Happy New Year!
Great! With THAT out of the way, let's get back to summarizing the news ...
Lee Kern, a special education professor, takes to the pages of The Hechinger Report to discuss the scientific evidence on disciplinary policies:
Schools have traditionally applied punitive procedures, including detention, suspension or expulsion in response to behavioral infractions, in hopes that these aversive responses will deter students from future problem behaviors. However, numerous large-scale and well-conducted research studies reveal the opposite outcome: These approaches don’t work. When schools apply highly punitive and restrictive procedures, problem behaviors such as rebellion toward teachers, vandalism against school property, absenteeism and truancy actually increase.
Kern thinks that the more appropriate response to misbehavior is a tiered intervention system, which educators often shorthand as "PBS" or "PBIS" for that kind of system's most popular application. Watch this issue, as the Obama education department's Civil Rights division tried to uncover schools and districts that used punitive systems to disproportionately target children of color. Call me crazy, but there's a legitimate chance that such protections will not be a priority in a Trump administration.
Speaking of discipline, Joe Drape and Marc Tracy have a long piece in The New York Times investigating Stanford's approach to sexual assault cases. After last year's notorious Brock Turner case, the reporters followed the university's process for dealing with charges:
As awareness of sexual assault on college and university campuses has surged, institutions have struggled to balance the desire and legal obligation to cultivate a safe campus, where victims feel comfortable coming forward, with maintaining due process for the accused. At Stanford, however, that effort has set off a particularly vigorous debate, as a school that is an innovator across fields and has a sterling image to protect faces a community in which many believe it has fallen short of leading on one of the thorniest issues of the day ... very few sexual assault cases that have gone through the university’s internal process in recent years have led to any significant punishment for the accused, a fact that Stanford attributes to a rigorous but fair standard to guard against wrongful judgments. Advocates for sexual assault survivors consider it a sign of a system stacked against victims.
On the one hand, universities seem terribly ill-equipped to administer of pre-trial criminal justice, which is more or less the role in which federal Title IX code casts them vis-a-vis sexual assault. On the other hand, the actual criminal justice system is a notoriously dreadful place for victims as well. It's worth reading the whole piece, and when you do, keep in mind that rape is an actual crime, even when it's committed by college athletes.
In better news, Kristen Graham at Philly.com covers a program to attract more Black educators to Philly schools:
Sharif El-Mekki vividly recalls every black male teacher who ever taught him: two in elementary school, two in high school ... By 2025, his goal is much loftier - to double the number of black men teaching in the city. To that end, he has launched The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice. Nationally, just 2 percent of the teaching force is made up of black men. In Philadelphia, the numbers are better, but still low - last year, fewer than 400, or about 5 percent, of Philadelphia School District teachers were black men. The Fellowship has three aims: to hold periodic convenings of black male educators, to influence education policy, and to expand the pipeline of black male teachers.
If El-Mekki's name sounds familiar, that's because he has a great education blog that often gets shouted out in the daily reading list. Apparently, he churns out great material while also running a school, and building a teacher pipeline directly to the city of Brotherly Love. Thanks for making the rest of us feel like slackers, El-Mekki.
A school in Memphis might close, because nobody wants to run it. Caroline Bauman of Chalkbeat has the story:
This means that Klondike Preparatory Academy Elementary will likely close this year. The announcement from ASD officials on Thursday sets the ASD up for its first-ever closure — the latest in a string of bad news that hints at deep troubles for the state-run district ... The setback provides another example of the ongoing challenges the charter operators within the Achievement School District face taking over neighborhood schools ... The ASD by design is comprised exclusively of low-performing schools in high-poverty areas, often with a dwindling school-age population. The state mostly restricts enrollment in ASD schools to neighborhood zoning, much like the traditional districts they once belonged to. That’s different from most charter schools nationwide, where operators are able to enroll students from anywhere in a city.
There are at least two other state governments pursuing an ASD-like strategy right now. I hope they learn from how the Tennessee ASD actually operated, instead of building a system based on a theoretical ideal.
Finally, Sarah Zhang, writing in The Atlantic, looks at a scary confluence of popular science and White supremacist ideology. Members of the "Alt-Right" are looking at consumer genetic testing products - like 23andMe - to justify racist ideologies:
The problem is not with the science per se, but with the set of an underlying assumptions about race that we always imprint on the latest science ... There is no gene or set of genes that consistently codes for black, white, or any other race ... Now the falling cost of technology has made the results of DNA sequencing available to anyone willing to shell out a couple hundred bucks to companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA. [Retired Colombia University professor Jo] Phelan has done similar studies on how such mail-in DNA tests reinforce a belief in racial differences. In a survey of over 500 participants, she found that reading about DNA ancestry tests increased one’s belief in essential differences between racial groups. And one group intensely interested in getting DNA ancestry tests? White nationalists, which Elspeth Reeve chronicled in an excellent piece in Vice earlier this year.
It's important to remain vigilant about how science gets deployed as a weapon to justify racist ideology. Given that lots of publications have been publishing puff pieces about the new brand of White supremacists, it won't be long before you see an article about how a neo-Nazi in a slim-fitting suit has some interesting ideas about contemporary genetics research. Enjoy 2017!