Schenectady High School in upstate New York was featured in a recent news story exploring how mediation is part of a broader “incident reduction plan” enacted by the district. As noted in the story, “Of the 260 cases mediated last year, 216 reached a successful resolution.” Read more about it here.
A recent article in Rethinking Schools focuses attention on the ongoing problem of teachers leaving the profession within 3-5 years of starting. The article entitled Teachings Revolving Door points to a number of different explanations for the problem, and as Conflict Resolution in Education advocates know, classroom conflict and management challenges is one of these drivers. Clearly, we need to work on many levels to improve the situation, including helping to prepare new teachers with realistic and practical skills for handling challenging situations. The costs to young people, especially in urban schools, is particularly high, as they most often end up with the most inexperienced teachers due to the revolving door. But, as school administrators know, lack of teacher retention has costs in other ways as well. As the article points out, “Nationwide, teacher turnover costs $7.3 billion a year, according to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. In some districts, the costs are shockingly high. In Milwaukee, the average cost per teacher who left was $15,325, according to the commission. In Chicago, the average cost was $17,872, with the total cost to the district about $86 million per year.” Conflict Resolution in Education is part of the solution, but only if we continue to extend the work and make sure it remains relevant to the actual conditions teachers face as they begin their careers.
Truancy Prevention Through Mediation Program
The Truancy Prevention Through Mediation Program in Ohio, commonly known as truancy mediation, has grown in just over six years from 7 counties, 58 schools to 30 counties, over 460 schools in close to 120 school districts. It has grown at this rate because it works. Documentation is available at http://disputeresolution.ohio.gov/courtcommunity.htm.
Programs are run locally, with technical support, training, mentoring, and grant writing assistance provided by the Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management, and with training assistance from the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Dispute Resolution Section.
Although it is common when districts first approach the Commission to ask about help with high school truancy and drop-outs, research and experience clearly show that a school district benefits most by building a program from the early years up. The Commission advocates having the program only in K-6 for two to four years, then adding the middle schools that those elementary schools feed, then in a year or two adding the high schools. If a district starts at the high school level they usually are dealing with students who have been missing days for many years, who are under-achieving, and who are close to dropping out – thus using time and resources but not addressing the systemic problem. If a district wants to permanently reduce truancy and tardiness it needs to be addressed in Kindergarten and the other early years, building the program upward.
Here are some of the core values of the program:
1. Mediations take place in the school, during or immediately before or after school hours. 2. In K – 6 the teacher always attends, and often is the only person meeting with the parent[s]. 3. The goal is to, in a non-punitive, non-disciplinary way, identify the family problems that are causing the poor attendance, and to then help the family reach a voluntary solution. Those solutions often involve reaching out to a government agency, social service provider, or non-profit organization. 4. Confidentially is maintained. 5. The emphasis is on K – 6 truancy and tardiness, with higher grades added only after the elementary school program is well established. 6. The family is asked to come in for a mediation very early in the pattern of truancy, usually the third to fifth missed day. This is a significantly lower threshold than the number of missed days for court referrals. The emphasis is on very early intervention and help in a respectful manner, as opposed to late intervention [15+ days is common] and a disciplinary attitude. 7. The mediator is a person trained in mediation in general and truancy mediation in particular, who does not represent any particular entity or interest but rather is in the room to facilitate the discussion and search for mutually acceptable solutions.
For information contact Ed Krauss at firstname.lastname@example.org. 614 444 5872
A new use for mediation skills and techniques that has been growing rapidly is Truancy Mediation.
The National Center for State Courts has been compiling a list of information on the growing number of states (18 and counting) that are offering Truancy Mediation service. You can view the Truancy Mediation Materials online.
A well developed example is the statewide program the Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management administers. The Truancy Prevention Through Mediation Program is a statewide effort run in cooperation with The Ohio Supreme Courts Office of Dispute Resolution, school districts and local courts, which is designed to address attendance concerns in public schools. The program has been used in grades K – 12, but the primary focus is on grades K – 8.
A set of Standards of Practice for Truancy Mediation has been developed and is available on the web.
A new Web site sponsored by McGraw-Hill Education’s Urban Advisory Resource is directed towards school administrators, especially those working in urban areas. The forum, District Leader’s Podcast districtleaderspodcast.org, is “the only national podcast created expressly for district leaders. Many features included are interviews each week with different district leaders from around the country.” There are 25 sessions available to listen to, with the most recent being a Superintendent from a school district in Texas. Many of the podcasts deal with violence and delinquency in schools and conflict resolution techniques.
Global Issues Resource Center announces the availability of the 1st Report to the Nation on Youth Courts and Teen Courts (MS Word doc). This national report documents significant highlights and events over a fifteen (15) year period of unprecedented and historic growth of this groundbreaking American juvenile justice prevention and intervention program that utilizes volunteer youth to help sentence their peers.
The report begins in 1993, when fewer than seventy-five (75) local youth and teen courts existed in just about a dozen states. The report concludes fifteen (15) years later in 2008, when more than a record 1,000 local communities in 48 states and the District of Columbia now operate these local juvenile justice programs. Historic numbers of youth and adults are now involved, as more than 111,868 juvenile cases were referred to local youth and teen courts and more than 133,832 volunteers – to include both youth and adults who volunteered to help with the disposition and sentencing of these juvenile cases. The report is written and researched by Scott Bernard Peterson and Jill Beres.
Clearly, the belief of the folks at CREducation.org is that classroom conflict is a problem for new teachers, and one that contributes to the high number of teachers that leave after just 2 or 3 years in the classroom.
A recent article in Good Magazine provides a glimpse into this problem with short [url=http://www.good.is/?p=11902]interviews with seven teachers[/url] who struggled and left teaching (or relocated).
For more details on the current state of teacher retention, this 2006 Washington Post article [url=http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/08/AR2006050801344.html]”Half of Teachers Quit in 5 Years”[/url] provides a quick summary.
Administrators new to the field of conflict resolution may be interested in reviewing a debate that occurred back in 1993-94 regarding the role and effectiveness of school-based violence prevention and conflict resolution programs. The debate was played out in the journal Health Affairs. To see the articles in question, try this link to their archives search tool.
We’ve come a long way since then in terms of research and sophistication in program design and delivery, but it is interesting to review the issues in a historical perspective.
Administrators may want to take a look at a new resource posted to our catalog entitled Creating Harmony in the Classroom: Building safe and inclusive classrooms for special populations. The 231-page manual developed with support from FMCS is designed “to assist teachers with building an inclusive and safe classroom for all students, including special needs, deaf, and visually impaired youth.” Includes chapters on building self-awareness in students, enhancing student’s problem-solving skills, mediation in school settings, evaluting conflict resolution education programs and a chapter on resources.
With the growth of YouTube as a medium of expression and information sharing, we are also seeing it used to promote Peer Mediation activity. Here are some examples that might inspire creative content producers at your school.
Romeo High School in Michigan (RHS) Peer Mediation Video (8:37) This video pulls together various clips from a High School mediation program, including providing evidence of increased awareness about the program. Nicely done.
Also, see this informative report on the program available as a pdf. It includes statistics on the program and sample materials used by the student mediators.
More Peer Mediation Club Activities at RHS (6:12) This video shows more of the activities the peer mediation students do interacting with other schools in the district.
Peer Mediation (better than a Light Saber Battle to the Death?) (3:37) This humorous student-produced video promotes peer mediation in their school.
Los Angeles Dispute Resolution Services (DRS) Peer Mediation Video (10:55) This video documents some systemwide activities in Los Angeles County.
Hoku Kubota Peer Mediation Training (a Hawaiian School) (2:00)
This video provides a quick glimpse at a mediation training happening in a Hawaiian school, giving a sense that mediation is happening “all over” the world.
For an even more international feel, check out this video on a college peer mediation program in the Netherlands. Hope you speak Dutch!
A February 2007 report issued by the NYC Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum notes that “the DOE is not doing enough to ensure that conflict resolution training and services are supported in city schools.” This conclusion is based on a survey of 158 administrators designed to glean administrators’ perspective on DOE school safety policies, including the degree to which those policies cultivate an atmosphere conducive to teaching and learning. The survey also asked administrators for the rates of incidents and superintendent suspensions in their schools during the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 school years. Finally, the survey asked administrators about the number of teachers in their schools who had received conflict resolution training and the degree to which conflict resolution training and programming is a part of day-to-day life in their schools. The full report, entitled Between Policy and Reality: School Administrators Critical of Department of Education School Safety Policy, is available online. A primary concern is that there has been a shift away for social-emotional learning and conflict resolution education and toward a policing and “get tough” policy despite explicit support for CRE.
As noted in the report, “The New York City Department of Education’s Citywide Standards of Discipline and Intervention Measures state that ‘[a]dministrators, teachers, counselors, and other school staff are expected to engage with students, including students with disabilities, in intervention and prevention strategies that address the student’s behavioral issues…and family circumstances: social/emotional learning, such as conflict resolution/mediation/negotiation…’. To this end, the DOE offers voluntary conflict resolution professional development training for teachers and administrators. Additionally, the state provides various funding streams for complementary programming, such as the Violence Prevention and Extended Day grant.”
A couple of key findings related to teacher training in Conflict Resolution:
98 percent of high school administrators report that no teachers, or just “a few”, in their schools have received any conflict education and/or resolution training.
82 percent of administrators at all levels report that no teachers, or just “a few”, have received conflict education and/or resolution training.
The Report cites New York University Professor of Education Pedro Noguera’s warning that, “[s]chools that rely on security guards and metal detectors to create safety may end up creating an environment that is so repressive that it is no longer conducive to learning.” Referring to the success of community policing initiatives, Prof. Noguera asserts that safety is “ultimately a by-product of social relationships and from the willingness of the members of a community to look out for each other and hold one another accountable.”
The Public Advocate’s office followed up with a second study of conflict resolution service providers. The report from this study, released in May of 2007 is entitled Conflict Unresolved: DOE Fails to Recognize What Works in School Safety and Student Achievement. A quick review of this study is posted in our Researcher’s Blog.