College treats choking attack as harassment

Caught choking a female student in a women’s restroom at St. Louis Community College in Meramec, a male student was released by campus police a few hours later. Jevon Mallory told a sexual harassment counselor he didn’t know the victim but was trying to “withdraw her from life.” Only when the victim went to the media was Mallory arrested and charged with felony assault.

Study: Harlem charter boosts ‘human capital’

The Harlem Children Zone‘s Promise Academy, a charter middle school, raises test scores, concluded Harvard EdLabs researchers Will Dobbie and Roland Fryer. Sixth-grade lottery winners close the black-white achievement gap by the end of eighth grade.

A new study finds that students are more likely to graduate from high school and enroll in college, less likely to experience teen pregnancy or incarceration.

That’s a huge human-capital boost, notes Education Gadfly.

Six years after winning the admissions lottery, Promise Academy students not only score higher on the nationally normed Woodcock-Johnson math achievement tests than lottery losers, but they are more likely to enroll in college, by 24 percentage points. Additionally, female lottery winners are 12 percentage points less likely to become pregnant in their teens, while males are 4 percentage points less likely to be incarcerated. The Harlem Children’s Zone social and community-building services are well documented, but Dobbie and Fryer attribute Promise Academy’s success to the markers that make it a high-performing school (extended school time, high-quality teachers, data-driven decision making, and heightened expectations).

Winning the charter lottery had little effect on students’ health or likelihood of using drugs and alcohol.

Paternalism, progressives and public policy

Paternalism is the hallmark of Progressive reform movements — including school reform — writes Mike Petrilli on Education Gadfly. “Whether it’s Temperance and Prohibition or the effort to shutter popular but ineffective public schools . . . members of an ‘enlightened elite’ believe that they must act to create and enforce rules that will be good for the huddled masses.”

Petty Little Dictator Disorder
Petty Little Dictator Disorder and paternalism
From Jay Greene’s Blog

Petrilli often favors paternalistic policies, risking what Jay Greene calls  Petty Little Dictator Disorder.

For example, he thinks the Bloomberg-Giuliani approach to crime fighting, which includes the aggressive use of stop, question and frisk, has helped make New York the safest city in America. Low-income, minority New Yorkers benefit the most, because they’re far more likely to be crime victims.

But they’re also the most likely to be stopped, questioned and frisked, paying what Ta-Nehisi Coates calls a “racist public-safety tax.” Perhaps minority communities should get to decide whether paying this tax is worth the benefit, Petrilli suggests.

Education reformers want to close underperforming schools, even if they are popular with parents.”There’s a case to be made” that people in the community should “decide whether the tradeoffs are worth it,” he writes. But “I still don’t quite buy it.”

. . . because education is not just a “private good”—all of our welfare depends on an educated populace—isn’t it appropriate for the public to demand that schools meet certain standards, especially when taxpayer dollars are involved? Isn’t leaving it to the affected “community” just a recipe for inaction and further academic decline?

So he’s a Progressive paternalist — with qualms about dismissing the “will of the people.”

Step away from the simile, responds Sara Mead.

Study: School choice prevents crime

Low-income black males admitted by lottery to better schools were more likely to stay in school and less likely to be arrested compared to similar students who lost the transfer lottery. So concludes a study in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina by David Deming, a Harvard education professor, in Education Next.

In general, high-risk students commit about 50 percent less crime as a result of winning a school choice lottery.  Among male high school students at high risk of criminal activity, winning admission to a first-choice school reduced felony arrests from 77 to 43 per 100 students over the study period (2002-2009).  The attendant social cost of crimes committed decreased by more than 35 percent.  Among high-risk middle school students, admittance by lottery to a preferred school reduced the average social cost of crimes committed by 63 percent (due chiefly to a reduction in violent crime), and reduced the total expected sentence of crimes committed by 31 months (64 percent).

The highest risk group was identified based on test scores, demographics, behavior, and neighborhood characteristics.

The study finds that the overall reductions in criminal activity are concentrated among the top 20 percent of high-risk students, who are disproportionately African American, eligible for free lunch, with more days of absence and suspensions than the average student.

All students had applied to transfer from their low-performing neighborhood school. Lottery winners moved to schools of average quality as measured by test scores, teacher experience and other factors.


The 'mean girl' myth

Despite the South Hadley High bullying case, there is no epidemic of “mean girls” attacking other girls, write Mike Males and Meda-Chesney Lind in a New York Times op-ed.

We have examined every major index of crime on which the authorities rely. None show a recent increase in girls’ violence; in fact, every reliable measure shows that violence by girls has been plummeting for years. Major offenses like murder and robbery by girls are at their lowest levels in four decades. Fights, weapons possession, assaults and violent injuries by and toward girls have been plunging for at least a decade.

If one group is more prone to violence, it’s middle-aged men and women, they write, but you don’t hear about “mean middle-agers.”

Of course, Males and Lind are looking at criminal acts, which are easier to track than the typical girl-on-girl harassment, which is mean but not criminal.

These overreaction stories just never get old, do they?

I confess to being of two minds about this university student’s predicament:

The 19-year-old University of Central Florida theater student whose fake bomb led to the evacuation of the Hollywood 16 movie theater has been released from the Marion County Jail after posting a $5,000 bond, and a top prosecutor said he’s not sure what his office will do with the case.

Matthew F. Pye, 19, was arrested Saturday on a charge of manufacture, possession and display of a hoax weapon of mass destruction. The bogus bomb, which Pye created for a UCF theater class, consisted of five tightly wrapped sticks of “dynamite” attached with wires to a white timing device.

There are two main issues here that I see: the legal issue, and the common sense issue.

First the common sense issue.  Context is important.  If he was in the parking lot of a federal building, I could understand the reaction.  But he was at a movie theatre.  In all honesty, if I saw something that looked like a bomb in my local theater’s parking lot, I’d probably ignore it.  It’s just really, really long odds that it presents any danger.  It’s far more likely that it’s a fake (for any of a thousand reasons) or that it’s a legitimate possession of TNT.

But teenagers see the bomb.  Being teenagers, they freak out a little (they might even know it’s a fake and just be having fun), and someone calls their dad.  Their dad listens to his son or daughter describe a “bomb in a car” and instead of thinking what’s most likely (legitimate possession or a prop) goes for the worst case scenario and calls the police.  The police, instead of sending someone over to look at the situation before going nuclear, send everyone and a bag of chips in on the word of, at best, a 15-year old.

I’m willing to entertain the notion that maybe the university student was being careless in his judgment.  But I’m pretty certain that the father and the police are being a little careless.  Now I know that some people are going to say, “But you can’t be too careful…”  But that’s just false.  You can be too careful — there’s the old security-liberty trade off to think about — and you can also be careless in how you go about being careful.  That’s the common sense issue.

The legal issue is more interesting.  This purports to be the relevant Florida hoax weapon statute.

When I first read the story, I thought it odd that people were talking about weapons of “mass destruction.”  And indeed, the statute concerns only nuclear, radiological, biological, or chemical weapons and their knock-offs.

Second, the hoax clause requires a very specific intent:

Any person who, without lawful authority, manufactures, possesses, sells, delivers, displays, uses, threatens to use, attempts to use, or conspires to use, or who makes readily accessible to others, a hoax weapon of mass destruction with the intent to deceive or otherwise mislead another person into believing that the hoax weapon of mass destruction will cause terror, bodily harm, or property damage commits a felony of the second degree.

In other words, you have to intend to convince other people that it is real.  It’s not enough that people think it’s real.  This is why the local D.A. is “not sure” what they are going to do about this.  Even if the student did intend to scare people… he’s probably been arrested under the wrong statute, because dynamite-qua-weapon is neither nuclear, chemical, nor biological.

School surveillance doesn't deter crime

Surveillance cameras, security guards and zero tolerance policies don’t deter crime in schools, concludes Torin Monahan, a Vanderbilt professor. If anything, security measures “make students feel less safe, by sending them the message that adults distrust and fear them,” reports The Tennessean.

“Columbine had armed security guards. Columbine had video cameras,” said Monahan, referring to the notorious 1999 high school shootings in Colorado that took 15 lives and sparked a nationwide campaign for heightened school security.

“Generally speaking,” he said, “surveillance is not good for preventing crime. It’s more useful for catching people after the fact.”

In Schools Under Surveillance: Cultures of Control in Public Education, researchers looked at similar schools: Those with “cameras, armed guards, frequent pat-downs and weapons checks, even some with barbed-wire perimeters” had the same crime rates as schools without those measures.

The charter high school in my book, Our School, is a small school that doesn’t let students get away with anything. Teachers enforce the rules backed by the principal. No money is spent on security. It’s not necessary.