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Thursday, November 1, 2012

US Dept. of Justice: Bullying Prevention

Thursday, November 1, 2012

An End to Bullying & Equal Opportunities for All Students

October 31st, 2012 Posted by 
United States Department of Justice

The following post appears courtesy of the Civil Rights Division.

This October, in honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, communities across the country have come together to increase awareness about bullying prevention. The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division stands firmly behind these efforts, and will continue to make the most of our resources and authority to help stop bullying in schools. We will continue to work to ensure equal educational opportunity for all students.

Bullying is not a rite of passage; the impact of bullying extends far beyond the schoolhouse doors. Bullying can lead to violence, anxiety, depression and even suicide. School bullies become tomorrow’s hate crimes defendants, while victims of bullying are more likely to drop out of school, struggle in class, engage in illegal drug use or become involved in the criminal justice system. It is simply unacceptable, moreover, that any child should fear going to school because of harassment.

The Civil Rights Division is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that protect young people who are targeted because of their race, national origin, religion, sex or disability. This includes students who are harassed because they do not conform to gender norms of how a boy or girl is “supposed to” act. We hold school systems accountable when they fail to take the proper steps to address harassment within their schools.

In response to incidents of harassment, the division investigates written complaints, helps to amend school policies and requires school districts to implement a host of other remedies, including providing training to teachers and administrators on how to better promote positive school climates and rid their schools of harassment. In the past few years, we have reached comprehensive and groundbreaking settlement agreements with numerous school districts across the country, including in Philadelphia, where Asian students were regularly harassed at a local high school, and in Mohawk County, N.Y., where a gay teen was physically and verbally abused for failing to conform to gender stereotypes.

We also reached an agreement with the school district in Anoka-Hennepin, Minn. The school district had failed to adequately address the harassment of students who did not conform to gender stereotypes in their schools. But students in Anoka-Hennepin were brave and spoke out. They brought the problems they were facing to the Civil Rights Division, and we worked with the school district to reach a blueprint for sustainable reform that we hope will be a model for schools across the nation.

In 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder launched the Defending Childhood Initiative to address the problem of children’s exposure to violence and to promote evidence-based practices. As part of the Defending Childhood Initiative, the department provided grants to eight jurisdictions to develop strategic plans for comprehensive community-based anti-violence efforts, including anti-bullying programs. In Boston, Mass., for example, we are supporting the implementation of state-wide bullying intervention and prevention legislation.

The Obama Administration has made clear that bullying prevention is an issue of national priority. Last year, the White House organized a summit on bullying and harassment in schools. Recently, the White House also announced its support for both the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act. These bills would help ensure that school environments are free from discrimination, bullying, and harassment.

Ending bullying is a common mission rooted in common experience. Many of us can recall being bullied during childhood, or have seen the effects of bullying on loved ones.National Bullying Prevention Month is a reminder that bullying in schools remains a serious and unacceptable problem. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce the nation’s civil rights laws to support the common goal to end bullying and harassment.

The work of our Civil Rights Division, as well as of our nationwide partners on this issue, is absolutely crucial to protect the safety and wellbeing of our students.

Students, teachers, administrators, advocates and community members can find extensive resources to help in the fight against bullying at

Teacher Observation: High-Tech or Low-Tech? by Kim Marshall
 Betsy Combier, Editor
It is important that teachers know what their supervisors are looking for, and I suggest that school staffs collaboratively formulate a short mental checklist of elements that should be evident in any K-12 classroom. My suggestion: SOTEL, or safety, objectives, teaching, engagement, and learning. Having this list in the back of their minds can help administrators as they decide on one or two areas that particularly need affirmation or improvement.

Teacher Observation: High-Tech or Low-Tech?
By Kim Marshall

As short, frequent, unannounced classroom visits become more common in American schools, principals have significant choices on how and when to use laptop computers, tablet devices, and smartphones as part of this teacher-evaluation technique. Lots of commercial software products are designed to streamline the process of gathering information on classroom observations and giving feedback to teachers, but is technology always the best tool? From my years as a principal in Boston and a coach of school leaders in other cities, I’ve become convinced that there is a time for high-tech and a time for low-tech in evaluating teachers, and the choices we make in this area really matter.

When a principal, assistant principal, or department head evaluates a teacher’s classroom performance, there are four steps to that process: (a) attaining some knowledge of what’s being taught; (b) making the actual classroom visit; (c) giving immediate feedback to the teacher; and (d) documenting the administrator’s feedback. Here’s my take on where high-tech works—and where low-tech works better.
• Learning about the curriculum: Before a classroom visit, it’s important for the administrator to know the broader context, especially the curriculum unit’s big ideas, essential questions, skill and knowledge objectives, and planned assessments. The most efficient way to get this information is for the teaching team to share each unit plan in electronic form—perhaps in an easily accessible online document—so the administrator can comment and contribute. With this background information, it should be obvious within a minute of walking into a classroom how the lesson fits into the broader instructional plan.

• Visiting the classroom: “You can observe a lot by watching,” said Yogi Berra, and I think that’s the best credo for principals visiting classrooms. Take a deep breath, slow yourself down, stroll around looking over students’ shoulders to check out the instructional task. Ask yourself whether the task is appropriately rigorous and on target for the unit and lesson objectives. In addition, quietly chat with a couple of students (“What are you working on?” is a great open-ended question that tells whether there is, in fact, a lesson objective); and, of course, assess what the teacher is saying and doing.

I’ve made thousands of short, unannounced classroom visits, and virtually every time I’m struck by a few things within the first five minutes—something to praise, a question, a concern. The administrator’s dilemma is how to record these insights, and my strong belief is that low-tech is best—jotting thoughts on a notepad, index card, or sheet of paper. Using a laptop or tablet makes it much more difficult to walk around and is disconcerting to many teachers and students (What’s he writing? Is she checking e-mail? Is this being sent to the superintendent?).

What’s especially ineffective, I believe, is trying to fill out a checklist or rubric during a classroom observation, especially if it’s on an electronic device. This doubly distracts the administrator from being a good observer, imposing a long list of criteria onto a fluid, highly complex situation that requires fully focused powers of observation, mobility, wisdom, and differentiation for each teacher’s background and unique classroom situation. When it comes to classroom observations, principals are paid to use their judgment, not fill out forms, and any principal who can’t formulate a couple of pertinent teaching points during a short classroom observation needs some serious professional development. As professionals, school leaders should push back against attempts to “principal-proof” the observation process, and teachers should raise concerns when administrators bring technology, checklists, and rubrics into their classrooms.

"There is a time for high-tech and a time for low-tech in evaluating teachers."
It is important that teachers know what their supervisors are looking for, and I suggest that school staffs collaboratively formulate a short mental checklist of elements that should be evident in any K-12 classroom. My suggestion: SOTEL, or safety, objectives, teaching, engagement, and learning. Having this list in the back of their minds can help administrators as they decide on one or two areas that particularly need affirmation or improvement.

• Giving immediate feedback to teachers: School administrators are incredibly busy and really want to take care of each new item as quickly as possible. Some send the teacher an email before leaving the classroom; others send an email, electronic checklist, or rubric later in the day. Good research on the efficacy of different approaches hasn’t been done yet, but my strong hunch is that researchers will find that teachers slough off or ignore 95 percent of electronic feedback, especially checklists or narratives giving micro-feedback on their actions during a short observation.

If a principal wants to make a difference in teaching and learning (rather than fulfilling a bureaucratic requirement), the best way to give feedback to teachers is face to face, ideally within 24 hours of the visit and, if possible, in the teacher’s classroom when students aren’t there. Chatting on the teacher’s home turf is an important gesture and can take advantage of props, student work, and visual cues in the classroom. Most teachers find evaluation visits nervous-making, and by far the best way to reduce anxiety is to give teachers the opportunity, every time, to explain the context and tell a little about what was going on before and after the visit. These feedback conversations, which usually take less than five minutes, are wonderful opportunities for appreciation, coaching, exchange of ideas, instructional improvement—and the ongoing pedagogical education of principals. Face-to-face talks are the drivers of change.

• Documenting findings for the record: As short, unannounced classroom visits become accepted as a legitimate form of supervision and evaluation, it’s clear that they need to be documented in some fashion. Superintendents, school board members, and the public are not going to be satisfied with assurances that lots of wonderful conversations are going on every week between principals and teachers. It’s also helpful for the principal and the teacher to be able to access a written summary of the feedback after a classroom visit and post-observation conversation.

In this domain, using technology is the most efficient and effective way for administrators to keep track of their observations and document their impressions. The ideal software has lists of teachers and makes it easy, after a classroom visit, to record the date of the visit; the time of day; the curriculum unit; whether the visit took place at the beginning, middle, or end of the lesson; when each follow-up chat took place; a brief summary of the feedback after the chat (perhaps limited to 1,000 characters); and any response from the teacher. At least one software product allows for all of this, and some include summative rubrics so administrators can pull together the year’s classroom observations and other data, compare scores with teachers’ self-assessments, and finalize each teacher’s end-of-year evaluation.

In sum, I believe that with the four steps in teacher observation and feedback, high-tech/low-tech/low-tech/high-tech is the best way for administrators to focus on what’s happening in classrooms and give thoughtful, effective feedback that will make a genuine contribution to improving the quality of teaching and learning.

Kim Marshall is a coach for principals, a speaker and consultant to educators, and the publisher of the weekly Marshall Memo, an online publication that summarizes reporting on research and best practices. He worked previously as a teacher, principal, and central-office leader in the Boston public schools. He is the author of Rethinking Teacher Supervision and Evaluation (Jossey-Bass, 2009; a second edition of the book is being published in 2013).

Daily News Editorial: Anyone Re-assigned Should Be Terminated

From Betsy Combier: 

Most people have an idea about the Bloomberg administration and tenure rights: chop off "their" heads!! I mean, of course, all teachers with tenure.

The NY Daily News is the public relations rag of the Bloomberg juggernaut, and as usual its' Editors scream in unison with Bloomie and his puppet Dennis Walcott about how keeping alleged criminals on the payroll is unconscionable.
See below. Oh - and I have a bridge to sell you, if you believe the guk the NY Daily News Editors come up with.

Betsy Combier


Bounce ’em all

Yes, the Education Department has whittled the number of allegedly incompetent or wayward teachers warehoused in rubber rooms to just 220 or so.
And, yes, the department and the United Federation of Teachers are resolving the charges lodged against idled instructors a good deal more quickly than they had in the past.
But, no, all is not well.
Responding to the Daily News’ disclosure that school system was still warehousing a large number of teachers at a cost of $22 million annually, Bloomberg admitted Friday:
“I know it’s galling, and it is real money.”
He’s got that right.
Teachers are removed from classrooms and placed in so-called reassignment centers when administrators conclude that they should not have further contact with children.
Charges are then adjudicated in an extraordinarily unwieldy arbitration process.
Most should be given support assignments, but many pass the time staring at the walls — to the department’s discredit.
The system is so cumbersome that administrators file charges against only a minuscule percentage of instructors and school leaders.
Around 200 educators a year are charged with incompetence or misconduct in any given academic year — a measly one-quarter of 1% of 80,000 teachers and principals.
On the brighter side, when the department does proceed against teachers, its batting average is better than you might expect.
During the 2010-11 school year, the disciplinary system closed 419 misconduct or incompetence cases. Forty-four percent of the targeted teachers and principals got fired or quit.
Departures by those charged with poor performance were particularly prevalent. Roughly 80% left the schools, and the rest were deemed suitable to return to classroom duties.
The lesson for Chancellor Dennis Walcott: File more charges.

Timothy Slekar Laments His Career As a Teacher

 It's really the fault of his wonderful, caring, excellent grade school teacher who showed him that learning, reading, and thinking were doorways to understanding how the world worked.
I had one of those.
Betsy Combier
Timothy D. Slekar

Timothy D. Slekar

Posted: March 14, 2011 02:37 PM




It's All My Fault?

 HuffPost Education
In what follows, please be advised that pseudonyms are used throughout this blog. If these pseudonyms are actually real people, I apologize.
A 5th grader named William scored "below basic" this year. How did this happen? Simple. William's teacher is, as Michelle Rhee  has been known to say, "crappy." Let me explain the cause and effect relationship. William's "crappy" teacher caused William to score "below basic." What should be done? It's obvious, isn't it? We must hold William's teacher accountable and get rid of this "crappy" teacher. But as some have commented, there are other factors that might have contributed to William's underachievement.
What about the teacher education program  that prepared William's teacher? After all, it was the teacher education program that let William's teacher get a teaching credential. But is it really the teacher education program's fault that William's teacher is "crappy"?
What about the faculty of the teacher education program that prepared William's teacher? Maybe that's where we should put the blame -- "crappy" teacher education faculty. Wait a minute! Now I know who's to blame. It's me! I'm the "crappy" faculty member that prepared William's teacher.
But is it really my fault? I was just doing what I was taught to do.
It's my dissertation adviser, Dr. Winkle's, fault. He signed off on my dissertation and that in turn allowed me to qualify as a "crappy" teacher educator.
However, what about Dr. Swinler? She signed off on my Master's Thesis. If Dr. Swinler would have stopped me, I would have never been able to get into a Ph.D. program in teacher education. But is it really Dr. Swinler's fault?
Actually, it was Dr. Bedizo (my undergraduate student teaching supervisor) that gave me an A in student teaching. Couldn't she see that I was going to be a "crappy" teacher?
But wait. Maybe it was Dr. Long (my first education professor) -- how is it possible that I earned a B in his curriculum course as a freshman? If I could find all my tests and projects from that class I bet they would prove how "crappy" I really was. Therefore, it was Dr. Long's fault.
Again though, does the blame really belong with Dr. Long? Before Dr. Long, I had a dream of becoming a teacher. I wanted to change the world. I believed in the power of learning. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children. I thought I could empower children. I really believed that I would be a good teacher. However, isn't it obvious that I was misguided and destined to be "crappy"?
I never once dreamed about teaching children to score well on tests. So you see, it's all my fault. I was not able to see that I would, one day, become a "crappy" teacher -- a teacher that actually cares deeply about children and the learning process. Now it's too late. Why didn't any of you stop me?
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