor
Flipping through the channels last night, desperate to find something besides Desperate Housewives in-a-town-near-you, I landed on A&E, completely enthralled by a new documentary series called, Beyond Scared Straight.
In my former life as a newspaper reporter, I remember spending the better part of a day, visiting a correctional facility with a group of students, who were given a grim but cursory look at prison life. I remember the experience being long, void of any real contact with inmates, and hence not very impactful for the students, none of which I recall where troublesome.
I guess, you could say it was a lighter version of Scared Straight, the widely acclaimed one-day intervention juvenile deliquents had in prison. Well, it seems Scared Straight is a lighter version of Beyond Scared Straight, a far more intense and frankly, downright scary wakeup call to teens heading in the wrong direction.
The shows promo contends that today’s youth require a different approach, one that marries communication, information and confrontation, to get through to them. In watching the last 20 minutes of the program, I’m certainly a believer in this strategy. And in followups with a handful of girls they profiled in the season’s openers, all but one seemed changed for good.
As security issues and student violence continue to plague schools, it’s a get-tough approach that could save some of today’s toughest youth.
Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor
Many years ago, when I was a college senior in Southern California, I took a child development class connected with a wonderful campus preschool that was all the things you would expect a 70s-era preschool to be discovery oriented, child centered, creative, and fun. It guess you could call it “open classroom” as well, seeing as the kids had the run of a multi-room former home; of course it helped, in terms of classroom control, that in addition to having a wonderful director there was a ratio of roughly one college student helper for every two children.
Flip ahead two years, and I was one of the teachers in a Head Start program for minority students in Boston’s South End. This was also “open classroom,” but by necessity: There was some structural problem in one classroom that forced us to combined two classrooms of 20-some students each into a mega-class of four teachers and more than 40-something children.
Yes, it was bedlam. There were just too many students and too much noise for much real learning to occur.
I thought about those two schools this week after reading about an experimental elementary school in Brooklyn founded by a former principal and Harvard graduate student who was trying to replicate the small discussion groups at Phillips Exeter Academy. This is analogous to my California school. But, according to a New York Times story on the project and Joanne Jacobs’ subsequent blog, instead of organizing several small groups (which may not have been possible) the founder put 60 first graders in a class with four teachers, and the results were
. yes, as the Times strongly implies, bedlam. The same thing I experienced in Boston.
There was a time — for days, even weeks – after the terrorist attacks of 2001 that I could not look at a digital clock showing 9:11 without seeing images from that horrible day.
But I got over it. And in the same way (in much abbreviated fashion) I got over Saturday’s shootings in Arizona. Sunday was a strange day. Yesterday was more depressing. But today? Things seem back to “normal,” whatever that is. How quickly we move on.
But there are a few things I’d like to say about the terrible shootings that killed six people and injured 14, including a U.S. congresswoman. On the issue of whether the killer, Jared Loughner, was influenced by violent, mostly rightwing, rhetoric, we might never know for sure. But at a time when some on-air entertainers/commentators regularly denounce not simply the ideas or policies of opponents but their very legitimacy in what some observers have called, using a rather odd phrase, “eliminationist rhetoric” — the potential impact on unstable individuals seems self-evident.