ChildsWork News, March 6, 2012: Twitter Findings and a Minnesota Updat — Childs Work Childs Play
ChildsWork News, March 6, 2012: Twitter Findings and a Minnesota Update

ChildsWork News, March 6, 2012: Twitter Findings and a Minnesota Update

A few weeks ago, I joined Twitter on the hunt for a “big” story for Bullying Education (our sister site). My story, I thought, was pretty good, and got some excellent exposure through my ventures. But the lasting legacy of Twitter has been far more rewarding for me and, by extension, CW Readers. My ventures in to Twitter (@ADMidd) have led me to uncover some great new sources for education stories and chatter. I have met and engaged with educators, non-profit leaders, counselors and parents all over the world in ways I never dreamed possible. Last week, I was even fortunate enough to have one of my questions accepted in Education Week’s Live Chat with Minnesota Republican Pat Garofalo and president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, Marc Tucker. The topic was early high school graduation and, since I had just finished a piece on gifted education, I thought the topic would be relevant. It was an enlightening experience that I hope you will all take time to review. Look for “Comment from Andrea” at 1:52 pm. Continuing on that trend, I have been watching Twitter for interesting education-related stories. As a long-time fan of Education Week, and a subscriber to its RSS feeds, I have found that the information published on the “Tweet Deck” for this organization has really opened my eyes to many trends and stories I might have otherwise passed over. I encourage anyone with a Twitter account to follow them (@EducationWeek) and us (@ChildsWork). On that note, I am providing two great stories that the Education Week provided me yesterday and this morning for you to ponder. The first takes a look at the benefits of a three-day weekend every week or, more appropriately, a four-day school week. In a nation rocked by tax issues and budgetary strife, could this be a viable solution to our monetary woes that at the same time actually improves school performance? Or, would the strain of additional childcare simply cancel out the benefits for most parents? The next article addresses the LGBT issues in Minnesota’s Annoka-Hennepin School District yet again. The law suit that was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and National Center for Lesbian Rights on behalf of six students may have reached a settlement. If approved by a federal court judge the LGBT and perceived LGBT students in that area’s schools will finally enjoy open and comprehensive plan for protection, but will it be enough? Making the Case for Three-Day Weekends Every Weekend By Jaclyn Zubrzycki writing for Education Week’s Inside School Research Lower transportation costs. Less money spent on facilities and overhead. Increased teacher and student attendance. And...higher test scores? New research suggests, perhaps counterintuitively, that the four-day school week not only doesn't hurt student achievement, but seems to help. The four-day school week has some appeal when budgets are tight, especially in rural districts where students and teachers may travel a long way to get to school. Schools in 17 states have four-day school weeks, which usually entail longer school days in order to meet instructional hour requirements. In Colorado, for instance, more than a third of districts use the shorter week. These are mainly small, poor, rural districts, serving about 3 percent of students in the state. For "Does Shortening the School Week Impact Student Performance? Evidence from the Four-Day School Week," Mary Beth Walker of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University and D. Mark Anderson of Montana State University compared 4th grade reading scores in 17 schools with compacted schedules and 5th grade math scores in 14 such schools with control groups designed to reflect the rural, usually low-income make-up of the schedule-switching schools. The researchers looked at math scores from 2001-2010 and reading scores from 2000-2010 from the Colorado Student Assessment Program. Overall, districts with a four-day week started out with lower average scores than schools on traditional schedules, but saw a significant increase in the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on both reading and math tests after they switched to the four-day week. Specifically, the researchers found that the shortened week was associated with a 7 percentage point gain in math scores and a 3 percentage point gain in reading. In reading, the improvement took place the year after the schedule was switched; in math, the improvement took place during the year the schedule was switched. In both cases, the improvements seem to have stuck for multiple years after the shift. The report suggests a number of potential explanations, including improved attendance, increased teacher job satisfaction, and better teaching methods. (The longer school day might allow for longer lessons, for instance.) But this particular study doesn't indicate which are actually at work here. A four-day week presents some challenges, the researchers write, especially outside the rural context. Child-care needs for younger students would increase, and so might opportunities for teenage delinquency.The authors call for additional study into some of the implications of shorter weeks. I was especially interested by the suggestion that the four-day week might lead to a decrease in the dropout rate and increase the potential for high school students to have part-time jobs. I've also heard the argument that a four-day work week would lessen schools' environmental impact (think fewer commuters, less energy spent powering office buildings, etc.) and improved quality of life, though Utah's experiment with the concept didn't last too long. What would a four-day school week look like in a more urban area? What are some benefits and challenges? Would a four-day week with longer days lead to an increase in your job satisfaction? Annoka-Hennepin School Board Votes to Settle Suit by LGBT Students By Nirvi Shah, writing for Education Week’s District Dossier A group of students who sued the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota in federal court said late Monday they have settled with the district, which in exchange must provide significant new protections to prevent the harassment of students who are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. The settlement still has to be approved by a federal judge, but if that happens, it would resolve a suit filed last summer and an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education that began in 2010, after the suicides of several students who were gay. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed the suits on behalf of six former and current students who said they had been bullied at school because of their real or perceived sexual orientation. The complaints said the six students named in the suits were regularly subjected to anti-gay slurs at school, with the epithets "dyke," "homo," and "faggot" hurled by other students. Some were told to "kill yourself" or "you're going to hell," the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported. The bullying sometimes was physical: One student was stabbed in the neck with a pencil; others were choked; some were pushed into lockers or urinated on. One student dropped out of school and others left the district, the newspaper reported. Some pondered suicide. The groups said the settlement also resolves a related complaint filed against the district today by the federal Department of Justice. Earlier this year, the district school board voted to end a policy in which teachers had to remain neutral if issues of sexual identity came up in class. To resolve the suit, the students, federal government, and the district have entered into a consent decree. The agreement specifically says that teachers can affirm the dignity and self-worth of students, and any protected characteristics of students, such as being LGBT, without violating any district policy. It also provides for the six students to get a total of $270,000. "No one should have to go through the kind of harassment that I did," one of the plaintiffs, student Dylon Frei, said in a statement. "I am happy this agreement includes real changes that will make our schools safer and more welcoming for other kids."
  • Among other steps under the consent decree, the district must:
  • Hire the Great Lakes Equity Center, based at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis to provide a comprehensive, systemic review and recommend revisions to district policies and practices related to sex and sexual orientation-related harassment.
  • Fully investigate reports of harassment; escalate remedial efforts through additional measures when students are harassed on a repeated basis; and mitigate the effects of harassment that occurs.
  • Take proactive measures to address the hostile environment.
  • Develop procedures for parental notification while maintaining sensitivity to a student's right of privacy relating to their real or perceived orientation or gender identity.
  • Hire a district-level harassment-prevention official who will help lead the district's efforts to "eliminate and prevent future instances of harassment in its education programs and activities."
  • Ensure that a counselor or other qualified mental health professional to be available during school hours for students in need.
  • Strengthen its annual anti-bullying survey.
  • Work with the Equity Center to identify hot spots in district schools where harassment is most problematic, including outdoor locations and on school buses, and work with the equity consultant to develop corrective actions.
"This historic agreement marks a fresh start for the Anoka-Hennepin School District," said Sam Wolfe, an attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center's LGBT Project, in a statement. "Unfortunately, this district had become notorious for anti-LGBT hostility and discrimination. This consent decree sets the stage for Anoka-Hennepin to become a model for other school districts to follow in creating more respectful learning environments for all students in a thoughtful, systemic, and proactive way." As part of the agreement, the federal government will monitor how the district adheres to the consent decree for five years.
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