Category Archives: Schools

Trump-inspired hate floods the nation’s classrooms


Not only are incidents of overt racism and hatred on the rise in the nation’s schools, fear is leading teachers not to talk about it.

From the Southern Poverty Law Center:

In the first days after the 2016 presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project administered an online survey to K–12 educators from across the country. Over 10,000 teachers, counselors, administrators and others who work in schools have responded. The survey data indicate that the results of the election are having a profoundly negative impact on schools and students. Ninety percent of educators report that school climate has been negatively affected, and most of them believe it will have a long-lasting impact. A full 80 percent describe heightened anxiety and concern on the part of students worried about the impact of the election on themselves and their families.

Also on the upswing: verbal harassment, the use of slurs and derogatory language, and disturbing incidents involving swastikas, Nazi salutes and Confederate flags.

Teaching Tolerance conducted a previous survey in March, when we asked teachers how the primary campaign season was affecting our nation’s students. The 2,000 educators who responded reported that the primary season was producing anxiety among vulnerable students and emboldening others to new expressions of politicized bullying. Teachers overwhelming named the source of both the anxiety and the behavior as Donald Trump, then a leading contender for the Republican nomination.

Since Trump was elected, media have been awash in reports of hate incidents around the nation, including at schools. Some detractors have characterized the reports as isolated, exaggerated or even as hoaxes. This survey, which was distributed by several organizations (see About the Survey for a complete list), via email and social media, offers the richest source of information about the immediate impact of the election on our country. The findings show that teachers, principals and district leaders will have an oversized job this year as they work to heal the rifts within school communities.

The survey asked respondents a mix of easily quantifiable questions and also offered them a chance to describe what was happening in open-ended questions. There are over 25,000 responses, in the form of comments and stories, to the open-ended questions. It will take time to fully analyze and report on those comments. This report provides a high-level summary of the findings.

Here are the highlights:

  • Nine out of 10 educators who responded have seen a negative impact on students’ mood and behavior following the election; most of them worry about the continuing impact for the remainder of the school year.
  • Eight in 10 report heightened anxiety on the part of marginalized students, including immigrants, Muslims, African Americans and LGBT students.
  • Four in 10 have heard derogatory language directed at students of color, Muslims, immigrants and people based on gender or sexual orientation.
  • Half said that students were targeting each other based on which candidate they’d supported.
  • Although two-thirds report that administrators have been “responsive,” four out of 10 don’t think their schools have action plans to respond to incidents of hate and bias.
  • Over 2,500 educators described specific incidents of bigotry and harassment that can be directly traced to election rhetoric. These incidents include graffiti (including swastikas), assaults on students and teachers, property damage, fights and threats of violence.
  • Because of the heightened emotion, half are hesitant to discuss the election in class. Some principals have told teachers to refrain from discussing or addressing the election in any way.

Read the rest.

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John Oliver tackles school resegregation in the U.S.


Racism is at the heart of the neoliberal agenda, whether it’s cutting taxes, fighting public healthcare and social security, privatizing prisons, deregulating the finance industry, or weakening environmental protections.

But nowhere is the racism more evident than in the simultaneous defunding of public schools and the rise of corporate charter school industry.

Public schools run by public employees and directly answerable to the communities they served were once the bulwark of the American educaitonal system [and, yes, they were flawed.

The movement towards privately owned schools was spurred by Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court ruling barring racial segregation of public schools.

White flight followed, and has only intensified over the years, and that resegregation is the focus of the latest episode of the latest episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver’s weekly series for HBO.

From Last Week Tonight:

School Segregation: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Program notes:

Public schools are increasingly divided by race and class. John Oliver discusses the troubling trend towards school resegregation.

Corporate charter schools bid for Oakland schools


Charter schools, the corporate answer to the venerable American public school system, reap huge profits, money they can use to try to buy elections.

And just that is happening in Oakland, California, where corporate charter school money is flooding the election for the city’s school board.

Just how much cash is pouring in is evident in this graphic from the East Bay Express:

blog-charter

More from the alternative weekly:

If it were just a matter of raising money from parents, teachers, and community members, then school-board candidates James Harris, Huber Trenado, and Jumoke Hinton Hodge’s financial advantage over their opponents would be minimal. For example, the incumbent board chairman Harris has raised $11,836 from individual contributors for his re-election this year. That’s not much more than Chris Jackson, his challenger, who has scraped together $9,622.

But Harris, Trenado, and Hinton Hodge benefit from two independent-expenditure committees funded by super-wealthy charter-school advocates, which have raised millions since 2014.

These committees are on track to spend about half-a-million dollars to help Harris and Hinton Hodge keep their seats on the board, and to help Trenado unseat Roseann Torres.

Critics worry, however, that this “outside money” distorts Oakland’s school-board races.

California’s public schools have been financially crippled for decades, thanks to Proposition 13, the property tax limitation passed by California voters in 1978 during the massive inflation of the Jimmy Carter years.

The man whose name is forever linked to the measure, Howard Jarvis, told us way back in 1977 that his intent in pushing measure was to “to demolish local government and eliminate all the bureaucracy.”

The biggest beneficiaries of Proposition 13 have been giant corporations, thanks to the measure’s provisions placing sever limit on annual property tax increases, given that corporations hold their properties for decades, while homeowners move every few years, triggering a reassessment of their new homes at full market value, while long-term holdings are based on 1975 assessment, plus those small annual increases.

As a result, homeowners pay an ever-increasing share of the cost of local government.

Schools, police and fire departments, and public streets are the main functions of local governments, and all have been hard hit by the Proposition 13 tax limits.

The growth of charter schools in California is a direct result of Jarvis and his ballot measure, and Oakland is just the latest symptom of a growing plague.

Campaign 2016: The presidential race rated NSFS


As in Not Safe for Schools.

From the Washington Post:

Social studies teachers have long used presidential elections to provide engaging, real-time lessons about democracy, helping them bring to life what students read in textbooks about American politics, history and civics.

But this election cycle, unique in so many ways, also has proven to be a dicey challenge for classroom consumption, with teachers struggling to explain and dissect developments that have at times been far too lurid for young minds. Just the language of the campaign — including allegations of sexual assault, lewd comments about women, attacks on each candidate’s supporters — would be the kind of talk that would land a child in the principal’s office.

“This is the first time I’ve really said to myself, ‘I can’t cover this election like I want to because it’s not school-appropriate,’?” said Kris Goldstein, who teaches government to seniors at Tokay High School in Lodi, Calif. It was a realization he had after Republican nominee Donald Trump attacked a critic by urging people to watch her sex tape. “There’s certain things I don’t want to be talking about.”

Many teachers say they have shifted their lesson plans to keep things G-rated and to ease anxiety among minority and immigrant students, some of whom feel like they are in the line of fire. Some teachers have avoided classroom discussion of the election altogether; others say their students are too captivated to avoid it.

They want to assign students to watch the third presidential debate scheduled for Wednesday night, but they also fear what their students may see and hear.

Studies reveal music’s big impacts on growing brain


We’ve always been passionate believers in the value of music and art ecducation starting at the earliest years.

Gowing up in Kansas in the 1950s, we were the beneficiary of musical education that started in elementary school, where we participated in both singing and band programs, acquiring a love of music that has lasted throughout these last seven decades.

Our paternal grandmother was an elementary school teacher in Abilene, Kansas, and music was a critical part of her daily teaching. After her death in 1959, we received a letter from one her colleagues, telling us that one of her students had written that he still found inspiration in songs he had learned in her first and second grade classes.

The pupil was Dwight David Eisenhower, then serving as President of the United States.

Music and fine arts programs slashed as testing rises

But today, in classrooms across the country, education is music and the fine arts has fallen prey to a combination of budget cuts and the relentless imperative of the standardized test, a regime designed to turn out cogs in the machine rather than well-rounded, independent-minded individuals.

As the journal of the National Education Association reported in 2014:

Across the nation, the testing obsession has nudged aside visual arts, music, physical education, social studies, and science, not to mention world languages, financial literacy, and that old standby, penmanship. Our schools, once vigorous and dynamic centers for learning, have been reduced to mere test prep factories, where teachers and students act out a script written by someone who has never visited their classroom and where “achievement” means nothing more than scoring well on a bubble test.

“NCLB [No Child Left Behind] has corrupted what it means to teach and what it means to learn,” explains NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Teachers have to teach in secret and hope they don’t get into trouble for teaching to the Whole Child instead of teaching to the test.”

A Google search for the words “music education elementary schools eliminated” turns up more than a million hits, a tragic litany of stories reporting slashed programs across the nation and throughout much of the Western world.

Musical training improves standardized testing scores

Ironically, music education actually improves children’s test scores, as the Children’s Music Workshop notes:

Music education programs increase children’s cognitive development. Also, research shows that “preschoolers who took daily 30 minute group singing lessons and a weekly 10-15 minute private keyboard lesson scored 80 percent higher in object assembly skills than students who did not have the music lessons,” as reported in a 1994 study by Frances Rauscher and Gordon Shaw at the University of California, Irvine (Harvey, 1997). It is clear that music education programs dramatically stimulate a child’s learning capacity, as shown in drastic increases in the scores of children who participated in music programs. Music education programs can begin as early as preschool and should continue for the greatest results.

When music education is sustained throughout the elementary years, children continue to learn better through the clear connections between music and other areas of study. For instance, a 1999 study presented in Neurological Research reveals that when second and third-grade students were taught fractions through basic music rhythm notation, they “scored a full 100% higher on fractions tests than those who learned in the conventional manner.” This study shows that the students who learned about the mathematical concept of fractions related their music knowledge of the relationships between eighth, quarter, half and whole notes in order to fully understand the material.

Students in music programs consistently score better on tests, as also exemplified in the 2001 study compiled by Music Educators National Conference, which exhibits that “SAT takers with coursework/experience in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 41 points higher on the math portion than students with no coursework/experience in the arts.” It is obvious that when students have experience in music education in both the elementary and high school level, they perform considerably better in other important subjects as well. Music education programs in the elementary school level are necessary for the future success of students in all subject areas.

Musical training reshapes the brain

A major study by scientists from Harvard and McGill University and published in the Journal of Neuroscience [open access] used brain imaging to map changes in children’s brains resulting from musical study concluded with this summary:

M]usical training over only 15 months in early childhood leads to structural brain changes that diverge from typical brain development. Regional training-induced structural brain changes were found in musically relevant regions that were driven by musically relevant behavioral tests. The fact there were no structural brain differences found between groups before the onset of musical training indicates that the differential development of these brain regions is induced by instrumental practice rather by than preexisting biological predictors of musicality. These results provide new evidence for training-induced structural brain plasticity in early childhood. These findings of structural plasticity in the young brain suggest that long-term intervention programs can facilitate neuroplasticity in children. Such an intervention could be of particular relevance to children with developmental disorders and to adults with neurological diseases.

And yet another study proves the power of music. . .and dance

And now comes yet another study revealing the direct impact of education in music and dance on the brains of growing children.

From Concordia University in Montreal:

Endless hours at the barre. Long afternoons practising scales. All that time you spent in piano lessons and dance classes as a youngster may have seemed like a pain, but new research now confirms what your parents claimed: it’s good for mind and body.

In fact, a recent study published in NeuroImage ($35.95 to access] by a team* of researchers from the the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research, proves that dance and music training have even stronger effects on the brain than previously understood — but in markedly different ways.

The researchers used high-tech imaging techniques to compare the effects of dance and music training on the white matter structure of experts in these two disciplines. They then examined the relationship between training-induced brain changes and dance and music abilities.

Continue reading

Headline of the day II: Coulrophobia fears confirmed


From USA Today, validation for all you coulrophobes:

Clown threats close Ohio schools after woman reports being attacked

Reading schools are closed Friday after a woman reported being attacked by a male dressed as a clown. The woman told police the attacker made a threat against students.

Racial profiling begins in America’s pre-schools


yale_implicit_bias_infographic_v07

Continuing with today’s theme, a sobering new study reveals that institutional racial profiling begins in the nation’s pre-schools.

From the Yale Child Study Center:

Preschool teachers and staff show signs of implicit bias in administering discipline, but the race of the teacher plays a big role in the outcome, according to research [open access] conducted by the Yale Child Study Center. The results help explain why black students tend to be suspended at much higher rates than white students, the authors say.

Release of the findings has been requested by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is scheduled to be presented to federal and state officials on Sept. 28.

Researchers used sophisticated eye-tracking technology and found that preschool teachers “show a tendency to more closely observe black students, and especially boys, when challenging behaviors are expected,” the authors found.

But at the same time, black teachers hold black students to a higher standard of behavior than do their white counterparts, the researchers found. While the study did not explore why this difference in attitude exists, the researchers speculated that black educators may be demonstrating “a belief that black children require harsh assessment and discipline to prepare them for a harsh world.”

White educators, by contrast, may be acting on a stereotype that black preschoolers are more likely to misbehave in the first place, so they judge them against a different, more lenient standard than what they’re applying to white children.

“The tendency to base classroom observation on the gender and race of the child may explain in part why those children are more frequently identified as misbehaving and hence why there is a racial disparity in discipline,” added Walter S. Gilliam, director of The Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy and associate professor of child psychiatry and psychology at the Yale Child Study Center.  Gilliam is one of five researchers who conducted what is thought to be the first such study of its type.

Findings suggested that when the preschool teacher and child were of the same race, knowing about family stressors led to increased teacher empathy for the preschooler and decreased how severe the behaviors appeared to the teacher. But, when the teacher and child were of a different race, the same family information seemed to overwhelm the teachers and the behaviors were perceived as being more severe.

“These findings suggest that teachers need support in understanding family struggles, as they may related to child behaviors, especially when the teacher and child are of different races,” Gilliam said.

Primary funding for the research came from the WK Kellogg Foundation.