The following post is by SOE Faculty Affiliate Eric J. Green, who is presenting at the upcoming Play Therapy Institute. Click here to learn more about that exciting event.
“Dragons breathing flame on my counterpane, that doesn’t frighten me at all.” – Maya Angelou, Life Doesn’t Frighten Me
School-based violence, community violence associated with gang activity, natural and human-made disasters, terrorism, and other forms of acute or chronic trauma affect a significant number of children every year (Green, 2012). Exposure to traumatic events during childhood often leads to maladjustment that disrupts the typical maturation process. These children display iterations of trauma-related symptoms including dysphoria, hyperarousal, extreme sensitivity, interpersonal discord, and ostensible changes in healthy eating and/or sleeping habits. Play therapy is a potentially beneficial mental health treatment modality for traumatized children that is (a) developmentally-sensitive; (b) facilitates emotional safety by utilizing less threatening forms of communication than the standard “talking cure,” (c) engenders positive self-worth through creative self-expression, (d) fosters self-efficacy in collaborative problem solving; and (e) derives healing from the nonjudgmental, therapeutic relationship.
For some children and adolescents, writing about aberrant thoughts and feelings surrounding a potentially traumatic experience and then depicting them symbolically through play-based media like sandplay and abstract artwork is less threatening than expressing the information verbally and may assist with integration. Prominent trauma researchers van der Kolk and d’Andrea (2010) state that simply talking about traumatic experiences does not necessarily assist the mind and brain to integrate the dissociated images and cognitions into a cohesive whole so healing may activate. Through creative play-based therapy sessions, like those that incorporate the coloring of mandalas, children and clinicians may engage in co-participating activities that further the child’s trust in others and increase the opportunities for post-traumatic integration to occur.
From Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post:
Much of the national discussion about school reform revolves around recruiting and keeping top talent in the teaching field. Here’s a post with a surprisingly different point of view. This was written by Esther Quintero, a research associate at the nonprofit Albert Shanker Institute. It first appeared on the institute’s blog.
By Esther Quintero
I recently heard Berkeley professor David Kirp speak about his research on Union City’s school system, and he offered some ideas from his new book, “Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools.” [You can read an excerpt here.]
Kirp’s work and Union City have received a lot of attention in the last month or so, and while most find the story heartening, a few commentators have had more skeptical reactions. True, this is the story of one district in one state finding success through collaboration and hard work, but research from other disciplines – sociology, business, management, organizational studies – suggests that similar human dynamics can be observed in settings other than schools and school districts. I would like to situate Kirp’s work in this broader framework; that is, among a myriad of studies – case studies, if you will – pointing to the same fundamental phenomena. (Read More)
From the Washington Post:
Indiana, one of the most education reform-minded states in recent years, is postponing implementation of the Common Core initiative so that there can be more discussion on the quality and impact of the standards.
Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill Saturday that halts implementation as of Wednesday, a compromise between forces that want the Common Core to go forward because they say they will raise academic achievement, and forces who believe the standards are not as good as Indiana’s old ones and want education decisions to be local.
New public hearings on the Core will be held, and by the start of 2015, the State Board of Education will have to vote again to go ahead with it, as it did in 2010, or stop it permanently, according to the Indianapolis Star. There will also be a cost analysis done on core implementation.
The Common Core initiative is a set of common standards designed to raise student achievement that were supported by the Obama administration and adopted, with bipartisan support, by 45 states and the District of Columbia.
In recent months, the forward momentum it enjoyed for a few years — during which two federally funded consortia of states have been designing new standardized tests aligned with the standards — have stalled in a number of places.
Indiana is one of the handful of states that are either pulling back or considering halting the standards, including Alabama, South Dakota and Georgia. The Michigan House recently voted to strip all funding for the Common Core, though the governor, Rick Snyder, says he supports the standards.
There is a range of criticism about the core. Some argue that many of the standards were not well written, while others are concerned that it removes local input from what teachers should teach.
The standards were approved in Indiana when reformer Tony Bennett was the state superintendent and was pushing other reforms as well, including an expansion of charter schools and vouchers allowing public money to be used for private school tuition. But the public turned against Bennett and his reforms, and last November he was voted out. A veteran educator, Glenda Ritz, who wanted more discussion about the core though she was not opposed to them, was voted in.
Bennett was quickly hired by Florida officials to become state superintendent. Though Jeb Bush hasn’t been governor of Florida since 2007, he exerts a great deal of influence on education policy in the state and is a big backer of both Bennett and the Common Core. There is a movement in the state, though, to slow implementation.
From Education Week:
More than three dozen states are working on incorporating student test scores into evaluations of teachers and principals
And a majority of states are creating new accountability systems as part of the flexibility federal officials are offering through No Child Left Behind Act waivers.
All this change—and more—in education is happening against a backdrop of rapidly shifting demographics, technology that is changing lives at blazing speeds, and an economy still recovering from the Great Recession.
At the same time, education is caught in a push for state and federal budget austerity and faces a Congress so gripped by gridlock that some educators are wondering if the withering Elementary and Secondary Education Act will ever get rewritten.
May 10, 2013
Earlier this week, Baltimore City Public Schools made headlines when CEO Andres Alonso tearfully announced his retirement at the end of the school year.
Alonso’s tenure at the troubled school district is touted as a true success story within national education reform movement circles.
Since his appointment to the post in 2007, Alonso has implemented a series of massive reforms. He eliminated about a third of the staff at the district’s central office in an attempt to streamline operations, negotiated a $1 billion campaign for a complete overhaul of school facilities, shut down failing schools, and struck a landmark deal with the teachers’ union that tied salaries and promotions to student performance. Over the six years, test scores improved, enrollment increased, and graduation rates reached all-time highs.
Now, the Baltimore City School Board is tasked with finding a replacement. They’ve launched a national search and promise to fill the vacancy by the start of the 2014-15 academic year.
But it’s one thing to fill the position, and another to find a leader who can step into the spotlight prepared to take the helm.
Dan Domenech, president of the School Superintendent Association (AASA), said the board is in an unenviable position.
School districts nationwide are facing a shrinking number of qualified applicants for superintendent openings. At the moment, in addition to Baltimore, Boston, New Orleans, El Paso, and Prince Georges are also in the process of hiring. The first three vacancies were left by career educators leaving the field. And they have lots of company.
A 2011 survey by the AASA found that 50 percent of working superintendents planned to retire by 2016. Retirement age in most states is 55 and the average superintendent is 54 years old.
Another reason for the exodus of veteran school chiefs since 2008 is the economic recession. Forced to make unpopular decisions—cuts in staff, increased class sizes, and the elimination of non-essential programs—superintendents reported experiencing such an intense backlash from parents, board members, mayors and the community at large, that many decided to retire.
“It’s not a job that a lot of people want,” said Domenech, who spent 27 years on the job, with a final stint at Fairfax Unified School District in Virginia. “The result is that it’s creating a vacuum and we need to do something to turn back this trend.”
His plan is to groom new leaders.
This month, the AASA announced the launch of a National Superintendent Certification Program, an 18-month training course for superintendents with one to five years of experience. Over that time, novice superintendents will be matched with mentors, attend seminars on finance, business management, operations, and education pedagogy. They’ll also study real-life cases of the fine art of politics and communication.
“I think the job of superintendent is one of the least understood jobs in America,” said Domenech.
In addition to delivering on the achievement of every child in the school system, the superintendent is also the CEO of what is usually the most complex organization in the community it serves with the greatest number of employees.
They are running a bus system that is often bigger than the city’s transportation system, managing a food service that typically serves more meals than all the restaurants in a city combined, and overseeing some of the largest facilities and construction projects.
Traditionally the path to the superintendency has been from teacher to principal to a post within the central office, finally landing in the top spot. When they arrive, few have the managerial experience or the political facility necessary to sustain support from key stakeholders.
Executive director of the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems, Becca Bracy Knight, is also in the business of deepening the superintendent pool. The center’s Superintendents Academy actively recruits applicants with unconventional backgrounds, including the private sector and government, to prepare them for careers in urban school districts.
Knight said retired military leaders possess skills and experience that complement the public school system.
“It’s a very natural extension of serving their country,” said Knight. “These are leaders who have already committed to public service and to fundamentally working in a teaching and learning organization. The military does an incredible amount of teaching and learning and development of people within their organization.”
A 2002 study shows the turnover rate for superintendents is highest in high-poverty districts which are most often in urban areas. The average tenure for a district leader in an urban district is three years, while suburban districts hang on to leaders for an average of six years.
That kind of revolving door can lead to instability.
Urban superintendents simply do not have the time to bring about significant improvements in their districts, because they leave before they have had an opportunity to make lasting change. A new superintendent is then hired, who pursues a different reform agenda. S/he departs in turn, leaving behind yet more unfinished reforms.
At a minimum, reforms need at least five years to take hold.
Participants in the 18-month Broad academy are pushed to develop their own strategies for improving teaching and learning across an urban system. This is why another key piece of their education, and perhaps the most important, said Knight, is change management.
“There’s no school board out there that hires a superintendent and says, ‘We’re good enough!’ Everyone is looking to do better. And so the job of an urban superintendent is also the job of leading change.”
To do that, it’s critical that the school board shares the same overall vision for the school district.
“Because at the end of the day,” she says, “it’s what happens in the classroom between a teacher and student. A great superintendent creates the right conditions to make that happen.”
Fom the Washington Post:
The charter future of D.C. public schools
With one decision about one elementary school, D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson is filling in the picture of the future of the District’s long-troubled public school system.
It’s been clear for some time that the public school system in the nation’s capital has been moving toward charter dominance. It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out: There are now about 45,000 students in 117 traditional public school buildings under Henderson’s control, and there are about 35,000 students in 57 public charter schools beyond her control, run by the D.C. Public Charter School Board. Henderson is planning to close 15 schools this year, and more charter schools are being approved every year.
Now, my colleague Emma Brown reported in this story that after years of poor performance, Malcolm X Elementary School in Southeast Washington will be renovated to the tune of $21 million and then reopened under the management of a high-performing charter school, Achievement Prep Public Charter School.
Malcolm X was originally on the closure list, but Henderson decided to go a different way with the school. The result: a ground-breaking partnership that will be somewhere in between a traditional public school and a charter public school.
The idea is that neighborhood kids will attend the school, which is counter to the charter school law which requires that anybody in the city can apply. It will be the first experiment in having a charter operator work with a neighborhood population of low-income students in the District.
Henderson is doing a number of things with this decision. First, she is admitting that she is out of strategies or magic to improve Malcolm X, so she is turning to a charter school that has had success improving test scores with children from low-income families.
She has long wanted her own authority to charter schools in the system — and this move, in effect, gives it to her without D.C. Council permission, though she is likely to get that anyway.
With this Malcolm X decision, the future of the city’s school system becomes even clearer: more and more charter schools, some run by the D.C. Public Charter School Board and some, a neighborhood version, run by the chancellor.
Henderson said in Brown’s story that the Malcolm X arrangement could be the first of similar ones between the school system and charter school operators. Though she repeatedly says that she doesn’t think that charter schools are the answer to fixing public education in the city, her actions seem to say otherwise.
From Edcuation Week:
When President Barack Obama announced his support for universal preschool in his State of the Union address this year, he rekindled a fierce debate. Supporters praised universal preschool as an excellent “investment” in the nation’s future workforce. Critics lambasted it as yet another example of wasteful federal spending.
We have grown accustomed to cacophonous debates, so this is not unexpected. Yet, if you look at the research on pre-K learning in the United States, there is a surprising degree of consensus among researchers in early-childhood education. From this, bipartisan support for some type of federally supported universal preschool program could grow over time—an important development given that the National Institute for Early Education
Are ‘No Excuses’ reformers and their critics finding common ground?
The current debate between business-minded reformers like Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York and former Washington, D.C. chancellor Michelle Rhee and their critics has often been set up as a fight over whether policymakers should tackle poverty or not as they attempt to improve student achievement.
Last week, Michael Petrilli, vice president at the Fordham Institute, usually found staunchly on the side of reformers who support charter schools and more accountability for schools and teachers, seemed to call for a truce. In a panel at the annual Education Writers Association conference at Stanford University (which I moderated), he suggested that No Excuses reformers were softening their schools-only approach.
The research both sides rely on—dating back to James Coleman’s famous federally-commissioned study on educational opportunity in the sixties—suggests that the largest factors affecting how a child performs in school have to do with his or her family circumstances. These out-of-school factors include parent education levels, poverty status, being part of a group that has faced discrimination, and neighborhood conditions, among other important but sociologically complex characteristics.
Schools have a smaller role to play, according to the research. But the current crop of reformers has insisted that with the right tools and strategies, schools might trump the disadvantages of poverty, minority-status, and less-educated parents. This belief in the power of good schools to disrupt the cycle of poverty has partly fueled the recent movement to overhaul the teaching profession so that the quality of teachers—the biggest factor impacting students inside schools—can be improved particularly for disadvantaged students.
Critics of this school-focused approach, including Diane Ravitch, the historian and former assistant U.S. secretary of education, have argued that schools should not be expected to go it alone. Rather, they argue, policymakers should devote more attention and resources to attacking the societal problems that set up children to fall behind their peers in the first place.
Previously, among the reformers, there was a concern that talking too much about the problems of poverty would allow schools to wash their hands of responsibility for their students’ success or failure. Now, Petrilli suggested, people on his side are taking a second look at this assumption.
“We need to stop having these extreme arguments, between ‘No excuses!’ on one side and ‘It’s all about poverty!’ on the other,” he wrote today in a blog post published on Education Week’s website. “Poverty matters immensely. Schools matter immensely. Let’s get on with addressing both.”
Don’t start the chorus of “Kumbaya” yet, however.
In a responding blog post, Diane Ravitch bristled at the suggestion that she did not believe schools matter.
“I do believe that the dramatic income inequality in this country burdens children, nearly a quarter of whom live in poverty. I do think it is a national scandal that our nation has a higher proportion of children in poverty (about 23%) than any other advanced nation,” she wrote. “But I have never said that schools can do nothing to improve the education of poor children until we redistribute income or raise the minimum wage, etc. I have said and written on many occasions that we must improve schools and improve the lives of children at the same time.”
It might seem that both sides are saying the same thing: To make a real difference in the lives of children who struggle to keep up with their more advantaged peers because of both outside circumstances that hold them back and low quality schools that don’t give them an extra hand to catch up, we should address both problems simultaneously.
But there are still many quibbles about both tone and the substance of what exactly should be done to get such a two-pronged strategy off the ground. In heated blog and email exchanges today, Petrilli, Ravitch and others on both sides of the debate argued about whether teaching disadvantaged children more vocabulary and providing a more enriched curriculum would make up for the educational experiences they lack at home, or whether a more sweeping effort to redistribute resources is critical for reducing the achievement gap for poor children.
There have been a few hints of common ground. Reformers like Petrilli and current D.C. schools chancellor Kaya Henderson have talked lately about the importance of promoting more economic and racial diversity in schools—a subject also dear to advocates who argue more must be done to level the playing field outside of school walls. And Randi Weingarten, president of the second largest teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, has crossed battle lines to work with reformers on new teacher evaluations and launching the Common Core State Standards.
But should we expect an armistice in the education reform war in the near future? Maybe not.
By Lynh Bui, May 07, 2013 06:35 PM EDT
The Washington Post
Maryland teachers are asking for more time and training to meet the demands of new evaluation systems and education standards expected to be in place by the start of the next school year, according to a survey from the Maryland State Education Association.
Nearly two out of three teachers surveyed say they’re unprepared to teach students based on more rigorous Common Core State Standards. About 72 percent said they aren’t ready for new teacher and principal evaluation systems. (Read More)
From Education Week:
I agree with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on just about nothing. I think Race to the Top is an evidence-free mess. I think the idea of a test worth teaching to is a willful misunderstanding of the science of testing. And I can’t agree with Duncan’s insistence that the cheating scandals that have garnered widespread attention in recent months are a parable about “rotten” school cultures and not a reflection on the incentives that we’ve forced upon teachers.