New Tools to Curb School Violence
The U.S. Department of Education has released Threat Assessment in Schools: A Guide to Managing Threatening Situations and to Creating Safe School Climates. The free guide is part of the government's Safe School Initiative, which also includes 12 one-day training sessions held at various locations throughout the country.
The guide and seminars aim to "break the code of silence" that enables school violence, notes U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige.
By creating an atmosphere of trust and confidentiality between students and adults, schools can help mitigate the feeling that students are "snitching" or "ratting" on others when they talk about violent threats. The guide and seminars outline ways to create better communication and ways to set up processes for dealing with violence and violent threats. The materials are based on the study of 41 school attacks from between 1974 to 2000 and outline pre-attack behaviors. www.ed.gov/offices/OESE/SDFS/publications/html
Staff Development Help
Staff development is a major bottleneck in the effort to integrate, expand and upgrade the use of technology in education. One answer lies in a redesign of the training format to incorporate students as participants, according to Alan November, international education consultant and author of Empowering Students with Technology, (Skylight Professional Development, 2001).
"We've underestimated the ability of students to be polite, to learn and to share knowledge," he says. "Every teacher should bring two kids with them to any staff development." Let the students learn the material and teach it to other students under the supervision of the teacher, he adds. "We can't train teachers alone fast enough."
One of November's client schools applied his approach and carried it one step further by having troubled students attend teacher training. The result? Most have improved their school performance-personal and academic-and one has even blossomed into a class leader.
Teacher Exchange on a Shoestring
Traveling with a group of teachers may be less expensive than you'd think. During the 2000-01 school year, the School District of Greenville County in South Carolina hired a superintendent and a middle school principal from Coventry (R.I.) Public Schools as consultants. "They were doing a lot of the work we wanted to do in our schools," says Gloria Talley, director of professional growth and leadership in Greenville. Teacher teams and protocol to view student work are two examples. What better way to really understand Coventry's methods than to see its educators in action?
So Talley and eight instructional coaches from her district visited New England. "We were, of course, concerned about budget constraints," she says. Airfare could come out of staff development funds, but hotel costs would add up fast. That's when the Coventry administrators suggested having their teachers open up their homes to the visitors. Administrators paired the coaches andteachers by personality. "It was like a blind date!" Talley says.
During the four-day trip, which started with the travelers being greeted by their hosts at the airport, the groups bonded quickly. Talley and one coach stayed with a principal, and each of the others stayed alone in a teacher's home. "It was wonderful not only [as a] educational exchange but [also as a] cultural exchange," Talley says.
The three days spent at the middle school were eye-openers for the coaches. "Teachers really need to see for themselves the work [being done in other districts]. It's easy to have the excuse, 'I can't do that here,' " she says.
The district's only costs were airfare and food. The benefits were apparent to all.
Scheduling Away Problems
With all the problems districts face, scheduling doesn't seem to rank very high. But as anyone who has to juggle hundreds of classrooms and a fullschedule of PTA meetings, afterschool events, sports leagues and adult education clas