Report: Teachers Talk School Culture, Safety and Human Rights

Teachers Talk brings the voice of teachers to the debate around safety and discipline in schools. The report by NESRI and Teachers Unite is based on surveys of more than 300 New York City public school teachers from 136 middle and high schools. The report shows that teachers believe punitive approaches toward childern, such as aggressive policing, suspensions and other reactive strategies, undermine the human rights of each child by failing to address the causes of conflict and criminalizing the school environment. Teachers support a holistic, human rights-based approach discipline that uses preventive and constructive approaches to create a postive school cultures, teach behavior skills and use conflict resolution. From the Report:

Conflict resolution and mediation – Over 84% of teachers surveyed said that conflict resolution and mediation are effective or very effective methods for improving safety and discipline. Teachers reported that they need more training so that they can be “the first layer for conflict resolution in any issues that come up with students.” But teachers also said that schools need more intensive programs run by counselors, school aides, or other staff to use conflict resolution and mediation as an alternative to removal when conflicts arise.

Harmony Island Game – Anybody Testing It?

Academic Edge Inc. developed an intriguing conflict resolution game for middle and high school age youth called Harmony Island. They were inviting classrooms to participate in additional research on the product, giving away free site licenses to participant schools. Has anybody taken them up on this offer? Looks like a good opportunity if it is still in effect.

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Research on Truancy Mediation Program

Recognizing that truancy is a significant predictor of juvenile delinquent behavior and long-term economic hardship, the Truancy Prevention through Mediation Program (TPMP) intervenes with elementary, middle school, and high school students and their families who display a pattern of absenteeism. The program targets students, who during the school year, experience a minimum of 10 absences. A five year evaluation conducted by an independent evaluator confirms that the majority of TPMP students significantly improve their attendance rates as a result of intervention (OCDRCM, 1999-2004).

Although the Truancy Prevention through Mediation Program (TPMP) has consistently demonstrated positive results in the effort to combat truancy, absent from these evaluations has been an examination of the impact of the program on the academic performance and behavior of the children whose families participate in the program. To fill this void, the Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and the Supreme Court of Ohio collaborated to commission an independent evaluation to ascertain answers to these questions. You can read the full report here: Evaluation of the Truancy Prevention through Mediation Program (Ohio) (pdf).

ADR Research “Portal”

The Center for Legal Solutions has pulled together a nice collection of research studies on various aspects of the mediation process. The collection is called [url=http://www.centerforlegalsolutions.org/research.overview.shtml]Practical Research on Alternative Dispute Resolution[/url]. If you are looking for a quick snapshot of the kinds of research that has been done on mediation, this is a great place to start. Includes a listing of [url=http://www.centerforlegalsolutions.org/links.adr.scholars.shtml]ADR Researchers[/url] active in the field.

2008 Meta-Analysis of SEL Programs

Some of the most compelling information supporting Social Emotional Learning (SEL) comes from findings of the largest, most scientifically rigorous review of research ever done on interventions that promote children’s social and emotional development. This review of more than 700 studies published through 2007 included school, family, and community interventions designed to promote social and emotional skills in children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 18. This large sample of studies was divided into three main areas: studies about (a) school-based interventions, (b) after-school programs, and (c) programs for families. Results of the school-based research, which included 207 studies of programs involving 288,000 students, is of key relevance here.

In this meta-analysis (study of studies), researchers used statistical techniques to summarize the findings across all the studies and found a broad range of benefits for students:

9% decrease in conduct problems, such as classroom misbehavior and aggression

10% decrease in emotional distress, such as anxiety and depression

9% improvement in attitudes about self, others, and school

23% improvement in social and emotional skills

11% improvement in achievement test scores

More information on the research results is available in a CASEL briefing paper and as an archived teleconference.

Wiki Mind Map Tool

For a quick look at a concept area, consider using the fascinating Wiki Mind Map Tool. Be sure to pick the english language wiki (if that is your language of course!) from the drop-down chooser – look for “en.wikipedia.org” for English. After you submit your search term, you can explore the related terms using the mindmap. Clicking on the green circular arrows beside a term will bring that term into the center of the map. Clicking directly on a term takes you to the definition of that item in Wikipedia. Clicking on a plus sign next to a term will expand a portion of the map that is currently hidden. Below is an image from a search on the term “school bullying”.

Survey of NYC Schools Conflict Resolution Service Providers

To better evaluate the degree of institutional support for conflict resolution and social/emotional programming in New York City schools, the NYC Office of the Public Advocate and the National Center for Schools and Communities (NCSC) at Fordham University surveyed non-profit providers of conflict resolution education about their contribution to city public schools; the effect of DOE school safety and discipline policies on the services they provide; and their overall experiences working in New York City public schools. The full report is available online as a pdf.

The survey questions assessed the day-to-day experiences and opinions of staff at organizations providing conflict resolution and social/emotional programming in New York City public schools. The survey was emailed to 55 organizations and was available online at the NCSC website. Forty-three responses were returned from 35 different organizations. The 35 different organizations work with a total of approximately 55,000 students annually.

The survey resulted in the following findings:
· 85 percent of providers of conflict resolution and social/emotional programming in middle schools do not agree that DOE school discipline policies adequately address the social/emotional needs of the students;
· 85 percent of providers to middle schools do not agree that DOE school safety policies effectively address the root causes of violence and disruptive behavior.
· 86 percent of providers to high schools do not agree that the current DOE school discipline policies are sustainable in promoting long-term results in dealing with violent and disruptive students.

This report offers the following recommendations, among others, to improve the provision of conflict resolution and social/emotional programming in New York City schools and thereby improve student safety and achievement:
· Create a central Conflict Resolution and Social/Emotional Programs Office
· Establish a Conflict Advisor/Counselor Position in Select Schools
· Establish a School Safety Planning Committee

This report was prompted by the findings of a February 2007 Public Advocate report entitled “Between Policy and Reality: School Administrators Critical of Department of Education School Safety Policy.” The findings of the report, which were based on a survey of school administrators, suggest that the DOE is not doing enough to ensure that conflict resolution training and services are supported in city schools. Read more about it in our CRE Administrator’s Blog.