kitchen table math, the sequel: Top disciplinary problems - 1940-1990 (corrected)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Top disciplinary problems - 1940-1990 (corrected)

School survey hoax

Update: You can see the 1940-1990 chart on page 3 of
Policy Study No. 234, January 1998
School Violence Prevention:
Strategies to Keep Schools Safe (Unabridged)
by Alexander Volokh with Lisa Snell

Update, update:

The topic of school safety has come up in a couple of Facebook threads I follow, which sparked a Google quest for a news story I read at least 10 years ago, reporting that in some urban schools children were developing PTSD from the violence they experienced at school. These children were essentially living in a chronic state of terror.

I haven't been able to track that story down, but I did find a Reason Foundation report on violence in schools (Strategies to Keep Schools Safe) that includes this [now deleted] chart.

And this passage, from the Reason brief, is close to what I recall reading:
Many students believe restrooms are unsafe, and some have persistent health problems because they are afraid to use restrooms. In one elementary school, students watched a lot of television because they were afraid of going outside; the fears they report range from being abducted to being caught in a drive-by shooting. Seventeen percent of those surveyed in a November 1994 Starch Roper poll want to change schools, and 7 percent have stayed home or skipped classes because they are afraid of violence. The Justice Department estimated in 1993 that 160,000 children occasionally miss school because of intimidation or fear of bodily harm.
The school-safety issue is one of the reasons I support charter schools. Charters radiate an image of safety and calm -- so much so that when a violent incident occurs inside a charter school, the headline is: Guns in Charter Schools Challenge Perception of Safety. You don't see that headline for an incident of gun violence inside a traditional public school.

Charter schools have also been found to produce higher parent satisfaction (though not in this study), and I think those two findings are likely to be related.

M., the lady who works with Andrew, lives in the Bronx and recently entered her 5-year old in the lottery for charter schools there. I've now forgotten the odds against winning a seat in a charter school (M's family did not win, and her daughter will be entering the regular public schools come fall) but they were huge. I'll ask when I see her again. Chalkbeat says 28%, but I know M. thought they were much lower than that, in part because siblings of children already enrolled take precedence.

Anyway, my point is only that I suspect urban parents choose charter schools much the same way suburban parents choose suburban schools: charters have a reputation for quality, deserved or not, and you can count on your children being safe.

Meanwhile, over in my neck of the woods, an incredible story of a college professor dealing with the threat of violence: Was this student dangerous? by Julie Schumacher


froggiemama said...

I think there has been violence in the schools for a very long time. Ever read "Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder? That included the charming story of the teacher who confronted 5 of his teenage students with a bullwhip, because he feared they would attack him and kill him as they had with their former teacher. Laura herself, as a teacher, was petrified of what she termed "the big boys" in her classroom. The biggest difference back then was that few kids were still in school once they got big enough to do damage. Instead those teenage hooligans, having left school often by the age of 12, went out to spread mayhem and violence in the community.

froggiemama said...

This is probably the main reason that charter schools are safer, at least in Wsahington DC (where there are a lot of charters)

Why can't public schools do the same? Well, maybe because SOMEBODY has to educate the hard-to-educate? In any case, you can't really argue that the charters have some kind of magical violence-preventing fairy dust unless they are mandated to deal with exactly the same students as the publics, under the same rules (and without tons of extra financing from those same corporate billionaires who you decry when it comes to Common Core)

Anonymous said...

When I was in public school in the 50-60s, every teacher had a ruler or yardstick and the freedom to use them, along with a variety of public-shaming measures now deemed abusive. Everyone understood the standard of behavior and the 1960 list pretty much covered things. For the occasional hard case - always an 8th-grade boy, 15 and waiting until he cold drop out at the end of the year - the HS coach applied a military-style attitude adjustment (sanctioned in advance by principal) in the 5-8th grade coatroom; during class, in the "pour encourager les autres" spirit. It only had to happen once every 4 years or so. Of course, all of the kids had married parents (widowhood aside) who socialized them appropriately before school. Now, the courts, politicians and admins have made conduct standards toothless (esp with the spec ed) and parents/community won't tolerate them. Sigh

Sherman Dorn said...

The list from 1940 is pure urban legend ( ). In general, disruption has been a consistent theme in school history, and if you compare charter schools with all other schools that get to dismiss students for behavioral reasons, I'll bet you'd find a mostly-overlapping distribution of environments. Significant caveat: I don't think there's research on that. Local public magnet schools commonly have a similar option to charter schools in terms of expelling students, though the bureaucratic language is always softer, such as "returning to assigned school."

The question is whether there is something in specific school environments *apart* from the ability to dismiss disruptive students that can set an environment apart. For elementary schools, the research I am aware of generally identifies school-wide setting of expectations, positive reinforcement, and behavioral contracting for minor persistent problems as significant. I'm not sure about middle schools (I suspect similar things).

Anonymous said...

It should be remembered that HS attendance used to be optional; the least-able and least-motivated weren't there. If they showed up and either couldn't do the work or didn't behave, they were simply sent home. Permanently.

Also, those with significant cognitive or psych disorders never attended school; either they were kept at home or were in institutions. The various emotional/behavioral disorders didn't exist but kids with significant anger-managment issues (used to be called juvenile delinquents) etc. were sent to residential programs, which had appropriate security. My local area had all three types of institutions and I visited them - before they were closed and the residents returned to their communities.

Anonymous said...

"in some urban schools children were developing PTSD from the violence they experienced at school. These children were essentially living in a chronic state of terror."

As my son told me the day I decided to homeschool him, "Dad, you don't get it! I never know when they're going to start hitting me!"

Anonymous said...

Back in the 90s, in one of the "high-performing" school districts, a teacher friend told me about the student teacher she had mentored the previous year. Now teaching K in the same district, her class was constantly terrorized by a girl who routinely hit, kicked, spat, bit, threw books and chairs and who had attacked classmates with scissors on several occasions. She was large enough that 3 adults were needed to remove her from the room, during a "tantrum". Admin just kept sending her back to the class and her mom wouldn't allow her to be tested for a "behavioral/emotional disorder", citing "racism"; her older kid had been diagnosed. Whatever the original intent, that was - undoubtedly still is (if not more so) the reality on the ground re. discipline. Back in the day, such kids would have been removed to alternative programs.

Catherine Johnson said...

froggiemama - this is an old argument!

There is absolutely no reason why violent children must be kept inside the classroom with nonviolent children. None whatsoever.

And while, yes, there has "always" been violence, there has not always been an administrative decision to pursue a policy of "radical inclusion."

That is the difference.

And, once again, parents weren't consulted.

For ideological reasons, schools made the decision to keep children who could not be managed even with the best behavioral techniques & programs inside the classroom with all the other kids.

As to the claim that charter schools expel the difficult kids and keep the easy ones, I think that argument is overstated, but I'm not going to track down statistics now.

Catherine Johnson said...

Anonymous's story is the issue.

I'm forgetting, now, whether I have permission to quote the person who filled me in on all this, so I won't use the name.

What s/he told me (and I've read this in many places) was that at some point schools all instituted policies of "radical inclusion."

Meaning: schools decided, as a matter of policy, and without consulting parents or taxpayers (or experts outside of education schools) to keep very disruptive kids in the regular classroom.

In the city (this person told me), this meant keeping criminal kids in the regular classroom.

In the suburbs this meant keeping severely bipolar and autistic kids in the regular classroom.

Catherine Johnson said...

No one forced them to set those policies. We have many, many, many alternative settings in which troubled kids can be educated.

I know this.

Two of my children (both autistic) have been educated in separate settings.

btw, one of those schools was a charter school.

Catherine Johnson said...

Sherman - I believe that "authoritative" school settings reduce violence tremendously -- and charter schools as a whole seem to use authoritative settings. (I'm using "authoritative" in the parenting sense.)

However, the kids I'm talking about really can't be managed (again, I know: I have one such child at home now).

Students with severe emotional and behavioral disturbances either shouldn't be educated in the regular classroom, OR should have a one-on-one aide who can easily pull them out of the classroom when the study begins to tantrum.

Catherine Johnson said...

you can't really argue that the charters have some kind of magical violence-preventing fairy dust unless they are mandated to deal with exactly the same students as the publics

I didn't argue that.

However, I wouldn't be at all surprised if they do have a 'magical violence-preventing fairy dust.'

I visited one of the Harlem Success Academy schools, and the kids were much, much more orderly than the kids in the co-located regular public school.

The kids in the regular school were fine -- it wasn't a case of good kids in the charter school & bad kids in the non-charter.

BUT: the environment of the charter was much calmer and more focused.

A calm environment is good for hyper kids -- and lots of kids **are** hyper.

Catherine Johnson said...

without tons of extra financing from those same corporate billionaires who you decry when it comes to Common Core

many, many charters have no extra funding from the corporate billionaires I 'decry'

good grief

Catherine Johnson said...

Are there other billionaires promoting Common Core besides Bill Gates?

Catherine Johnson said...

Yes, I have read Laura Ingalls Wilder. I grew up in rural IL, where my grandma & grandpa were school teachers.

They had precisely zero stories of having to defend themselves with bull whips.

My other grandmother was a teacher, too.

No bull whips necessary.

Anonymous said...

When I asked school officials whether my son didn't have a right to be physically safe in school, they countered with the right of the children who were hurting him to be included in the classroom too.

See, behavior like that gets them an IEP, so they have extra rights.

SteveH said...

"For ideological reasons, schools made the decision to keep children who could not be managed even with the best behavioral techniques & programs inside the classroom with all the other kids.

Full inclusion. It's not just behavior that's a problem, but the larger range of academic willingness or ability. However, it's implemented differently in K-8 and high school.

I've seen some great benefits in having all kids together in one environment, but in K-6, educators seem to think that this has to be done in a common classroom. One K-6 charter school in our area uses a high school model where all kids are together in non-academic classes, like art, music, and PE, but they are separated for academic classes. At our high school graduation, some of the biggest cheers were for some of the school's most academically challenged students, but they were not in the same classrooms as the most able students.

As for behavioral problems, our high school has specific rules for dealing with them. They are less willing to put them back in the classroom and much more willing to issue detentions and suspensions. Besides, these kids are already separated into other classrooms. This is not the case in K-6, where kids in full inclusion academic classrooms are put right back into the class. When one of them kept cutting up a group project my son was in, the teacher told the group that they had to deal with it.

K-6 schools don't have to define education this way. This is not required for teaching ALL kids. They can separate, but they don't. They want it both ways and they think it can work with differentiated instruction and trusting the spiral. The are wrong and their only escape is a boatload of educational mumbo-jumbo. They KNOW they are trading fuzzy social goals for academic ones.

On one hand, public schools claim that they have to educate ALL kids, but on the other hand, they don't separate by willingness or ability. When I was young, the only K-6 private schools were Catholic. Now, it's a huge world of choices, mostly, if you can pay. Affluent parents have choice, but urban parents don't because it's not fair or some such thing.

SteveH said...

If K-6 schools will not or cannot separate students, then the only solution is one that allows parental choice separation to another school.

In our public high school, there is still a problem, but it's isolated. We now have three academic levels. The lowest is called something like Success Academy, for students who are two years behind grade level. (I will ignore the issue of how that happens in the first place.) Then we have College Prep, and then the honors and AP classes. College Prep used to be the top level when I was in school, but now that everyone should go to college, it took over for "General". We don't even have vocational anymore because many local tech/vocational schools offer degrees.

However, the lowest level is NOT for the slackers and disaffected. They have to go into College Prep. This is where the disrupters end up, but the high school is more willing/able to give and enforce penalties. The better students go out of their way to get all honors classes, where expectations are higher and disruptions are minimal.

K-6 schools don't like tracking, but what they do is force tracking to parents and tutors. They never ask about what goes on at home and they don't want to know. Educators want to minimize the achievement gap, but they are not being honest with themselves. Out of sight - out of mind.

SteveH said...

Another big stick that teachers/schools had when I was growing up was flunking and summer school. This was a year-to-year threat. There was no "trust the spiral" that just pushed problems along. I'm not saying that the teaching was necessarily so great back then, but that everyone had higher expectations. The lowest ability students were off at other schools, and there were higher expectations and pushing.

Flunking and summer school were huge motivators for kids. I remember it clearly. Teachers weren't telling parents that kids will learn when they were ready. With full inclusion, educators had to adopt a new philosophy, but I'm not sure which is the chicken and which is the egg. However, it all neatly fits if you adopt a much fuzzier view of education. It's amazing how things like understanding and critical thinking are redefined to imply a better education even though they lower expectations. And now Common Core institutionalizes a no-STEM education while many claim that it is a rigorous standard. When you don't separate students, statistical averages become critical. Minimum cutoffs become maximum goals. When you do separate students, as in our high school, they (and parents) begin to care about things like the quality of honors and AP classes. Our high school cares about state testing, but they don't mix it up with trying to get more kids to take AP classes and trumpeting all of the top colleges these students get into.

The real problem is the pedagogical box that K-6 educators were directly taught into. It's very ironic.

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lgm said...

Sports was a behavior motivator when I was in high school. Students would have to face Coach, who had ways to encourage them to man up and behave honorably rather than disrupt when things in life didnt go their way .

Allison said...

Districts that don't follow the plan for radical inclusion get sued for racial bias.

You can't have all the liberal pipe dreams at once.

Allison said...

I don't think there is anything incredible about the Schumacher story. If that isn't at least a 1-in-100 occurrence, I am surprised.

Maybe I'm just jaded. I knew over a dozen kids that MIT railroaded into committing themselves to Maclean Hospital in Belmont who were troubled by neither suicidal or homicidal. I personally knew three students who killed themselves while I was there, all related to my dorm in some fashion. (there were others who I didn't know, too.) I know of three more attempts in direct acquaintances at that time. Then I know of the students threatened and attacked violence on campus. There were a few more students who were actual threats that MIT didn't get committed. I knew kids who ended up at Maclean after total psychotic breaks (then not arriving through MIT.) MIT got just about every one of those situations wrong, and never had a clue what to do except massively over or under react.

Then at Cal, I knew students mis-prescribed SSRIs by the campus health services when they were really manic, leading them to psychosis and suicide attempts. I knew the kids I taught who, when I accused them of cheating, became immediately belligerent and threatening. I remember being advised never to close my door and being alone with students present in my office in case of a threat to me (back then, no one was worried of a woman defending herself against a sxeual harrassment charge--only the men worried about that.) and a prof told me never to bother with pressing cheating charges because it wasn't worth the danger.

(btw, by "your neck of the words", you meant creative writing? Because the author is at The U here in MN.)

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Catherine Johnson said...

I deleted that chart -- thanks Sherman! (And Linda.)

Very annoyed with the Reason Foundation (which I trusted).

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lgm said...

Because of the way NY has implemented charters, the districts here use alternative schools for the violent. I have to say I am quite pleased....the principal is very good at using homebound and discusion with the parents to keep the regular school calm, orderly, and a place of learning. The first two years were rough, but now the school is a place of learning as opposed to a drug trafficking center with street violence. Many of the parents did move the family back to NYC when they realized the school had no title 1 money to help with their childs remedial needs and was not goi ng to accept the disruptive behavior.what disruption is left is now mainstreamed special needs...the mental health issues especially.

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