Articles tagged with bullying

The week in blogs

The College Board didn’t make a big deal about falling SAT scores when it released the annual results this week: It chose, instead, to emphasize that nearly 1.65 million students had taken the nationwide test, the largest and most diverse group in history.

“The good news is we have more students thinking about college than ever before,” James Montoya, a College Board vice president, told the Washington Post. “Anytime you expand the number of students taking the SAT and expand it the way that we have — into communities that have not necessarily been part of the college-going culture — it’s not surprising to see a decline of a few points.”

Still, the headline on the Post’s story – SAT Reading Scores Drop to Lowest Point in Decades – was pretty stark. Was this mainly the result of the expanding pool of test-takers or evidence of a more general decline? Bloggers were all over the map on that.

Still blaming poor SAT scores on test-takers?” wrote Robert Pondiscio on the Core Knowledge Blog. He said that argument “was effectively dismissed by E. D. Hirsch [Core Knowledge’s founder] when scores were announced last year.”

“What changed,” Hirsch wrote back then, “has less to do with demographic data than with “the anti-intellectual ideas that fully took over first teacher-training schools and then the teachers and administrators they trained.”

Bill Tucker, of the Quick and the Ed, had a different take on the data –and the response. He called the latter “SAT score hysteria” and pointed out that the College Board itself said, in a news release, that “a decline in mean scores does not necessarily mean a decline in performance.”

Perhaps the most measured approach to the data was from Jim Hull, a policy analyst with NSBA’s Center for Public Education.

“No matter the reason, the drop in SAT scores over the past several years is a cause for concern,” Hull wrote. “Yes, more students are taking the SAT than ever before — which is a good thing — but that can cause scores to drop. Yet, more students are also taking the ACT and those scores have increased. With no clear national explanation, it is important for districts and individual schools to examine their own ACT and SAT results to gain a better understanding of how prepared their students actually are for college.”

Other important postings this week included the Post’s Valerie Strauss on new national statistics showing that 22 percent of American children are living in poverty, and a telling graphic of what it really costs a poor family to eat in This Week in Education. (In short: Just because you have a refrigerator, doesn’t mean you’re not poor, as some commentators have claimed.)

Also on Strauss’ site, read a guest post by Dana Smith, a member of the board of directors of the New York State School Boards Association, on what it was like to be bullied in school.

Lawrence Hardy|September 16th, 2011|Categories: Uncategorized, School Boards, Week in Blogs, Center for Public Education, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA in the News:Childhood bullying influences board member

This week, the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog features a piece written by Dana Smith, a school board member of the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services and a board of director for the New York State School Boards Association.

Bullying in schools is pervasive, writes Smith, who realizes that in retrospect, he was a target. As a board member, Smith says he’s in a position to address and prevent this negative phenomenon— and he does.

The column is the latest in a series of entries by school board members from across the country, including:

The problem school boards have with the public”  by Michael Rochholz, board president of the Schoolcraft Community Schools in Schoolcraft, Mich. and member of the Michigan Association of School Boards.

Should children have to compete for their education?” by Mary Fertakis, a member of Washington’s Tukwila School District Board of Directors and President-elect of the Washington State School Directors’ Association.

Naomi Dillon|September 15th, 2011|Categories: Board governance|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs

In school board circles — you might say, “school board lore” — it’s known simply as “The Blueberry Story.” But for our purposes, we’ll call it “The Blueberry Question” and add that any audience query that backs a public speaker into a corner (a rightfully deserved corner, some might say) “A Blueberry Question.” This week, in a Washington Post blog, Mary Fertakis, a board member for the Tukwila (Wash.) School District, describes a classic “Blueberry Question” she asked Education Secretary Arne Duncan last winter during NSBA’s Federal Relations Conference.

More on that later. But first, the original. In case you haven’t heard it, here it is, very briefly: Many years ago, Jamie Vollmer, an ice cream entrepreneur and public school critic who wanted schools run more like businesses, was questioned by a polite veteran English teacher after one of his lectures. She asked if he makes great ice cream, and, as he would later describe, he fell into “the trap.” After he raved about the quality of his ice cream and all its premium ingredients, she asked what he did if he got an inferior shipment of blueberries.

“I send them back,” he said, already sensing that he was a goner.

Then the teacher gave an eloquent speech about schools not being able to send back their blueberries – the blueberries, of course, being children, who arrive at school rich or poor, speaking English or not, well-adjusted or troubled. Vollmer thought about that, and soon thereafter his attitude shifted ’s 180 degrees and he became a champion for the public schools.

So, what was Fertakis’ “Blueberry Question? As she describes it in the Post’s Answer Sheet blog, her question to Duncan was this: “Should children have to compete for their education?” and of course, his answer, indeed anyone’s answer, had to be “no.” But then he was left to explain why Race to the Top, which Fertakis says pits small, rural, and disadvantaged school districts against larger, wealthier ones, is good policy.

Duncan’s no Vollmer (I’m talking pre-Blueberry-Question Vollmer) and he’s doing all he can to help close the achievement gap. But Fertakis column is an eloquent account of what it’s like to lead what the New York Times once called the “most diverse school district in the United States.”

There was a lot more in the national press this week, including a National Journal experts’ blog on bullying. The forum takes, as its starting point, NSBA’s recently launched Students on Board initiative, which encourages board members to get a better understanding of their schools through talking directly to students.

Also, see the sobering report Kids Count, from the Anne E. Casey Foundation, which found that child poverty increased 18 percent between 2000 and 2009. And nearly 8 million children in 2009 were living with at least one parent who was unemployed but looking for a job.






Lawrence Hardy|August 19th, 2011|Categories: Uncategorized, School Boards, Week in Blogs, Diversity, Student Achievement|Tags: , , , , , |

Video: NSBA discusses school climate and bullying on Comcast Newsmakers

BoardBuzz recommends you check out Mary Broderick, President of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), recent appearance on Comcast Newsmakers.

Broderick discusses school climate, bullying, and cyberbullying, and promotes NSBA’s Students on Board: A Conversation Between School Board Members and Studentsproject to get school board members across the country to start talking with students about school climate.

Alexis Rice|August 18th, 2011|Categories: School Boards, Teachers, Bullying, Center for Public Education, School Climate, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , , , , , , , |

New NSBA guide helps school officials discuss bullying, climate issues

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has launched board-student conversations to help school board members better address bullying and harassment issues in their schools and facilitate conversations with students.

Dubbed Students on Board: A Conversation Between School Board Members and Students, the project focuses on practical, straightforward guidance to help engage students. A brochure created by the Center for Public Education outlines ways to set up a meeting with students, school board members, and other school staff and what questions to ask to encourage a conversation about school climate.

In addition, a new website,, compiles existing resources from NSBA and other groups.

“To address school climate, local school boards must listen to students and create an environment to analyze root causes and generate solutions that work for their community,” said Mary Broderick, President of NSBA and a member of Connecticut’s East Lyme Board of Education.

Research has continuously shown that schools where students are safe, academically engaged, and supported by the adults in the building are more likely to have fewer dropouts and higher student performance. One-third of students aged 12 to 18 report being bullied at school with the most common form of bullying being verbal, either through insults, ridicule, or being the subject of rumors.

Unfortunately, a survey by NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) found that most teachers and administrators believe students are being bullied at least once a month in schools and classrooms. Bullying appears to be the most prevalent in middle schools, based on CUBE’s surveys and data from the National Center for Education Statistics. However, about three-quarters of teachers and administrators say they are able to discourage bullying.

“Students on Board helps school board members incorporate practices that ensure they hear directly from the young people their schools serve,” said Mark Nieker, President and CEO of the Pearson Foundation, which funded the project. “Research-based surveys can provide an immediate, detailed snapshot of their own school climate. With this baseline, schools can take concrete steps to improve their students’ experience—and they can provide similarly focused and informed support for their classroom teachers.”

Joetta Sack-Min|August 10th, 2011|Categories: Bullying, NSBA Publications, Center for Public Education, School Climate|Tags: , |

In Minnesota, nearly half of students report being bullied

0001-0405-0521-2248_TNYou don’t have to be a Prairie Home Companion fan to have heard Garrison Keillor’s famous description of Lake Wobegon, that mythical Minnesota town “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

Everyone knows it’s impossible for all children to be “above average,” yet we believe somewhere in our hearts that maybe ours are different.  Or that maybe there’s a place – bucolic Minnesota perhaps? – where all the children are doing just great and aren’t touched by the kind of social problems that plague the rest of us.

A recent survey on bullying by the Minnesota Department of Education puts those fantasies to rest. It seems some problems are, indeed, national in scope; and, unfortunately, bullying is one of them.

According to the survey, “more than half of Minnesota students reported they had been bullied or had bullied someone else at least once in the past year,” said the Associated Press. And 13 percent said they were bullied once a week or more.

According to the survey, bullies and their victims were more likely to skip school, less likely to have As or Bs, and more than twice as likely to be obese as students not involved in bullying. And they had higher rates of alcohol and drug use.

“On a positive, note, nearly half of all students responding had no involvement with bullying as a victim or bully,” the report said. “This group benefits from not being a target or engaging in bullying activities, but also seems to be supported by assets in home, school, community, and peer contexts.”

ASBJ has written many stories on bullying and how schools can confront the problem. The most recent was my December 2010 piece on harassment of gay students.

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|May 17th, 2011|Categories: Governance, School Climate, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |

New study focuses on “who” of bullying, when the “how” also merits scrutiny

0060-0808-1213-2001MVP jocks who perform “swirlies” on nerds and take their lunch money, cheerleaders tutored by smart girls whom they deny public acknowledgement of existence— typical bullies, right?

Turns out high school isn’t as Freaks and Geeks-esque as we thought.

A new study that surveys 3,700 8th, 9th and 10th-graders spanning three counties of North Carolina, reports that aggressiveness peaked at students ranking in the 98th percentile of popularity on the social chain.

The study, published in February’s American Sociological Review, says aggressiveness is a tool used to “get ahead” in social hierarchies, and best serves those sitting right below the most popular 2 percent mark.

Traditional bullying views have been obsolete for years.  In order to effectively prevent bullying and instate anti-bullying policies—such as the anti-bullying guidelines that focus on LGBT students by the CDC— schools need to be aware of the latest trends.

This study of who the bullies are seem rather irrelevant in the era of cyberbullying.  Since anonymity and the ability to target a “faceless” victim can be granted through mediums such as e-mail, text messaging, blogs etc., the identity of the perpetrator has become less and less predictable.

States that attempt to take preventative legal measures, such as the recent bill passed by the North Dakota Senate, and the schools within them must keep an eye out for the overwhelming presence of digital bullying.

Naomi Dillon|February 9th, 2011|Categories: Governance, Educational Research, School Climate, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

Schools still have long way to go in preventing anti-gay harassment

ASBJFifty years from now, I predict, all the controversy over the rights of gay people to marry, to serve in the military, to be protected from bullying and harassment — in short, to live their lives like other ordinary Americans — will seem as distant (and, to the more progressive younger generation, as vaguely incomprehensible) as the struggles over racial equality and a woman’s right to vote.  I most likely won’t be around to see this, of course, but everything I know about how social and political change occurs in this country says that fear and prejudice will eventually give way to, well, reality.

But we’re not there yet. And one has to look only at the ongoing harassment of gay students in public schools and colleges to see how far we have to go. For the current issue of ASBJ, I wrote an update about this harassment and what schools are, and are not, doing about it. The occasion was a tragic one: the suicides of at least six LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) students within the first month of school.

Thankfully, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has taken an important step, telling districts that they could lose federal funds if they don’t take steps to protect gay students.

“A school must take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment, eliminate any hostile environment and its effects, and prevent the harassment from recurring,” the department said in a recent letter to schools.

My story ends with a heartfelt plea from Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, for school board members to look beyond the current bitter politics of the issue and work to end the harassment.

“We are losing wonderful kids,” says Rader, who has a transgendered child in college. “And we owe those who are living more than a life of shame and sadness.”

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|November 30th, 2010|Categories: NSBA Publications, Wellness, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |

ED reinforces role of schools in combating bullying

Yesterday,  the U.S. Department of Education dispatched a letter to thousands of school districts and colleges reminding them of their responsibility to mitigate and hinder harrasment among students.

Though the missive is a year in the making and is part of ED’s reinvigoration of the Office of Civil Rights, the letter took on renewed urgency in the wake of several high-profile suicides, most notably the case of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi, the Rutger’s University freshman who jumped to his death after his roommate livestreamed his sexual encounters with another man.


Naomi Dillon|October 27th, 2010|Categories: Governance, School Climate, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

Anti-bullying policies for faculty appearing in schools

1210-1242157886dp0Q A pair of student bullying cases, in which both victims committed suicide, made national headlines recently— though, in truth these destructive and potentially deadly interactions  have been a persistent part of school culture for some time now, despite a plethora of policies and programs to combat such behavior.

What hasn’t gotten so much attention, however, is that bullying can occur at all levels within a school, particularly among faculty.

Recently-enacted policies in the Sioux City, Iowa school system and soon, at Desert Sands Unified in La Quinta, Calif., are two districts (it appears like the only two in the nation) that specifically target bullying among its staff. 

Promoting an anti-bullying message among students is “undermined when a principal bullies a teacher in front of the kids,” Gary Namie, a psychologist and co-founder with his wife, Ruth, of the Workplace Bullying Institute, told USA Today.

Like wellness policies and character education programs, schools have long recognized that in order to get students to adopt healthy lifestyle and work habits, teachers and other school employees  must model such behavior themselves.

Naomi Dillon|April 8th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Wellness, School Climate, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , |
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