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school climate

Alabama State Department of Education implements proactive and preventative positive behavior reinforcement program to improve grades, attendance and discipline

Chronic discipline problems, truancy and a negative school culture can all lead to poor student outcomes. In most schools, a minority of students disrupt the entire classroom, and teachers spend an average of 45 minutes per incident attempting to resolve an issue.

In 11 states, scores for school climate are becoming as important as those for math and reading, thanks to a new score card that allows administrators to learn where they need to improve school safety, student engagement, and overall learning environment.

The Virginia Beach Landstown High School and Technology Academy administration confers with lead teachers on the five dozen professional development opportunities offered to its faculty this past February.

At some level, principals always have been instructional leaders—but never before has their role been more prominent.

First, the accountability movement—No Child Left Behind in particular—thrust principals into the spotlight on academic achievement. Then budget cuts peeled away capacity at both the district and school levels, thinning the ranks of assistant superintendents, curriculum specialists and assistant principals, who shouldered some or most of the load.

Pets in the Classroom

The number of grants offered through the Pet Care Trust (PCT) to classrooms around the nation has more than doubled since August 2011, says the organization’s executive director, Steve King. The program is offered through Pets in the Classroom, PCT’s education arm, which aims to foster healthy pet-child relationships in students in elementary and middle school. King credits the program’s huge growth to a new partnership with Petco and Petsmart, which now advertise the program in their stores.

School Improvement Grants

The $3.5 billion in School Improvement Grants (SIG) funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have undoubtedly made a positive impact in more than 13,000 schools deemed low performing around the country. The money, which is intended to close the achievement gap, improve graduation rates and overall student achievement, will run out by the end of the 2012-2013 school year, and what will happen to these improvement efforts is unclear.

Scenario 1: A middle school student was continually harassed and bullied at school. He was taunted and pushed in the hallways and was even punched in the face in the school bathroom on one occasion. His tormentors always seemed to know when the adults at school were not looking. He felt that if he fought back it would only make things worse. He had debated many times telling the teacher or an administrator about the bullying, but, again, he felt that it would only get worse. Besides, he did not feel a close connection to any school staff member.

A new battle cry of American education seems to be college and career readiness. School professionals are being urged to graduate students who can be successful in college and ready for a career. In a speech before Congress in 2009, President Obama raised the bar when he declared that “every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.”

The transition from middle school to high school can often be daunting; however, students in Memphis City (Tenn.) Schools have found that Gaggle, which provides online learning tools, can help ease this changeover with its social media features.

candlelight vigil for Tyler Clementi

New Jersey knew it had a bullying problem after a 2009 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the percentage of students bullied in the state was one point higher than the national average. The momentum surrounding the antibullying movement in the state peaked last September when a Rutgers University student, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide after his roommate streamed a video of Clementi with another male student over the Internet. State legislators then moved quickly to pass the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights on Jan. 6, 2011, which will be effective Sept. 1.

Karl Springer, superintendent of the Oklahoma City Public School District, recently found himself answering tough questions in the heavy glare of the media spotlight. The issue? Student bullying. "We don't escalate the situation by being macho," says Springer, also a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and a former Marine Corps captain.

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