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April 17, 2017

Where Teacher Prep Meets Behavior Management

Last week, the Center for American Progress and the Hope Street Group held a forum to discuss the future of teacher preparation following the recent repeal of regulations which required states to rate their programs.

During this event, panelists repeatedly argued that teacher training should include a behavior management component. One panelist shared that she felt she was not adequately prepared to teach children with social and emotional problems when she began teaching. Another stressed the importance of training new teachers to understand and respond to the social, behavioral matters of children.

There are good reasons for this. As CPE found in its report on teacher shortages, good working conditions and support play a large role in teachers’ decisions about where to work. If student outbursts impede a teacher’s ability to manage the classroom, that says a lot about the working conditions. Accordingly, another panelist spoke about the need for teachers-in-training to have a “back-up” for assistance with behavioral management situations when they arise, which speaks to support. CPE also reports that student discipline problems are another factor in low teacher retention, more so than even salary.

Up to 30 percent of children and adolescents have mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders, and as many as 1 in 10 students have disorders severe enough to interfere with their ability to function properly in class, including exhibiting proper classroom behavior.

Research shows that the achievement levels of students who have behavior problems are significantly lower than students who do not. In addition, while the dropout rate for all public-school students is 7 percent, among students with behavior problems, the dropout rate is even higher, 38.7 percent, higher than most categories of disabilities (Porowski, A., et al., 2014).

Being equipped to provide behavior management isn’t a new concern; a 2011 study showed that teachers surveyed reported a lack of experience and training for supporting children’s mental health needs (Reinke, W. et al., 2011).

Some families are able to access behavioral health services for their students on their own, but an almost equal amount rely on schools to provide those services for them. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, in 2007, 3.1 million youth (12.7 percent) received treatment or counseling for emotional or behavior problems outside of school, where an additional 11.8 percent of youth received mental health services inside school facilities. This may be why teachers report that they believe they hold the primary responsibility of implementing behavioral interventions in the classroom.

According a report by the Hope Street Group, teachers should be trained to become aware of students’ emotional triggers. Since many students exhibit signs prior to a sudden outburst, knowing these signs could be helpful in preventing them. Teachers can further be better positioned to refer students to necessary treatment, whether through community mental health providers, family organizations outside of the school, or school-based services.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has provided a list of warning signs for mental health problems, among other advice for consulting a school counselor, nurse, administrator or the student’s parents if certain behaviors are observed. HHS also has provided a list of actions teacher can take in their classrooms to promote the mental health of students.

Research shows that parents want to be involved and prefer to seek advice or referrals from teachers, but they might not know how to communicate with professionals regarding their child’s behavioral needs. If teachers initiate communication, facilitating parental engagement, that’s a positive step towards solving the problem. Training teachers in parent engagement strategies focused on expressing support and establishing partnership with parents is therefore another important piece.

Teacher training also needs district support, as research shows that even when teachers receive effective training, certain programs tend to dissolve when they aren’t supported by school districts.

Behavioral healthcare has its place in the classroom. Given the educational impact emotional disturbances hold on students with special needs, behavioral health should be part of their educational experience, which means teachers must be supported and trained to facilitate it. Teachers, however, are not mental health professionals. Nor are they case managers. Training teachers to recognize signs of potential behavioral outbursts; making sure teachers are familiar with the community in which they are teaching so that they can more easily identify resources for referrals to trained behavioral health specialists; and providing them with support and guidance when they may enable them to feel better prepared to manage student behavior.

Filed under: CPE,Student support,teachers — Tags: — Katharine Carter @ 2:26 pm





April 5, 2017

About those ‘rough’ school numbers

Speaking to a group of CEOs in the White House on Tuesday, President Trump said this:

If you look at so many elements of education, and it’s so sad to see what’s coming – what’s happening in the country. Even the numbers, as good – you say we’re doing better, but the numbers in New York the numbers in Chicago are very rough. The numbers in Los Angeles – the cities – it’s very rough situation.

It’s hard to say exactly what numbers the president was referring to. But given the occasion and the audience – plus the fact that he was responding to a statement about New York schools – we assume he is talking about achievement.

We recently called out Morning Joe for reporting false high school graduation rates in Los Angeles. We don’t know how the president scales “rough” so, unlike with the MSNBC talk show, we can’t say definitively that he’s wrong. However, we can provide some context for readers for making their own judgments about where to place these cities’ performance on the “rough spectrum.”

First, reading and math achievement. According to the 2015 NAEP, Chicago and New York City performed near or at the national average for large cities. Eighth-graders in these cities did the same in mathematics. While Los Angeles performed below the national average, it has made sizable gains since 2003. In 2015, LA 4th graders scored 13 points higher than their 2003 peers in reading, and 8th graders improved by 18 points in math. In comparison, large cities improved an average 12 points in both subjects. Chicago was near the top in gains: a whopping 20 points in reading and math.

As we reported to Morning Joe, graduation rates in Los Angeles had risen an incredible 10 percentage points in five years, from 62 to 72 percent in 2016. In fact, all three cities reported higher grad rates. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of Chicago’s class of 2016 earned diplomas. In New York City the rate was 70 percent. When including NYC summer school students in the calculation, the rate rose to 73 percent.

To be sure, on all of these indicators, the three city systems still lag behind the overall national average. The national grad rate is an historically high 82 percent. The national overall average on NAEP is 6-7 points higher than that for large cities. Perhaps this is what the president means by rough. But what cannot be denied is that performance in these systems is moving in the right direction, and in many cases, outpaces the overall national average. The accomplishment is all the more remarkable given the challenges these cities face, not least school poverty rates at or above 30 percent. If we continue on this path, we will finally see the gap between urban schools and their wealthier counterparts close. That doesn’t seem so rough to me.

 

Filed under: Achievement Gaps,Graduation rates,NAEP,Reading — Tags: , , — Patte Barth @ 2:19 pm





March 31, 2017

Public Charter Schools and Accountability

Earlier this week, the Brookings Institution released the fifth annual Education Choice and Competition Index, which ranks school choice in the largest school districts in the U.S.

During her address, Secretary of Education Betsy Devos claimed that “parents are the primary point of accountability.” When asked about policies that ensure that schools of choice are actually improving student performance, she answered that “the policies around empowering parents and moving the decision-making to the hands of parents on behalf of children is really the direction we need to go.” She later repeated the idea that transparency and information, coupled with parental choice, equated to accountability.

While it is indeed important to communicate information on school choice, transparency and information are only part of the accountability puzzle. In addition to these components, states also use accountability to ensure that schools that fail to meet academic or financial standards are improved or closed.

This is of particular importance for public charter schools, who have been given the authority to operate independently of school districts and many state rules or regulations. Accountability rules assure that students are learning and that public funds are spent responsibly.

While the accountability measures used for charter schools to demonstrate quality performance vary from state to state, they do exist, and they include more than just reporting information to parents.

Forty-three states had charter school laws in place when we completed this analysis (not including Kentucky, which passed a bill in March 2017 to allow charter schools). We examined four points of accountability within the charter school policies as recorded by the Education Commission of the States: annual reporting, specifications for termination, performance-thresholds, and technical assistance.

Annual Reporting

Most states require charter schools to submit annual reports as a part of their accountability obligations. Some annual reporting requirements include annual report cards, education progress reports, curriculum development, attendance rates, graduation rates, and college admission test scores. Many states that do not require annual reports still require financial reports, which speaks to the other side of accountability, appropriate usage of funds.

  • Some states, such as Washington, require charter schools to provide the same annual school performance reports as non-charter schools.
  • In Ohio, each charter is required to disseminate the state Department of Education’s school report card report to all parents.
  • North Carolina requires its charter schools to publish their report performance ratings, awarded by the State Board of Education, on the internet. If the rating is D or F, the charter school must send written notice to parents. North Carolina also requires specific data reporting related to student reading.

State Specification for Termination

Forty-two states specify the grounds for terminating a charter school, fostering accountability by establishing standards and consequences of failure to adhere to those standards. Failure to demonstrate academic achievement and failure to increase overall school performance are among the terms cited as grounds of termination among some states.

These state specifications for termination do not only apply to performance levels; they can be applied to a violation of any part of the charter law or agreement, such as fraud, failure to meet audit requirements, or failure to meet standards set for basic operations.

State Threshold

In addition to state specifications for termination, some states have set a threshold marking the lowest point where a school can perform before it is closed. Some states without a clearly communicated low-performance threshold have set other standards which specifically mark the lowest point of acceptable performance.

Setting a minimum threshold for performance for the automatic closure of failing schools may increase charter school accountability, and encourage high performance.

State-Provided Technical Assistance

Technical assistance to charter schools included leadership training or mentoring charter school leaders, or assistance with grant and application writing and other paperwork related to charter school operation.

In addition to holding charter schools accountable for high performance, several states offer technical assistance to ensure that charter school administrators understand how requirements are measured, and can be directed to resources to assist them with achieving performance goals, especially if they are at risk of closure due to failing to meet previously established standards.

These are clear displays of school accountability policies that help to ensure that parents have truly good schools from which to schools. Accountability relies not only on information for parents, but also consequences for schools that fail to educate students or use taxpayer dollars responsibly.

Charter Accountability

[1] The following states also require annual financial audits with their annual performance reports: Arkansas, Arizona, DC, Georgia, Hawaii, Oregon, Michigan, Texas, Utah

[2] Utah requires the most comprehensive technical assistance offerings, provided by the state charter school board which includes: assistance with the application and approval process for charter school authorization, locating private funding and support sources, and understanding and implementing charter requirements.

 

Filed under: Accountability,Charter Schools,School Choice — Tags: , — Katharine Carter @ 4:42 pm





March 13, 2017

Kentucky: School Choice for Whom?

The Kentucky House of Representatives has been busy with education policy recently.  In February, they passed House Bill 151, which would allow parents the choice of sending their child to the school closest to their house (as long as it is in the district in which they reside).  If approved by the Senate, H.B. 151 would have the potential to override school assignment boundaries throughout the state.  As reported by the Washington Post and The Century Foundation, H.B. 151 would also have the potential to dismantle a long-standing school integration plan in Jefferson County, which encompasses Louisville.

At face value, it seems reasonable that children be allowed to attend the school closest to their home, creating neighborhood schools.  Most traditional school assignment plans are designed around this concept, with school capacity and population density also playing a role.  The challenge, even for schools with traditional attendance zones, is that school zones could basically disappear if parents claim the right to attend the school closest to their zone.  In Lexington, for example, a student in the southern part of the Breckinridge ES zone (see below) may live closer to Liberty ES than some of the students in the Liberty ES zone, so students who previously would have attended Liberty ES may no longer have a place there (if Liberty ES reached capacity).  The bill has provisions so that students currently attending a particular school may not be displaced by other students, but incoming students, whether kindergarteners or families who just moved in, may not be afforded the same benefit as families who have been in the neighborhood longer.  This legislation has the potential to uproot many school districts’ carefully-crafted  and often-controversial assignment policies, creating uncertainty for families and challenges in assigning students to schools in a manner that accounts for multiple student and demographic factors.

KY

Perhaps the larger reason that this bill is garnering national attention is the effect that it will have on the Jefferson County Public School (JCPS) district, which encompasses Louisville.  JCPS has a school integration plan that combines parental preference with balanced diversity.  Parents of elementary school students may choose between neighborhood schools in their geographic cluster or magnet schools that serve the entire district; 90 percent receive their first choice.  Middle and high school students are assigned to schools with boundaries designed to maximize diversity.  JCPS also offers district-wide magnet programs, which would not be affected by H.B. 151.  The district’s school assignments also try to minimize transportation time for students.  The result of this school assignment plan is that many students are not attending the school closest to home.  JCPS analyzed H.B. 151­­­ and concluded that half of their students do not attend the school closest to their home, which means that there is great potential for the shifting of students across schools in the future (current students would not be affected but we can assume that the results would be similar for future cohorts).  Only 38 percent of current middle school and 34 percent of current elementary school students live close enough to their current school to be assigned to it, if school assignments were made on proximity alone.

JCPS also analyzed the effect the bill would have on school diversity.  By their projections, the number of students attending high-poverty and/or high-minority schools (greater than 80 percent of students receiving free/reduced lunch or non-white students) could increase under H.B. 151.  The number of schools that fail to meet the district’s diversity goals, which are based on parental education, income, and race, could increase from 12 to 40.  Currently, all schools serve at least some highly disadvantaged students; under the new requirements, up to 45 schools may have zero of these students.  JCPS’s current plan provides choice, especially to low-income parents who often live in low-income neighborhoods, to attend schools that are diverse instead of segregated.  The new requirements could mean that schools in more affluent neighborhoods reach capacity with just neighborhood students, pushing out lower income students who would have transferred in under the current plan.  Such choices would not be surprising, given research from North Carolina and Washington, D.C. that shows that geographic proximity is highly important to parents in selecting a school.  This would essentially allow for a dual system of haves and have-nots.

We know that schools of concentrated poverty have a negative impact on student achievement.  A Stanford researcher even found that the most powerful factor correlated with the racial achievement gap is the disproportionate exposure of black and Latino students to students in poverty in their schools.  Neighborhood-based school assignments often have the effect of widening the gap between students of color and their white peers by creating more socioeconomically segregated schools.  Additionally, all students benefit from diverse schools through improved cognitive skills such as critical thinking and problem solving.

Many school choice advocates say that choice is a way out of “failing schools” for low-income and minority students.  However, allowing parents to choose the school closest to them may exacerbate the school segregation already put in place by housing patterns.  It could also create uncertainty across the state as local districts would have to recreate school assignment policies.  Louisville has worked to create a system that provides for parental choice and diversity based on the needs and preferences of their local community; we would hate to see choice erode for the families who can’t afford to live near more affluent schools.






February 21, 2017

Averages mask regional differences in school segregation

We recently released a report on school segregation in the U.S. While we think that following national trends are helpful, and that lessons can be learned from one region to another, we also acknowledge that segregation looks different in each region, state, and metropolitan area. So, even though racial balance overall has been improving over the past 10 years as an average of all metropolitan areas in the U.S., the reality is that it’s been getting better in about 65 percent of cities and getting worse in the other 35 percent. We should definitely be working to learn best practices from those who are improving student integration to apply to areas that are getting worse.

Brown v. Board of Education really addressed de jure segregation, or laws that required that black and white students attend different schools. These laws were on the books in 17 southern states at the time of the landmark 1954 court case. States didn’t truly begin to integrate schools until the late 1960s, as the courts enforced Brown v. Board, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the 1968 court case Green v. County School Board of New Kent County. As the graph below shows, the South saw the greatest decrease of black students in racially isolated schools of any region from 1968 to 1989, as they were the ones that originally had segregation laws that were overturned. Court orders were in place in many southern school districts through the 1980s, with a few still being in place today.

Regional Segregation 1

What should also be noted in this graph is that the Northeast has the highest rate of black students in isolated school settings. Some of this may be attributable to having smaller school districts, which allows for more sorting and separation of students of different races and less ability for school district leaders to truly integrate schools if they have little diversity within their borders. However, Maryland has one of the highest rates of isolated schools for black students, despite having large, county-wide districts (Maryland also has a high proportion of black students). It may also be due to large, segregated urban areas that have greater impacts on statewide segregation rates. For example, New York City public schools have very few white students, which means that black students are isolated, weighing heavily on racial isolation statistics for the entire state. Nearly two-thirds of black students in the state of New York attend schools that are less than 10 percent white, making New York the most isolating state for black students. Chicago has a similar impact for Illinois.

Of the largest 25 metropolitan areas, Chicago has the highest dissimilarity rate between black and white students; 79 percent of black students would have to move to a school with more white students in order to achieve complete racial balance (in which all schools have equal proportions of each student group).  While this, of course, is not practical, as families often live in segregated neighborhoods, it highlights the separation between students living in the same metropolitan area.

Regional Segregation 2

We can do better. We did do better, but we let gains in integration slide. School leaders need to start thinking innovatively across attendance zones and district boundaries to ensure that all students are exposed to a diverse set of peers and equal resources. That means having community support from parents who understand that diverse schools benefit all students.






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