Softening discipline is hard on teachers

In Classroom Discipline, a Soft Approach Is Harder Than It Looks, writes Ruben Brosbe on Bright. A third-grade teacher in New York City, Brosbe doesn’t want to contribute to the “school-to-prison pipeline.” But what should he do when a student hits a classmate with a chair, claiming it’s an accident?

I needed to send a message to John (not his real name) that this behavior was not acceptable. I also needed to let his classmate know that I would stand up for his safety. Finally, I wanted to let John know that I cared about him and trusted him (even though he’s very “accident prone”).

I suggested John take a break in our classroom’s “relaxing area,” a message to calm down so we could resolve the issue. This made John feel punished and under attack, so he gave me the middle finger and walked out the door.

A repeat offender, John could have been suspended for one to three days, but Brosbe thought it would “do more harm than good.”

Other approaches — “giving him extra attention and creating an individualized behavior plan”  — hadn’t worked.

Teachers are supposed to implement “restorative justice” approaches, Brosbe writes.

A group — likely comprising John, me, some of John’s classmates, and a facilitator (which my school does not have) — would come together to talk through John’s actions. Together with John, we would create a plan to repair the harm.

With behavior like bullying or fighting, this may still result in a suspension. The difference, however, would be an intentional effort to discuss the root cause of John’s behavior and develop a shared plan to reduce future incidents. For example, if John’s behavior flared up during reading lessons, I would be responsible for planning specific supports to deal with his frustrations with this subject.

Brosbe likes the idea. But teachers haven’t been given the training or the support they need to make restorative justice work, he writes. His small school lacks a full-time counselor.

Here’s more from Brosbe’s blog.

Most California Latinos support testing

A majority of California’s Latino voters support school testing, while white voters do not, according to a USC/LA Times poll.

Fifty-five percent of Latinos “said mandatory exams improve public education in the state by gauging student progress and providing teachers with vital information,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Nearly the same percentage of white voters said such exams are harmful because they force educators to narrow instruction and don’t account for different styles of learning.”

Twenty-three percent of Latinos said students were tested too much, compared with 44 percents of whites polled.

“Once a family has achieved a certain level of financial success, they have the luxury of worrying about their children’s stress levels,” said Dan Schnur, head of USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. “For families who haven’t yet made it, they see the stress that comes with testing as an acceptable trade-off in order to more precisely measure progress.”

80% of teachers are white

Laurent Moreau

Credit: Laurent Moreau

While minority students are now a majority in public schools, more than 80 percent of teachers are white.

Boston’s public schools employ one Hispanic teacher for every 52 Latino students and one black teacher for every 22 African-American students, notes the New York Times. The ratio of white teachers to white students is one to fewer than three.

Does it matter?

Some studies have found no link between students’ performance and being taught by a same-race teacher. When there is a link, it’s small.

According to Anna Jacob Egalite, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard and an author of a new study, the largest improvements amounted to about one month of additional learning within a school year.

Other researchers who have found similar academic effects say more than test scores are at stake. “When minority students see someone at the blackboard that looks like you, it helps you reconceive what’s possible for you,” said Thomas S. Dee, a professor of education at Stanford University.

Many black and Latino college graduates have student loans that push them to “choose careers other than education, mainly because of the pay,” said Marvin Lynn, dean of the School of Education at Indiana University in South Bend.

Backlash cancels hijab event

At a Cincinnati high school, Muslim students invited girls to wear a scarf or hijab for a day to build cultural awareness. Mason High’s Student Activities Department sent out an email promoting the “Covered Girl Challenge.”

Non-Muslim students try on hijabs at University of California Riverside for the Hijab Challenge. Photo: Ross French

Non-Muslim students try on hijabs at University of California Riverside for the Hijab Challenge. Photo: Ross French

After massive backlash, the principal apologized for the message implying this was a school-sponsored activity and canceled the event.

I think that’s a shame. What’s wrong with student group inviting girls to see what it’s like to look a Muslim? (Some Orthodox Jewish women also cover their hair with a scarf — or wear a wig.)

If the school required it, that would be a different story, but there’s no church-state issue here. Just hijab hysteria.

Parents rank ‘perfectly good’ state colleges

From The Onion: Nation’s Parents Release Annual Ranking Of Top 50 ‘Perfectly Good’ State Schools “for the price.”

Forced sharing is overbearing

Sometimes Kids Don’t Need To Share, writes Rachel Boldwyn on Christianity Today.

“Sharing has become the pinnacle of virtuous toddlerhood whereby all children get a turn, there are no tears, and peace is preserved,” writes Boldwyn. But, until the age of three or four, kids aren’t ready to share.

Mandated turns with an object can actually impart to both the giving and the receiving child a flawed understanding of what sharing is. A request (or demand) of “Share!” comes to mean, “You have to give him the toy because he wants it.”

When her son was a toddler, she’d talk to him before a play date about providing toys for his friend to play with. “If you don’t share Mr. Potato Head, what will your friend play with?” That gave him a chance to think about sharing voluntarily.

Boldwyn wants her kids to be generous and selfless — eventually. 

Mandatory sharing triggers “confusion, anger and meltdowns” at her children’s play dates, writes Naomi Schaefer Riley in the New York Post.

“Kids need to feel secure in their ownership before they can share,” says Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist and founder Aha Parenting.

That makes sense to Riley.

If you think you’re never going to see the toy again, you’ll hold on for dear life. Even taking turns can be difficult when you have no sense of the difference between a minute, an hour and a day.

An Independent Women’s Forum senior fellow, Riley worries that forced sharing will give kids “the sense that all stuff is collectively owned” and will be divvied up by an authority figure.

Mommy blogger Beth Wankel has similar concerns. Your child could “think he’s owed everything he sees,” she warns in a much-quoted PopSugar piece.

Some 30 years ago, I was fixed up with a divorced dad. Dinner without the kids went well.  We planned a visit to the park with our kids, who were both preschoolers. On the way home my daughter expressed interest in his daughter’s toy. The dad told his kid to share. She refused. He insisted. She howled. My daughter said she didn’t want the toy. The dad considered it a point of principle. I think his kid gave it up in the end. There was a lot of screaming.

It was our last date.

50 years after algebra, teaching 21st-century math

Teaching Math in the 21st CenturyIt’s been 50 years since Barry Garelick took his first algebra course. Now launched on his second career as a math teacher, he writes about his struggles with the prevailing education philosophy in Teaching Math in the 21st Century.

As a long-term substitute in California middle and high schools, Garelick is witnessing the transition to the Common Core standards.

It’s all about teaching “habits of mind,” say the experts. Skills, schmills. Quadratic equations are so 1965.

Games students play

The Game Believes in You, writes USA Today ed writer Greg Toppo, who believes in digital learning’s power to “make our kids smarter.”

The key to gaming’s power is that players get quick feedback and the chance to try again, learning from their mistakes, writes Toppo. Players can take risks because the cost of failure is low.

“Students today need to know why they’re doing what they’re doing, how well they’re doing it and what it all means,” he writes. “They need to learn how to experiment with ideas.”

Some of the most intriguing games use few words. Players figure out what they can do.

Toppo visits schools that are using games to teach math, reading, U.S. history, world affairs and more. He looks at games that help players learn to work in teams, solve problems and improve their concentration and memory.

“What looks like a twenty-first-century, flashy, high-tech way to keep kids entertained is in fact a tool that taps into an ancient way to process, explore, and understand the world,” Toppo argues.

Done right, gaming can transform education, Toppo tells Ed Week.

In San Jose, Calif., he sat with a 4th grader matter-of-factly tackling complex math problems with the help of an animated penguin. In New York City, he watched a group of 8th graders during their final exam: playing Triple Turbo Ball, a game they had invented that blurred the lines between football, basketball, and soccer. In San Francisco, he played an early version of Throw Trucks With Your Mind!, a game being developed in the hopes of presenting a non-pharmaceutical treatment for ADHD, that rewards players with super powers when they are able to sustain calm and focus (measured through an EEG headset.)

Nearly three-quarters of K-8 teachers use learning games, according to a survey.

In an after-school program at Virginia Tech, a group of teenage boys created and performed an opera, Surface: A World Above, set within the virtual world of Minecraft. Mozart provided the music.

Would you eat this school lunch?

A student's mother took this picture of a lunch served at James Hurst Elementary School in Portsmouth Tuesday, April 14, 2015.Would you eat this school lunch? A mother took this picture at a Portsmouth, Virginia elementary school.

It may look like a giant snail oozing toward the canned corn, but it’s supposed to be a “spicy cajun fish” fillet topped with a bun.

Cafeteria workers will be trained on meal “presentation,” says the district’s food services manager.

If kids can’t improve, bad schools are OK

Is intelligence fixed — or can kids get smarter? The importance of a “growth mindset” applies to educators as well as students, writes Robert Maranto, 21st Century Chair in Leadership in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas.

“If you think that intelligence is a constant, then there is no point reforming schools because schools don’t matter,” he writes in the Baltimore Sun.

“Good” schools and “good” teachers either cherry picked or lucked into smart students. It’s unfair to compare schools or teachers on academic results because student learning is determined by who teachers teach, not what or how they teach.

When right-wing social scientists argue that genetics determines low academic performance, their views are marginalized, Maranto writes. But many on the left also believe some groups of children can’t learn.

I know prominent education professors who have not read any of the eight high quality scientific evaluations of the high poverty/high achievement Knowledge Is Power Program schools, nor set foot in such schools, but know that KIPP must be cheating in some way. They have no more interest in the research on KIPP than a creationist has in paleontology.

Our unwillingness to learn from success goes beyond ignoring successful charter schools. I do fieldwork in a reasonably good school district that has depressingly little success teaching its Hispanic minority; yet no one there bothers to check out a similar school district 10 miles away that has nearly eliminated its Anglo-Hispanic achievement gap. These educators believe, on the basis of no evidence, that Hispanics in the other school district differ from their Hispanics. They cannot imagine different tactics including parental outreach and after school tutoring yielding better outcomes with the same kids.

Urban superintendents aren’t more likely to keep their jobs when achievement rises, Maranto’s research found.

Yesterday, I visited a San Jose elementary school whose students — more than 80 percent are English Learners from lower-income families — excel at reading and math. It’s called Rocketship Brilliant Minds.

Teachers and students dance each day at Morning Launch.