kitchen table math, the sequel: 6/22/14 - 6/29/14

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

School violence, suburban schools, charter schools

Followup to School violence 1940 - 1950

The 1940-1950 chart: School Survey Hoax:

I'm going to number sections of this post, just to make things quicker (for me & for people reading)


In the wake of learning, from the Comments thread (thank you!), that the 1940-1990 school chart is way too vivid to be true (I wondered about that -- should have listened to myself), I've done some Googling re: school violence.

Haven't finished, but while I was at it, I remembered this passage from Elizabeth Warren's book The Two-Income Trap:
Today's parents must also confront another frightening prospect as they consider where their children will attend school: the threat of school violence....[T]he statistics show that school violence is not as random as it might seem. According to one study, the incidence of serious violent crime--such as robbery, rape, or attack with a weapon--is more than three times higher in schools characterized by high poverty levels than those with predominantly middle- and upper-income children.[41] Similarly, urban children are more than twice as likely as suburban children to fear being attacked on the way to or from school. The data expose a harsh reality: Parents who can get their kids into a more economically segregated neighborhood really improve the odds that their sons and daughters will make it through school safely.[42]

41. Thomas D. Snyder and Charlene M. Hoffman, Digest of Education Statistics, 2001, NCES 2001-130 (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, February 2002), Table 150, Percent of Public Schools Reporting Crime Incidents and the Seriousness of Crime Incidents Reported, by School Characteristics, 1996-1997.

42. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice, 2000, NCJ 190251 (December 2001), Table 2.0001, Students Age 12 to 18 Reporting Fear of School-Related Victimization.
Setting aside the question of whether school violence was significantly higher in 1990 than in 1940, the fact is that parents universally believe suburban schools are safer than urban schools.

I'm pretty sure urban parents have the same perception of charter schools.

Charter schools radiate an image of safety and calm.

I believe parents choose charter schools in part because they believe their children will be safer in a charter school than in a traditional public school.


Are charter schools actually safer?

Hard to tell. They may not be.

From 2013:
Teachers' perceptions of school safety across all school levels tended to differ by sector. Private school teachers were less likely than teachers in other sectors to report being threatened with injury in the past 12 months. Among private school teachers, 3.9 percent reported injury threats, compared with 9.6 percent of traditional public school teachers. Teachers in charter schools (10.8 percent) and BIA schools (12.6 percent) were most likely to report being threatened with injury...


Among traditional public public school teachers, reports of being threatened with injury varied by community type. Teachers in central city schools were more likely to report threats of injury in the past 12 months than teachers in urban fringe/large town schools and teachers in rural/small town schools. In central city traditional public schools, 13.5 percent of teachers reported injury threats. In urban fringe/large town schools, 7.9 percent of teachers reported injury threats. In rural / small town schools, 8.6 percent of teachers reported injury threats.
They need to disaggregate the data. I have no idea what proportion of charter schools are "central city."

One note: the fact that charter school teachers report a threat level as high as they do weighs against the idea that charters are cherry-picking the easy students.


Has there "always" been violence in schools?

The answer is 'yes,' but that is neither here nor there.

There has always been violence, period, but some places and times have been more violent than others.

The question is whether schools had become significantly more violent by 1990 than they were in 1940.

At the moment, it looks to me as if the government didn't really start collecting statistics on violence in schools until around 1990. (I may be wrong about that, but so far that's what I'm turning up.)

The label "school violence" didn't really exist prior to the 1970s (which is not to say that school violence didn't exist):

Source: "The School in School Violence: Definitions and Facts" | Michael Furlong & Gale Morrison | Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders | Summer 2000, Vol.8, No. 2, p. 72

Setting the quest for school violence statistics aside, it's well established that there was a large increase in "violence-related injuries and homicides among adolescents during the late 1980s and early 1990s."(Furlong & Morrison, 2000)

That increase affected the schools:
In some ways, society has expected a protective bubble to exist between the problems of our communities and the spillover into the school setting. Schools have remained relatively safe environments for teachers and students (Furlong & Morrison, 1994; Garbarinio, 1992); however, in some areas, the community norms and behaviors regarding violence have thoroughly invaded the school (Devine, 1995). This is particularly true in urban environments where there is a commitment to subculture norms and values that endorse the use of violence in solving conflicts (Devine, 1995; Wolfgang & Ferracuti, 1967).


Do some schools keep order better than others?


Within the same city and the same demographic, some schools keep order and some do not:
The 11 (Philadelphia) schools differed significantly on all five measures of school climate. The largest between-school differences were found for planning and action; clarity of rules; and student influence. Schools, therefore differ considerably in the degree to which students perceive that the school is making any effort to implement school improvements; in the clarity of school rules; and in the degree to which students have any influence on school policies. Note, however, that sizable but smaller effects were found for the other two climate scales as well: students feel more respects and they perceive that school rules are more fair at some schools than at others. Schools are not at all identical in the rules, procedures, norms, and practices that make up school climate.

While one might expect that 11 public schools in the same large, urban school district would evidence similar levels of disorder, this was not the case at all....Schools varied to a great degree in how safe their students felt.


Four of the five school climate variables significantly predicted victimization: respect for students, planning and action, fairness of rules, and clarity of rules. Student influence on decision making had no effect. Respect for students had the greatest influence on lower levels of victimization.

The Effects of School Climate on School Disorder | Wayne N. Welsh | The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 2000 567: 88
Rules and respect (warm/strict): that is the recipe for safe schools as well as for good parenting.

We've known for decades that "authoritative" parents raise more successful kids, and yet somehow no one's ever heard of the research.

Kids need authoritative surrogate parents at school, too.


Traditional public schools expel students all the time.

That includes SPED kids.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Charter schools teach special needs students

They do!

Charter schools teach special needs children.

I happen to know this because two of my children, both of whom have "core" autism, attended a charter school for autistic children.

Their charter was a specialized school created specifically to educate severely autistic children, but nonspecialized charter schools also teach special-ed kids. (The chart at the end of this post, comparing SPED enrollment in KIPP to SPED enrollment in urban and national schools, is from 2005.)

Which brings me to a point that seems to go missing in arguments about whether charter schools do or do not cherry-pick students: when underprivileged black and Hispanic students attend affluent white suburban schools, they are often classified as SPED.

I've seen this firsthand. I live in an affluent, white suburb, where children attend affluent, white schools. I don't say this as a criticism -- not of me, or the town, or its schools. I'm making a statement of fact.

The racial and socioeconomic segregation of my district is a direct consequence of the funding mechanism for New York schools, which is the property tax. When schools are funded by property taxes, the formula is simple: expensive houses, expensive schools.

Because houses here are expensive, no one who qualifies for free or reduced lunch would be able to attend my district's schools were it not for Section 8 housing vouchers.

Which brings me back to charter schools.

As far as I can tell, Section 8 children are the cherries charter schools are said to pick. These children have parents enterprising enough to apply for and get housing vouchers, then move out of their own neighborhoods -- all in order to send their children to suburban schools, where they will be one of a dozen or so black/Hispanic children in a sea of white faces. I don't know about you, but for me, that prospect would be disconcerting to say the least.

In short, many Section 8 parents are motivated and proactive, the same qualities charter-school parents are said to have.

So how do the black and Hispanic children of motivated low-income parents fare in suburban schools?

Not long after I realized that parents in my district were hiring an awful lot of tutors (many of them teachers in the district), I became curious about how the handful of black and Hispanic students, whose parents presumably were not hiring tutors, were doing. One day, not long after I'd begun to mull things over, I ran into a friend of mine, another mom in the district. I knew her through special ed; her daughter had learning disabilities but was quite a bit higher-functioning than my two autistic children.

At some point during our chat, I asked whether she knew anything about how underprivileged students were doing.

Her answer took me by surprise.

"I know all those kids," she said. "They're in the same class with M." M. being her daughter.

"Oh," I said. "Really."

It took me a couple of moments to regroup. I didn't know any of those kids, and nor did anyone else I knew. But my friend with the high-end SPED child knew all of them.

Because all of them were in special ed.

"So how are they doing?" I asked.

"Not well," she said.

And that was my introduction to the issue of "over-identification":
2008 government data mapped by the Equity Alliance at Arizona State University show that in most states, African-American students were nearly or greater than twice as likely as white students to be classified with emotional or intellectual disabilities.
Keeping Special Ed in Proportion by Anthony Rebora
The over-identification problem came up again a couple of years later, at a board meeting, when the director of special education reported that the district had received a letter from NYSED saying they'd over-identified black/Hispanic kids as SPED. The district's solution, he said, had been to reclassify one student as white. "With the parents' permission, of course," he added.

Problem solved.

Or not.*

Then there's C., who worked with Jimmy for years, and who was Chris's surrogate brother. C. is black, and was raised here in Westchester. He's one of the smartest people I know.

C. was in special ed. He and I used to joke about the geography of school buildings here in Westchester County. The SPED kids are always in the far corner of the basement, along with the black kids, who are also in special ed.

I know this is true because for years Ed and I used to sally forth to visit BOCES programs for Jimmy & Andrew. The programs were housed in public schools, and they were always in the basement, and not just the basement but the far corners of the basement. We'd get to the school, park our car, walk inside, and head downstairs. We didn't have to ask directions.

I remember one school where the kids were so far removed from the general population, not to mention all of the entry doors, that it was hard for me to imagine exactly how they were going get out in case of fire. There were windows on one of the classroom walls, but the windows were way overhead, and I didn't see any ladders. Plus I didn't know of a behavior management technique that would allow a whole class of severely disabled kids, some of them nonverbal and most of them with behavior problems, to suddenly cooperate in climbing ladders up and out of their classroom in the middle of a fire.

Inside that school, the BOCES kids remained in their subterranean domain all day long, never surfacing, not even for lunch. They were so far below-ground, they were practically hobbits.

Then there's my nephew's experience, in another state. He has learning disabilities, and he was pretty much the only white student in all of his classes for his entire public-school career.

And my friend O., back in Los Angeles: same thing. Her son had high-functioning autism; his classmates were black. When I talked to O. about it, she said: "In every school we've been in, the black kids are in special ed. It's always A. and the black kids."

My point is: in the broadest sense, charter schools serving underprivileged populations are doing the exact opposite of cherry-picking. They are choosing the students who, when they attend predominantly white schools, are in special ed. KIPP may enroll a lower proportion of SPED kids than do other urban schools (in 2005, at least), but that tells us nothing about the number of KIPP students who would be classified as SPED in a suburban district.

I have to assume that a fairly large number of KIPP students would be classified as having special needs if they went to school in the suburbs. Seems to me it's possible that urban charter schools like KIPP should really be seen as SPED schools, or perhaps as schools with a specialty in teaching SPED students:
The nation’s largest charter management organization is the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). KIPP schools are emblematic of the No Excuses approach to public education, a highly standardized and widely replicated charter model that features a long school day, an extended school year, selective teacher hiring, strict behavior norms, and a focus on traditional reading and math skills. No Excuses charter schools are sometimes said to focus on relatively motivated high achievers at the expense of students who are most diffiult to teach, including limited English proficiency (LEP) and special education (SPED) students, as well as students with low baseline achievement levels. We use applicant lotteries to evaluate the impact of KIPP Academy Lynn, a KIPP school in Lynn, Massachusetts that typifies the KIPP approach. Our analysis focuses on special needs students that may be underserved. The results show average achievement gains of 0.36 standard deviations in math and 0.12 standard deviations in reading for each year spent at KIPP Lynn, with the largest gains coming from the LEP, SPED, and low-achievement groups. The average reading gains are driven almost completely by SPED and LEP students, whose reading scores rise by roughly 0.35 standard deviations for each year spent at KIPP Lynn.

Who Benefits from KIPP?
Joshua D. Angrist
Susan M. Dynarski
University of Michigan, NBER and IZA
Thomas J. Kane
Harvard University and NBER
Parag A. Pathak
Christopher R. Walters
Discussion Paper No. 5690 May 2011

Focus on Results: An Academic Impact Analysis of the Knowlege is Power Program (KIPP)

* That was the year not a single 8th-grade black or Hispanic student in my district (there were 15 in all) passed the state math and ELA tests. The state average for black/Hispanic students passing math was 34%. (2007)

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