Mayor de Blasio’s Ban on K-2nd Grade Suspensions

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio plans to ban suspensions for students in kindergarten to second grade, according to the New York Daily News

The New York Daily News also outlines that, of the 801 K-2nd grade students who were suspended during the 2015-2016 school year, 487 students were suspended for either being physically aggressive towards another student or teacher/staff members. It is clear that at least some of these students, especially the ones who bring violence into the classroom, were suspended for good reason (this is not to say that suspension is the right direction to improve the education of both the violent student and the students surrounding him). But, it is crucial that suspensions are not simply banned for these young children; remedies that try to fix the reason why they would be suspended to begin with must also be put in place.

For example, six-year old Jimmy cannot hit his teacher, not be removed from the classroom, and all who is negatively impacted by his actions just hope and pray it does not happen again. If he is to stay in school, there needs to be some kind of action put in place to ensure that both he and his classmates get every second of education they can possibly recieve.

Fortunately, Mayor de Blasio’s administration released “Maintaining the Momentum: A Plan for Safety and Fairness In Schools,” a report that includes findings, reccomendations and next-step efforts to make the NYC public school system a safer place. The most impressive effort in this report is the inclusion of mental health-related support in the 2017 school year budget. The budget, which will include the expansion of support for teacher training in mental health and dealing with students who have social-emotional issues, as well as the addition of about 100 mental health consultants, will still be limited in how much it can achieve.

Because the ban is effective in just a few days (9/8/16) and most of the $45 million funding won’t be seen until next school year, teachers, parents and union leaders are wondering if this is being implemented too soon– the training just is not there. One teacher, interviewed by ChalkBeat, made the following comment:

“When you just ban all suspensions, my next question would be: If I have a child who’s acting out and I’m not getting cooperation from home at all — they don’t come to meetings, they don’t take the child to screenings — what’s my next step then?” Ranieri asked. “None of us have received that support yet.”

Mayor de Blasio’s suspension policy may be too premature: some teachers are seemingly unprepared for such a policy, thus making the policy unfair to students and teachers who have to brook, and are impacted by, some serverly disruptive students. One would think Mayor de Blasio is aware of this issue students and teachers face as a result of a premature no suspension ban. One could only assume that his main reason for acting now, if not his only reason, is that suspensions tend to make the suspended student disengaged from the learning enironment. In other words, suspensions harm the student being suspended by making him less willing to learn. And, since we know suspensions have more of an insidious effect, we should not do it.

Boy, if it were that easy. 

If some schools are unprepared for such a plan, despite the plan’s goals and assume rationale, the plan should not be implemented until schools feel ready and supported. This is a lose-lose dilemma: continue to suspend students and risk those students continuing being unsuccessful. Require misbehaved students to stay in school without appurtanent, and risk other students not learing as a result. There is, however, data that suggests that it is worth delaying the suspension plan (or at least slowly implementing it across schools, starting with the most equipped to the least equipped) unil schools feel confident enough to implement such a plan. Accodring to the New York State Department of Education, 4% of all students are suspended and less than 2% of all elementary level students are suspended. In other words , more students would be distracted by another student’s misbehaving, should the misbehaved student remain in the school without adequate support. Taking this into consideration, Mayor de Blasio should countermand or, at the very least, modify his K-2 suspension ban.

2015 NYU Study on NYC School Closures

I just reread this NYU study that explores the impact of former NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg’s highly contentious decision to close some the city’s largest, failing high schools. While most of the findings confirm findings of other studies, one discovery that fascinates me is the positive impact a school closing has on its no-longer-potential student body. The study is sure to acknowledge that, of course, if a student no longer has the option to attend a failing school, whatever school they end up at would be inherently better (as the city removed the worst schools, one should only go up from there, generally speaking,). But this does not also take into consideration the uproar that the Bloomberg/Klein administration faced during the school closure process. More specifically, anti-school closure advocates were concerned about student disruption and integral fixture in the community.

Though the study answered the disruption issue (impacted students are “exponentially insignificantly impacted by the disruption), it also showed that there is a long term positive effect of closing persistently failing schools. Middle school students seem to be thinking and attending better schools than the recently closed down school in their community. Those middle schoolers are more likely to graduate from high school now that the poor school is no longer an option. My guess is that the local school closing serves as a clear point of reference for younger students. My other guess is that the closings of low-performing schools put parents on high alert on how well schools are doing, rather than unquestionably going to the local school. This is just an assumption, but by doing something as touchy as closing the most severely under performing high schools in communities, enough noise was made to make students and parents pay additional attention to school selection.

“No Student Learns Best Under Conditions That Make Then Feel Uncared For”

They should be prepared to teach to each student’s unique needs, and to recognize that no student learns best under conditions that make him feel uncared for.

This quote from on an NYT article on why black men leave the teaching profession should apply to tecahers in general, but espescailly those in no-excuse charter schools, though public schools are certainly gguilty of this too.

Read more here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/28/opinion/sunday/why-black-men-quit-teaching.html

NYT Article Review: “To Get to Harvard, Go to Haiti”

Here’s a good piece about the emphasis on commnuinity and social involvement as a criteria to getting into elite colleges and universities may affect the genuines of that engagment. In particular, the article dicusses the urge for wealthier families to send their student to a third world country to partake in some quick missionary activity or to engage in an entreprenurial pursuit, which is funded my wealthy families, for the sake of getting into an ivt league school.

Two aspects of this piece stood out to me as important to the admissions process as a whole and our understanding of how diversity, income and self-awareness play a role into inspiring and admitting a well-rounded class of students.

Harvard, and schools like them, are engaged in research and rasing awareness on the impact of some of their suggested admissions criteria on some students. An essential element to the growth of any entity is the awareness of such criteria and asking how can we make this better. I think it’s easier for some people to simply brush the criteria of community involvement as a bullet-proof criteria that everyone can be apart in, without questioning what that criteria is supposed to do for and mean to the student.

The second element that stood out to me has to do with how te article starts off and whose voice is heard in the introduction. The intro comes from the perspective of a student who doesn’t have as much money as some of his classmates but who still chooses to give back at the local level because he cares. More inspiring is the fact that he cares enough to know that his community could be made better if only his wealthier classmates also gave back to their disadvantaged, not-a-plane-ride-away-neighbors. It was powerful to have the view point of someone whose local community activies could have been “outshined” by some of his wealthier counterparts. The very act of starting off with this student ackowledges that his efforts are just as important to admissions officers as his some of his classmates international excusions.

Read more here. 

The BackPack Index is Out

Last month, Huntington Bank and Communities in Schools released their annual BackPack Index. The report’s research, though limited to six mid-western states, show the increase in supplies and after-school activity costs and fees. The report, neatly summarized by Huntington in the screenshot below, begs the question of how parents in low-income communities are keeping up with these expenses. And what about schools that serve mostly low-income students? How are they coping? It’s one thing to have a few students in a school who cannot afford the rising expenses, and it’s another thing to have an entire school community that can’t match or come close to matching these demands.

Presumably, some schools eat the cost so that parents do not have to contribute little to no money. Another likely option is that while schools increase spending for all-things-related-to-standardized-testing, they further decrease spending and limit opportunites in the arts and extra-curriucalr activities. As for school supplies, poor districts are probably also limiting how creative their teachers can be with their lessons, making it difficult for students to get a rich a experience.
The point is: if there are parents and schools that are trying to keep up with the cost of quality, much needed afterschool experiences, imagine the schools, teachers, parents, and students who do not have a cent to offer to stay in the race?

Don’t get me wrong. There are parents and schools who are genuinely financially struggling to have their students partake in social activities. Their are parents who are barely making payments in on time for theit child to qualify to play her school’s first basketball game of the year. Their are parents who will go into their savings this fall to ensure their child has these opportunites. But I’m just shedding light on the students who can’t join their school’s ballet team or practice the guitar at home because there are no savings to dip into. Just a parent(s) working paycheck to paycheck. 

Read the full report here.   

  

REPOST: Tim Kaine, Dems’ VP Nominee, Is Strong Supporter of Public Schools (Unlike Cory Booker)

REPOST:

Tim Kaine, Dems’ VP Nominee, Is Strong Supporter of Public Schools (Unlike Cory Booker)

by janresseger

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President, seemed confused last Wednesday when he spoke at a news conference about the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, Tim Kaine.  Trump was reported by Politico to have confused Tim Kaine with former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean: “Her running mate Tim Kaine, who by the way did a terrible job in New Jersey….” declared Trump. I hope that by now most of us are less confused about Tim Kaine than Trump was last week, but perhaps there is still room to learn more about Kaine’s record.

So who is Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s choice as her running mate?  A U.S. News & World Report piece last week explained Tim Kaine’s Hefty Education Resume: “When Hillary Clinton formally introduced her vice presidential pick, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, it quickly became clear that she chose someone with big education policy chops….”

Kaine’s wife, Anne Holton, has a long history of work on behalf of children and families as a judge in juvenile and domestic relations court. During Kaine’s term as governor of Virginia, she became an advocate for adolescents in foster care. Kaine and his wife educated their three now-adult children in the public schools of Richmond, Virginia.  Holton served until last week as Virginia’s Secretary of Education (She just resigned to join the presidential campaign.), a position she used, according to the Washington Post, to bring attention to the needs of the state’s public schools: “‘Teachers are teaching to the tests. Students’ and teachers’ love of learning and teaching are sapped,’ she wrote in 2015. ‘Most troublesome, Virginia’s persistent achievement gaps for low-income students have barely budged,’ she continued arguing that ‘our high stakes-approach’ with testing has made it more difficult to persuade the best teachers who work in the most difficult, impoverished schools… Like most of her fellow Democrats in the state, she has opposed the expansion of charter schools and other school-choice measures, and she has pushed for greater investments in public education, including teacher pay raises.”

2013 column Kaine himself wrote for theRichmond Times-Dispatch describes his commitment to public education as mayor of Richmond, governor of Virginia, and U.S. senator: “Anne and I are now empty-nesters. Combined, our three kids spent 40 school years in the Richmond Public Schools. While we both interact with the school system in our professional lives, we’ve learned even more from back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, attending school events and pulling crumpled notes to parents out of our kids’ backpacks. The lessons learned as parents have made me think about what works and what doesn’t work in Pre-K-12 education.”

What are Kaine’s education priorities as described in his 2013 column?  First is support for the kind of individualized education planning mandated for students with special needs in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: “Most policy debate these days seems to be about charter schools or high-stakes testing. But I’m convinced that the most important reform has been under our noses since 1975, when legislation was passed to guarantee (that) children with diagnosed disabilities receive individualized learning plans tailored to meet their specific needs. Each child brings a mix of strengths and challenges to the classroom. Let’s use the insight gained through advances in educating kids with disabilities to leverage new technologies and teaching methods that can individualize learning for each child.”

Kaine continues by endorsing the expansion of high-quality pre-Kindergarten; reduction of number state-mandated, high-stakes tests; more emphasis on science and social studies at the elementary level; more exposure to exploring careers for students in middle school; a variety of paths to a high school diploma; more opportunities for exploration of the arts and computer science as requirements, not mere electives; and strong efforts to attract and hold on to excellent teachers: “As I listen to public debate, it often sounds like our main issue is how to get rid of bad teachers. But this problem pales beside the larger issue of how to keep good teachers. Too many great prospective teachers never enter the profession and too many great teachers leave too early over low salaries, high-stakes testing pressure, discipline challenges and an overall belief that society doesn’t value the profession.”

Louis Freedberg, executive director of California’s EdSource examines the Kaines’ strong record on education: “It seems clear that both Kaine and his wife favor strategies very different from the top-down, test-heavy, high-stakes reforms of the No Child Left Behind era.”  And writing for the Education Opportunity Network, Jeff Bryant explains: “But in reviewing Kaine’s education policy chops, what’s in his record may not be as important as what isn’t: the current education establishment’s policy checklist of standardization, high-stakes testing, allowing charter schools to sort students by income and ability, and keeping teachers under the authoritative thumb of test-based evaluations—there’s none of that.”

Of course nobody can predict whether a Vice President will leave a mark on an administration’s record in any particular policy area.  But Hillary Clinton’s choice of Tim Kaine over another contender for the vice presidential slot, Cory Booker, sends what many hope is an important message.  Booker has a long history of supporting private school vouchers and was described in Dale Russakoff’s The Prize in league with New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie in hatching the plan to charterize Newark, New Jersey’s public schools and in luring Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to donate $100 million to underwrite the experiment.

Tim Kaine has a strong local, state, and federal record of support for democratically governed public schools —as Richmond Mayor, and Virginia Governor and U.S Senator.

Students Public Speaking in Front of Community

I was thinking of different ways to both introduce students to members of their community, so that their is more community engagement, and public speaking. The idea that stood out the most is one that placed emphasis on involvement from all members of a school community.

Students, starting at a young age, would present in front of their teacher(s), classmates, members of the school’s parent/family community, and members of the school’s external business and working class communites. But it wouldn’t stop there. Students would then conduct both Question-and-Answer and Roundtable style discussions on the presentation topic. This would provide students an opportunity to engage in a more deeper conversation about their presentation topic, while it simutaneously lets them know that other people want to engage in that conversation as well. 
To be clear, the non-teaching community members would not be critiquing students nor would they provide public speaking or academic feedback. The non-teaching community members role would be to help instill a since of engagement and provide students with different perspectives through the comments they make and questions they ask. At some point, the roles would reverse. There would be a chance for the more traditional scenario of ublic speaking in schools: non-teaching members of the commnuity would present something to students. The teaching community would be their to provide feedback after the presentation but also to facilitate the presentation. 

Some might think that allowing people, who are not trained to provide constructive criticism to children, would do more harm than good. Afterall, the community grocery owner or accountant may only think in numbers or may not know how to be more sensitive to young children’s feelings when providing qualitative feedback.

This is a valid concern and one possible solution would be to have a trained public speaking teacher work with each participating community member who is not a part of the professional teaching community. they’d go over best practices and responses to students, tone, face expression and a brief interview to determine their overall fit for such an activity. 

I know. This sounds like a lot of time and money spent on training. It’s an idea I’ve been thinking about for the last couple of weeks that I’m trying now putting to paper/post. 

But, one thing is for sure: we need to start students engaging and caring about quality public speaking at a young age and continue the engagment throughout their academic careers. One key attribute is tapping into the wide community net that surrounds the school community. This makes room for different perspectives and the exchange of ideas that goes into talking to someone outside of the school community. Another key attribute is high quality teacher training. Though it may be expensive, if  we want our students to be strong, confident speakers, we as a community need to invest time and money. Period.

The idea behind all of this is to have both students and members of the overall community interact, challenge and learn from each other, while giving students the platform to express themselves. Hopefully, along the way, students pickup on softskills, in addtion to their ability to spot faulty and sound arguments, as well as thinking about some worthwhile feedback, questions and comments they received throughout the years. 

More to come.