Search This Blog

Thursday, September 29, 2011

School Disorganization is one Major Contributor to School Violence

Victimization theory identified individual characteristics associated with perceived vulnerability as the individual predictors of fear of crime. However, it is important to identify the difference in the vulnerability between crimes and peer victimization at school. School violence and bullying mostly occur within the same gender group and age group (Akiba, 2004; Owens, Slee, & Shute, 2001; Smith et al., 1999). In addition, the students with the highest risk of victimization at school have different characteristics from the individuals with the highest risk of crime victimization on the street (Gibson, et al., 2002; Kanan & Pruitt, 2002; Katz, et al., 2003; Smith et al.). Therefore, studies on bullying and school violence victimization needs to be further reviewed to identify individual predictors of fear of school violence.

Social disorganization theory and social integration theory are associated because empirical studies on crime rates have shown that a higher level of social disorganization, measured by poverty level, immigrant concentration, and residential mobility, predicts a lower level of social integration or collective efficacy (Sampson, Morenoff, & Earls, 1999; Sampson, Raudenbush, & Earls, 1997). Specifically, Sampson et al. (1997) found that the relationship between social disorganization and neighborhood violence was largely mediated by collective efficacy. This relationship may apply to the school settings. The schools characterized by disorganization—a lack of resources and high levels of teacher turnover and student mobility—may be less likely to develop collective efficacy, and a lower level of collective efficacy predicts a higher level of student fear of school violence.  

It is important to note, however, that unlike communities where collective efficacy is developed by an informal mechanism among residents to achieve public order, the collective efficacy at school can be formally developed through school administrators’ and teachers’ practices. Therefore, it is possible to develop collective efficacy in school environments characterized by poverty and urban location—the proxies of school disorganization. For this reason, the measures of school disorganization and school community were developed separately, and the relationship between these measures was examined before investigating how these factors predict student fear of school violence.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One in Ten Students View School as a Place of Violence

Ensuring a safe learning environment for every student at school is a major responsibility of educators, school administrators, and policy makers in our society. Although the statistics show that the number of violent crimes at school has declined since the early 1990s (DeVoe, Peter, Miller, Snyder, & Baum, 2004; DeVoe, Peter, Noonan, Snyder, & Baum, 2005; Dinkes, Cataldi, Kena, & Baum, 2006), students’ fear of school violence has not proportionally declined since the late 1980s (DeVoe et al., 2005; Lawrence & Mueller, 2003; Small & Terick, 2001). One out of ten 15-year-olds thinks of school as a place where someone will attack or harm them. Studies have shown that students who fear violence are most likely to bring a gun to school (Chandler, Chapman, Rand, & Taylor, 1998; Vacha & McLaughlin, 2000), which would further increase the level of fear among other students in the school environment. Student fear, therefore, is a policy issue that requires attention and a systematic investigation. Indeed, it is a global phenomenon that educators around the world have struggled with as a major barrier to effective student learning.

Students’ fear of being victimized by school violence affects their school attendance, learning motivation, and academic achievement (Bowen & Bowen, 1999; Juvonen, Nishina, & Graham, 2000; Schwartz, Gorman, Nakamoto, & Toblin, 2005). Although criminologists have uncovered individual and community predictors of fear of crimes among adults, our knowledge base on school characteristics associated with students’ fear of school violence is still limited (Gainey & Seyfrit, 2001; Hale, 1996; May & Dunaway, 2000). Many U.S. studies identified that victims of bullying and peer harassment are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, suicidality, and low self-esteem (Graham & Juvonen, 1998; Klomek, Marrocco, Kleinman, Schonfeld, & Gould, 2007; Poteat & Espelage, 2007). Fear of school violence may be part of these characteristics of bullying victims. However, none of these studies has investigated what school characteristics predict the level of fear or anxiety among students.  

An investigation of individual characteristics of students who fear school violence provides useful information for school administrators to identify who needs to be assured a safe learning environment. Furthermore, an analysis of school factors associated with students’ fear will inform policy makers and administrators regarding which school characteristics need to be improved to create a safe learning environment for students. Although a series of school shootings reported by the media has heightened fear among the general public, and many studies have been conducted on school shootings (Burns & Crawford, 1999; Fox & Harding, 2005; Lawrence & Mueller, 2003; Newman, Fox, Harding, Mehta, & Roth, 2004; Webber, 2003), statistics show that school shootings are still rare incidents (DeVoe et al., 2005). However, the focus of students’ day-to-day fear caused by widespread behaviors at school such as bullying and physical violence needs to be explored.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Role of Teachers and School Administrators in School Violence

Ensuring a safe learning environment for every student at school is a major responsibility of educators, school administrators, and policy makers in our society. Students’ fear associated with school violence affects their school attendance, learning motivation, and academic achievement. Although predictors of adults’ fear of crimes have been studied extensively in the field of criminology, limited information has been produced related to school and teacher factors associated with students’ fear of school violence.
Research indicates that low achieving students report a higher level of fear of school violence than high achievers. In addition, classroom disorder and a lower level of school mean parental education level were associated with a higher level of fear. In addition issues related to a students’ sense of belonging to a school community and the level of student/teacher bonding tends to be associated with a lower level of fear. Low academic achievement and a weak sense of student belonging at school are the two strongest predictors of students’ fear.
Therefore, it seems reasonable that school administrators and teachers need to focus on developing a sense of school community and maintaining orderly and effective classroom environments. We must recognize that teachers play an important role in developing a close and trusting relationship with students, providing meaningful learning and social activities for students to strengthen their sense of belonging at school, and developing caring and effective classroom environments. School administrators should provide support to teachers and develop a school climate that promotes a sense of school community among students through involving students and their family members in important school decision-making processes.

Friday, September 16, 2011

When Students are Allowed Recess at School they Behave Better and Learn More

School children who receive more recess behave better and are likely to learn more, according to a large study of third-graders conducted by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

Romina Mariel Barros, M.D. The study, published in Pediatrics, suggests that a daily break of 15 minutes or more in the school day may play a role in improving learning, social development, and health in elementary school children. The study's principal investigator is Romina M. Barros, M.D., assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at Einstein. Dr. Barros looked at data on approximately 11,000 third-graders enrolled in the national Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. The children, ages 8 to 9, were divided into two categories: those with no or minimal recess (less than 15 minutes a day) and those with more than 15 minutes a day. There were an equal number of boys and girls. The children's classroom behavior was assessed by their teachers using a questionnaire.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, free, unstructured play is essential for keeping children healthy, and for helping them reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones. Unstructured play also helps kids manage stress and become resilient.

However, some studies indicate that children are getting less and less unstructured playtime, a trend exacerbated by the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act. "Many schools responded to No Child Left Behind by reducing the time for recess, the creative arts, and physical education in an effort to focus on reading and mathematics," says Dr. Barros.
A 2005 survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics showed that the 83 percent to 88 percent of children in public elementary schools have recess of some sort. But the number of recess sessions per day and the duration of the recess periods have been steadily declining. Since the 1970s, children have lost about 12 hours per week in free time, including a 25 percent decrease in play and a 50 percent decrease in unstructured outdoor activities, according to another study.

The present study shows that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are especially affected by this trend. "This is a serious concern," says Dr. Barros. "We know that many disadvantaged children are not free to roam their neighborhoods, even their own yards, unless they are with an adult. Recess may be the only opportunity for these kids to practice their social skills with other children."

"When we restructure our education system, we have to think about the important role of recess in childhood development," adds Dr. Barros. "Even if schools don't have the space, they could give students 15 minutes of indoor activity. All that they need is some unstructured time."

Sunday, September 4, 2011

25 Most Dangerous Cities

According to a study of FBI crime statistics by CQ Press, St. Louis, Mo. was the "most dangerous city in the U.S." in 2010, probably due to former St. Louis Cardinal Mark McGwire's uncontrollable steroid-murder rages. Here's the top 25:

1. St. Louis, MO                                                                  
2. Camden, NJ
3. Detroit, MI
4. Flint, MI
5. Oakland, CA
6. Richmond, CA
7. Cleveland, OH
8. Compton, CA
9. Gary, IN
10. Birmingham, AL
11. Baltimore, MD
12. Memphis, TN
13. New Orleans, LA
14. Jackson, MS
15. Little Rock, AR
16. Baton Rouge, LA
17. Buffalo, NY
18. New Haven, CT
19. Hartford, CT
20. Dayton, OH
21. Kansas City, MO
22. Washington, DC
23. Newark, NJ
24. Cincinnati, OH
25. Atlanta, GA

New York City ended up at number 269; San Francisco at 130; Los Angeles proper at 158; and Chicago wasn't ranked because its "rape numbers were not available," which is just a bone-chilling phrase any way you cut it, huh? The "safest" city with more than 75,000 residents in 2010 was Colonie, N.Y., which has such a terrifically evocative name for a "safe" city that I sort of don't believe it exists.
A lot of the top 25 are pretty okay places! Even Camden has a pretty nice aquarium. I mean: Ranking cities based on their crime rates is a pretty depressing and frankly sort of irresponsible way to think about cities, and crime, and urban living, and so forth! But let's not let that stop us from making lists, which, as we all know, is the best thing about being human.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Survey finds that teens FaceBook users are more likely to use drugs

Teens who use social networking sites daily are up to five times more likely to smoke tobacco or marijuana or drink alcohol, according to a new study released Wednesday by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
The survey of 12-to-17-year-olds found that teens who visit Facebook or Myspace daily (70 percent of those surveyed) are five times more likely to use tobacco, three times likelier to use alcohol, and twice as likely to use marijuana compared to those who don't visit the sites on a typical day.
Joseph Califano, chairman of the organization that conducted the study, told The Chicago Tribune that the public nature of s may make teens think drug use is more common than it is. More than half of students surveyed said they had seen photos on social networking sites of their friends drinking alcohol or doing drugs. "I think there's no question there's a relation there," Califano told the Tribune.
Here are some other notable findings from the survey:
-- One in five teens reported being cyber bullied. Cyber bullied teens were more than twice as likely to use alcohol, marijuana, or tobacco than teens who weren't bullied online.
-- Teens who have dinner with their family five to seven times a week are much less likely to use drugs than teens who have dinner with their families three times a week or fewer.
-- Sixty eight percent of teens who have tried tobacco have also tried marijuana.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Americans Still Trust Teachers, but Question the Value of Unions

Governors and teachers' unions are going head-to-head in several states across the country, and the public feels caught in the middle, a new survey on the public’s perception of U.S. schools finds. When those polled were asked how teachers' unions have affected the quality of U.S. public education, 47 percent said unions hurt it. But even so, 52 percent said they side with unions in disputes with governors over collective bargaining. This year’s annual poll by Phi Delta Kappa International and the Washington-based Gallup Organization, released Wednesday, digs deep into the issues surrounding teachers, including unions, salaries, hiring/firing practices, and curriculum flexibility.
In a statement regarding the poll results, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten highlighted the public’s siding with unions over governors. But she, like others who weighed in on the survey, expressed concerns about the way questions regarding the unions were phrased. William J. Bushaw, the executive director of PDK, which is based in Bloomington, Ind., addressed those concerns in a conference call with reporters. “Whenever we want to use or show longitudinal change, we absolutely have to ask the question in the same way it was asked originally,” Mr. Bushaw said.
Job Review on Teachers
How important do you think each of the following factors should be in determining a public school teacher’s salary: level of academic degree earned, years of teaching experience, scores the teacher’s students receive on standardized tests, evaluations conducted by the principal? In 1976 and in 2011, the question was phrased: “Has unionization, in your opinion, helped, hurt, or made no difference in the quality of public school education in the United States?” Back in 1976, a smaller percent of those polled, 38 percent, felt that unions hurt education, compared to today. Teachers' unions were also far less influential then, and a much higher percentage of people polled said they were undecided on the issue of how teachers' unions affect education. In 1976, 13 percent didn’t have a strong opinion on teachers unions’ impact on education quality, whereas today only 2 percent didn’t know or refused to answer where they stood in regard to unions.
Barnett Berry, president and CEO of the Center for Teaching Quality, based in Carrboro, N.C., said it was not surprising how the public feels about teachers' unions, given that both the unions and the policymakers are locked in a 20th century debate over education while the public is waiting for 21st century education reform. But the teachers' unions and their state and local affiliates, he said, are not all the same, and they can do bad as well as good. “The unions are not monolithic in this country, and there are a number of them, though not enough, that are the harbinger of reform,” Mr. Berry said. The poll was conducted June 4-13, using a nationally representative sample of 1,002 adults, ages 18 and older. The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 4 percent.

Recruitment and Investment

Looking past the unions to the individuals themselves, the survey shows the public has a generally positive view of teachers. Nearly three out of four of those surveyed said they had confidence and trust in teachers today, and two out of three said they would be in favor of their child becoming a public school teacher. It wasn’t just their own children they wanted to become teachers—they wanted the highest-achieving high school students to be recruited for the classroom. “It’s clear that Americans recognize the importance of getting quality students to become the next generation of teachers,” Mr. Bushaw said.
The poll, in this way, points out some of the areas where current policy and public opinion don’t match up, said Thomas Toch, the co-founder of the Education Sector think tank and the current executive director of Independent Education, a Washington-area private school consortium. The public wants to find and retain the highest-quality teachers, and it wants to compensate them based on a number of factors, with student test scores being the least important. Experience, academic degree, and principal evaluations all ranked higher than test scores in the survey. Merit-pay, an important element of the Obama administration’s education agenda, calls for great emphasis to be placed on student test scores when determining teachers’ salaries.  “This poll today shows a much more sophisticated public that is willing and ready to invest in teachers,” Mr. Berry said.

Politics of the Poll

Despite the discrepancy between the public and federal officials over merit-pay policies, the public’s rating of President Barack Obama’s performance in support of public schools shot up seven points from last year. ("Fewer Americans Back Obama’s Education Programs," August 25, 2010.) This year, 41 percent of the survey’s respondents gave the president an A or B, with most votes falling along party lines. Mr. Toch said this finding shows people are looking less at what the president has done and more at who he is. Only 2 percent of Republicans gave him an A, even though many of his initiatives, such as merit pay and charter schools, are reforms long embraced by their party, Mr. Toch said.
The administration has also taken strong stances on the issues of school choice and private school vouchers. While vouchers continue to lose popularity among those polled, approval of school choice, in general, and charters has steadily climbed. Survey results show that 70 percent of Americans approve of charters, part of a 10-year-long upward trend. “This poll suggests charter schools have established themselves as a significant and permanent fixture on the education landscape,” Mr. Toch said.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Should Schools Teach Evolution in the Classroom

The debate over teaching evolution in public schools is heating up again in Texas as the state school board opens public hearings today on what online science materials to recommend to teachers, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

Because of a state budget crunch, the state is opting for online materials over expensive new textbooks. One sticky issue is whether online materials for science classes should include the teaching of "creationism" or "intelligent design" as the possible source of life on Earth.

Education Commissioner Robert Scott has recommended nine high school biology options, but none include intelligent design or creationism, The Dallas Morning News reports. "None of the mainstream publishers were going to go that far," says Josh Rosenau, policy director at the National Center for Science Education, the American-Statesman reports.

The 15-member school board now includes six members of a conservative bloc instead
of seven, following the defeat of one of the most outspoken advocates of intelligent design. After holding public hearings, the board will vote Friday on what materials to recommend. Barbara Cargill, the new board chairperson appointed by Gov. Rick Perry, recently told a group of conservative activists that she and her allies on the board would try to "rectify and correct" how evolution and natural selection is handled by some publishers, the American-Statesman reports. She wants to modify one submission that shows human and gorilla embryos side by side and indicates that the similarities reflect common descent, the newspaper says.

Although the board will make recommendations, a new law gives local schools greater latitude to buy what they want for required lessons if they don't like what the state board has approved. "It has the great potential to diminish the influence of the State Board of Education," says Dan Quinn, spokesman for Texas Freedom Network, an advocacy group that monitors the religious right, the American-Statesman reports.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bullying in Schools Lead to Lower Test Scores

Bullying in hallways and locker rooms is linked to lower test scores in the classroom for high school students, a new study finds. In schools where bullying is frequent, school-wide passing rates on standardized tests are as much as 6 percent lower than in schools without a lot of bullies, researchers reported on Aug. 7 at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C.

It's not known whether the bullying directly causes lower test scores or whether a bad school climate incubates both bullying and bad test scores, according to University of Virginia psychologist Dewey Cornell and his co-researchers. Research shows that bullying can harm victims both mentally and physically. Bullies themselves are also at risk for mental health problems and substance abuse.

As part of an ongoing study of the safety of Virginia high schools, the researchers compiled surveys about bullying in 2007 from more than 7,300 ninth-graders and about 3,000 teachers at 284 Virginia high schools. The surveys defined bullying as "the use of one's strength or popularity to injure, threaten or embarrass another person on purpose. Bullying can be physical, verbal or social. It is not bullying when two students of about the same strength argue or fight."
In schools where students reported severe bullying, passing rates on standardized tests for algebra I, earth science and world history ranged from 3 percent to 6 percent lower than in relatively bully-free schools. "This difference is substantial because it affects that school's ability to meet federal requirements and the educational success of many students who don't pass the exams," Cornell said.

Cornell and his colleagues theorize that bullying could distract students who are more worried about surviving the day than passing a test. Alternatively, schools with more bullies might be more dysfunctional in general. Teachers might also be distracted from classroom time by having to discipline bullies.

"Our study suggests that a bullying climate may play an important role in student test performance," Cornell said. "This research underscores the importance of treating bullying as a school-wide problem rather than just an individual problem."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Teachers in Missouri are not allowed to FB Students

Under a new law that takes effect Aug. 28, teachers in the Show-Me State will no longer be able to “friend” students on popular social networking sites like Facebook. Instructors can still set up public pages or groups to post homework assignments or share resources, but individual friendships or communication will be illegal.

Missouri is the first state in the nation to pass such a law, which was signed into law by Gov. Jay Nixon last month. Dubbed the “Amy Hestir Student Protection Act,” it was inspired by a Missouri student who was molested and assaulted by a junior high school teacher. The bulk of the bill, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Jane Cunningham, deals with preventing sexual abuse of students, more thorough background checks of teachers and district employees and banning registered sex offenders from serving on local school boards. While agreeing that children need the best possible protections from sexual abuse, critics believe the law will hamstring teachers who want to communicate with students on their 21st century cyberturf.

“The problem is, there is a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of these types of laws and guidelines that make it very hard for a teacher to know what they can or cannot do in the classroom,” said William Stites, director of technology for the Montclair Kimberly Academy in New Jersey and former third-grade teacher. Mr. Stites is also blogger in chief at, which advocates the use of Facebook, Twitter and other technological tools in education. “They’re going to spend all of this time letting people know what they can and can’t do, and the technology is going to go right past the law.”

The Missouri State Teachers Association vows to fight the social media provisions of the law in the next legislative session, said spokesman Todd Fuller. But the union may face an uphill battle — the bill passed unanimously in the Missouri Senate and was approved with strong bipartisan support in the House. Proponents sold the bill as being necessary to protect students from sexual predators, and the language dealing with social media and websites is confined to three lines near the end of the bill. The law comes at a time when an increasing number of teachers are relying on Facebook and other online tools to communicate with their students, said Don Knezek, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education, which represents more than 100,000 educators nationwide and supports the use of technology in the classroom.

Among other things, Mr. Knezek said many teachers hold “virtual office hours” on Facebook, providing students with homework help for a few hours in the evening or on weekends. Other instructors post news articles or other relevant material on students’ Facebook pages, he said. “It’s really bothersome to think that you’re taking modern communication and interaction and forbidding teachers from participating in that,” Mr. Knezek said. “You’re causing schools to be one-dimensional.”

Critics of the law admit that there are teachers with bad intentions who may abuse Facebook, Twitter or other sites in dealing with their students. But using those cases as the basis for such a far-reaching law, they argue, is short-sighted. Mr. Fuller said most Missouri school districts already have policies in place to deal with teacher-student interactions outside the classroom. Leaving those decisions in the hands of local leaders, he added, is the best way to address potential problems.
Proponents counter that teachers are still free to communicate with students via email, since the law only mentions “websites.” But for many of today’s students, email could soon join the abacus and typewriter on the technological scrap heap. “Students don’t answer email anymore. Email is not cool,” Mr. Fuller said, relaying comments he hears regularly from Missouri teachers. “We have trouble reaching our students through mediums that they feel are ancient.”

Getting a college degree pays off

Higher education leads to better paying jobs and by 2018 almost two thirds of all occupations in the United States will require a college degree, according to a new study.

Researchers at Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce found that lifetime earnings for college graduates are higher than for non-graduates, and workers with degrees in science, technology or engineering earn the most.

'The most lucrative major is petroleum engineer, but any major that has a strong mathematical basis has very high earnings out of college and long-term earnings that are really stellar,' said Anthony Carnevale, a co-author of the study.

The lowest paying degrees are those in education, counseling and the arts and liberal arts come somewhere in the middle.

'You can do pretty well with a liberal arts degree, and many end up going to graduate school,' he said.

In 1973, only 28 percent of jobs required a college degree but by 2018 the number is expected to rise to 63 percent, according to the study.

Carnevale and his colleagues, Stephen J. Rose and Ban Cheah, who examined life-time earnings by education level and by occupation, age, race/ethnicity and gender, said the unemployment rate for people without college degrees is about twice that of people with degrees.

'The difference in earning between those who go to college and those who don't is growing—meaning that postsecondary education is more important than ever,' they said in the study.

They also uncovered a persistent gap between the wages of college-educated men and women and between different ethnic and racial groups.

'On average, to earn as much as men with a bachelor's degree, women must obtain a doctoral degree,' according to the study.

'Similar gaps also exist by race and ethnicity. African Americans and Latinos earn less than their white counterparts, even among the most highly-educated workers.'

Jamie P. Merisotis, president of the independent Lumina Foundation which sponsored the research, said that the United States now ranked below other countries in a global list of 25-34 year-olds with college degrees.

'It's not that the U.S. is doing any worse but other countries are doing a lot better ... because we are seeing other countries invested in that talent and skill development,' he said in an interview.

He added that enrolling more Americans in college was a key factor in keeping America competitive.

Merisotis suggested that rather than build new universities, American schools should find new ways to get the most out of colleges that already exist.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Bully Prevention in the Classroom

Students with special needs frequently complain of being teased or bullied by peers.  A considerable amount of research has and is continuing to be conducted on issues related to bulling behavior.  This is not to suggest that all special needs students get teased or are bullied.

So, what is it about certain students that causing them to get teased or bullied, while other students with perhaps the same disorder does not teased or bullied?  Is it possible that a student may be doing something that is inviting the teasing or bullying?  This is not to suggest that a student being teased or bullied should be further victimized or blamed. However, perhaps what really needs to be done is to help the bullied students learn how to stop inviting such behavior (Davis, 1996 ). 

It is not that these students are verbally saying, You can tease me”, but it may be something they are doing that sends a message loud and clear that they can be teased or bullied.  What behaviors tend to invite teasing or bullying?  This can be answered by asking; What is the teaser or bully getting from their behavior?  Obviously, bullies are trying to get a response or control the student being teased or bullied.  Therefore, when a student being teased responds by crying or even getting angry, the bully is getting what he or she wants.

Remember the old saying, “If I am out of control, someone else must be in control”. This statement suggests that if the bully’s goal is to control the student he or she is bullying, when the student gets out of control, he is actually reinforcing the bully’s behavior. Therefore, it seems reasonable that as educators we need to teach students skills of how to not respond, or how to not give the bully control. This may be one of the most important social

Friday, July 22, 2011

Response to Intervention

RTI was recognized in the 2004 reauthorization of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as one option that school districts can use to identify students with learning disabilities. The federal law states: “When determining whether a child has a specific learning disability as defined in § 602 (29), a local educational agency shall not be required to take into consideration whether a child has a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability in oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skill, reading comprehension, mathematical calculation, or mathematical reasoning.” “In determining whether a child has a specific learning disability, a school district may use a process that determines if the student responds to scientific, research-based intervention as part of the evaluation procedures…….” ( P. L. 108-446 § 614(b)(6).

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Impact of Atypical Students Behavior on Teachers

Teaching students that display a constant pattern of atypical behavior seems to have a significant impact on teachers (Webster-Stratton, 1982). The following is a list of emotional responses teachers often experience as a result of having atypical students in their classes.
Bewilderment:  Atypical students often bewilder their teachers.  It can be difficult understanding what actually causes atypical student behaviors. As a result teachers often feel they have tried everything, nothing seems to work!
Exhaustion:  Exhaustion is another variable teachers often used to describe what it is like working with atypical students. Teachers feel exhausted at the end of the school day; in many cases they are simply trying to get by with the hope that the student matures, outgrows the behavior, or moves to another classroom. In fact, some teachers have indicated that when they finally get home they are too tired to deal with their own children. All they want to do is lie down and take a nap.
Inadequacy:  Many teachers blame themselves for the atypical student’s difficult behaviors.  They may feel responsible because they do not understand the behavior and do not know what to do to help the student make the needed changes or improve his or her behavior.
Guilt:  As a direct result of feeling inadequate and responsible for the atypical student’s behavior, teachers often express a sense of guilt for their inability to help the student change their behavior patterns.
Anger:  It is not unusual for teachers to express anger when discussing the behavior of atypical students.  Anger is often the result of an inadequate understanding of what is causing the student’s behavior and may indicate a lack of satisfaction with their failed attempts to assist the student.
Revenge:  As teachers become increasingly frustrated they may begin to experience a sense of revenge, and start acting out their anger and guilt.  Responses of revenge are acted out when teachers begin to compare students, call the names, label students, or in general send messages that the student is not good enough. Calling names and comparing students is often insidious.
The Reactions of Teachers Exacerbating Misbehavior
Many teachers seem to be unaware of how just negatively they often respond to atypical students. As a result of teachers’ increasing frustration, it is easy to fall into a pattern of responding negatively. When teachers respond negatively to students, the student’s behavior is actually reinforced. On many occasions I have heard teachers says things like, “Why don’t you act good like Billy?” “Look at Susie, try to still like her”.  Or, “I had your brother in my class two years ago; he was a really nice little boy, what happened to you?” These types of responses to students are all comparison and put-downs. For example, when a teacher says something like, “Don’t go thinking you are all grown up”; “Look at me when I talking to you young man”, or, “Don’t act like such a baby”; these are all statements that are essentially calling the student names, and is an attempt to control the student through intimidation. This is called playing the Shame and Blame Game. Let me assure you as a psychologist, you will never be able to embarrass a student enough to make him or her behave. In fact, students have far more ways to make teachers miserable than teachers have to make students miserable. Responding to students in a negative fashion can occur so often until teachers simple get into a habit of such responses. In some cases teachers become so use to responding to students with negatively comments, sarcasms, or comparing students, they do not even realize when they are doing it or how they sound.
However, negative responses are not only verbal, they can also be non-verbal. Think about a time when you were in the classroom, perhaps you had given your students an individual assignment to work on quietly at their desk. Maybe you are seated at your desk grading and recording some long over due tests. The room is relatively quiet, then suddenly there is a loud commotion in the back of the class; perhaps a book fell, a desk turned over or someone yelled. Which student do you look at first?  If the answer is that atypical student, you can be assured that your look essentially says: “When there is a problem, I expect it to be you.” These responses label students and actually reinforce a student’s inappropriate behavior. Remember the concept of the self-fulfilled prophecy; “students will become what they are told” (Tauber, 1998).  When teachers send messages that they expect a certain student to be a behavior problem in class, then students will fulfill the prophesy.  Students will become exactly what we expect of them!
As the disruptive behaviors begin to affect those around them, particular response and experiences will predetermine future relationships and involvement.  For example, when there is continuous behavior or emotional problems in a classroom, it is not unusual for teachers to lower their expectations, bargain with the student, give up on the student, or in general, just ignore the behavior (Brody and Dunn, 2002).  All of these responses are designed to avoid potential conflicts of trying to get the student to complete a task or behave appropriately. Barkley (2000) pointed out that it is not unusual for teachers and other adults to begin completing tasks for the student rather than risking a conflict. Parents may complete their child’s chores, or even do homework assignments in order to avoid a struggle. Teachers and parents alike will often do anything to avoid a fight. Parents of atypical children have reported that they often avoid going out to eat or attending an activity for fear their child might misbehave (Buss, 1981). 
However, it is not just the parents that are controlled by atypical child’s inappropriate behavior.  It is not unusual to find teachers lowering their expectations or allowing atypical students to do as much, or as little of their assigned work as they wish.  These teachers will often accept incomplete or sloppy school work in order to avoid a conflict (Obiakor, 1998). In fact, these teachers may allow an atypical student great latitude to engage in whatever activity he or she wishes, or may choose to ignore the student’s inappropriate behavior in an effort to avoid a conflict.
Once this pattern of accepting or ignoring the atypical student’s pattern of disruptive behavior is entrenched, teachers will move into a stage where they basically give up. It is during this final stage where teachers begin to experience a variety of emotions. Research (M D'Souza, 1992) indicated that next to policemen, teachers have the highest rate of affective disorder for any occupation subgroup. The following is a list of emotions that teacher experience when dealing with atypical students for an extended period of time (Johnson (2000). 
Depression: Depression was identified as the primary emotion experienced by the vast majority of teachers that work with atypical students.  Situational depression is often described as anger that goes unexpressed (Lebrun, 1996). But, where can the teacher express his or her anger? It certainly would be unprofessional to express one’s anger to the student. What would happen if the teacher expressed to the parents their frustration? The parents would likely blame the teacher for not being able to “control” the student’s behavior. The teacher can not talk to his or her colleague about the difficult behavior in their classroom; they may get a response: “You think you have it bad, you should come to my class”. What about telling the school principal about their difficult students-what would the principal say? “I am surprised at you; you are usually so good with this type of student.” This response really means: “What’s wrong with you”. Lastly, what about telling your mate just how difficult you have it? What would your mate say? “You think it is tough setting up there in an air conditioned room all day with kids, get a real job and you will know what stress really is”. I think trying to explain to someone not in education what it is like to be a teacher today is like trying to explain what a banana taste like. What does a banana taste like? You just have to eat a banana to know the taste. Not having an avenue to discuss one’s anger and frustration leaves the teacher with little alternative but to internalize their emotions. This points out just how importance it is for teachers to have a strong support system of people who understand what it is like to teach difficult atypical students on a daily basis. 
Isolation:  Isolation is another common emotion experienced by teachers of atypical students. This feeling comes from a perception that no one could possibly understand what it is like to deal with a difficult atypical students. Sadly, this is probably true; most people do not understand the myriad of problems associated with these atypical students.  It is difficult to understand what it is like to be on pens and nettles each minute of every day, just waiting for something to happen. It is little wonder that so little academic work gets completed when the teacher is constantly engaged with the atypical students.
Victimization:  In some situations teachers may feel victimized by the atypical student controlling every aspect of the day. Teachers can become victims of their anxiety and fears that at any moment the atypical student may do something that will disrupt the class or hurt someone. 
Trapped: Some teachers reach a point to where they feel “trapped” in an endless cycle of dealing with disruptive classroom behavior. This feeling of being trapped will come when a teacher realizes their entire day is planned around the difficult atypical student.  Teachers describe this anxiety as “like walking on egg shells,” just waiting for the next outburst or conflict. The teachers may become hesitant to plan a field trip, or reluctant to go out in public with the student for fear of what might happen.
Lack of Satisfaction:  It was not surprising to find that after many years of teaching, teachers, especially those of atypical begin to lose their joy for teaching. When teachers do not enjoy being around students it usually shows. How is this lack of satisfaction revealed? Teachers may arrive at school with time to spare, but wait in the parking lot rather than going into school building; it shows when teachers stay in the teachers’ lounge until the last minute before entering their classrooms, or when they tend to look at the clock every few minutes, just waiting for the bell to ring so the student can leave. The atypical student can also impact on the parent’s behavior. Parents may start using after school programs or child care more than is necessary. They may allow their child to not complete a homework assignment in order to avoid the dreaded “homework wars”. 
Over Involvement:  Some teachers may become overly involved with certain students. They are determined to help the atypical student, even at the exclusion of other students in the classroom.  When this type situation occurs, the student’s success is often tied directly to a teacher’s own sense of self-worth.  When teachers, or for matter parents, become obsessed with the a student’s success it is not unusual for them to begin doing things for the child that he or she could easily do for themselves. Over involvement is referred to as enmeshment will lead to greater dependency and irresponsibility by the student.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

About Us

Educational Resource Services was organized in 1992 to offer a wide range of training programs and educational products for educators and school districts. Educational Resource Services recognizes that a school's greatest resources are its school staff and students. We are committed to helping school personnel develop effective, yet practical, discipline strategies that not only results in a greater functioning classroom, but also enhances learning.

Services and products offered by Educational Resource Services include on and off-site training, key-note addresses, consultations, implementing school/district wide discipline programs, and a variety of forms, books, and videos designed to facilitate classroom functioning. All Educational Resource Services' training and products meet the legal requirement of IDEA'97 and 2004, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and adhere to Best Practices for effective classroom management.

Educational Resource Services is dedicated to providing the highest level of services and products to educators. Feedback from school districts currently using Educational Resource Services, report a decrease in student behavioral problems, lower incidence of suspensions, improved school climate, increase in test scores, and fewer referrals for assessment. As a result student behavior is being managed in the classroom!