Teen burning victim Michael Brewer’s assailants get jail

michael brewer, school violence, Deerfield Beach Middle SchoolLast week, the story from Deerfield Beach, Florida was that two of the three teens accused of setting fellow Deerfield Middle School classmate Michael Brewer on fire received jail time for their deeds. (BTW: in case you didn't know, this is the same school that saw the dreadful beating incident of Josie Lou Ratley by Wayne Treacy).

In 2009, Michael was set aflame by three of his classmates to the degree that he had to jump in a nearby pool in order to put out the flames. Michael suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns over nearly 2/3rd of his body.

According to the story in the Miami Herald, both teens pled "no contest" which means that they are willing to accept whatever punishment the court hands out, but does not admit guilt.  In addition to the jail time they were sentenced to, the perpetrators were given 18-21 YEARS of community service. When you consider that these young men are themselves 18 and 17 years old, you can see that they will be living with the results of their actions for a very long time.

One point I found troublesome in the article: (more…)

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Rhee and StudentsFirst recognizes need for social skills

Wow, I never thought I'd see the day.  This morning, former DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program to talk about her plans to help reform education through her new not-for-profit, "Students First."

There was a lot of discussion about the things we have been known to hear from Ms. Rhee -- about the problems with teacher tenure, of the values of merit pay, of the importance of keeping good teachers, not just ones who have attained the highest seniority.

One thing I didn't expect to hear her talk about was the value of social skills.  Commenting on the question about violence in public schools, linking it to the events this past weekend in AZ with Rep. Giffords' shooting, the conversation went:
(view video portion of her statement here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640)

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Here's the transcript of that portion of her interview: (more…)

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How to hurdle the Achievement Gap

One of the persistent problems in education over the past 40 years has been the Achievement Gap between low-income, minority, and non-native students as compared to their mainstream counterparts. One of the objectives on NCLB was to narrow this gap, but repeated research shows that we haven't made the strides in this area that we had all hoped.

Image by Brian Carr, courtesy of Excellent Education for Everyone (E3) at www.nje3.org

A February, 2010 report by Indiana University's Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP) entitled Mind the (Other) Gap: The Growing Excellence Gap in K-12 Education (Jonathan A. Plucker, PhD; Nathan Burroughs, PhD; Ruiting Song) shares a great deal of information on the student achievement gap, slicing and dicing the data into varying segments and analyzing the results. I won't bore you with all the details, but I found their overall findings as summarized in the conclusion telling, and consistent with the other research and publications frequently cited:

"The economically disadvantaged, English Language Learners, and historically underprivileged minorities represent a smaller proportion of students scoring at the highest levels of achievement."

With few exceptions, research generally agrees that we haven't made real, significant progress in closing the gap. However, the question remains, why? The typical answer is "funding." While it is true that students in the "gap" populations often attend schools that aren't as well-funded as the mainstream majority, merely assuming funding is the problem is not sufficient to explain why minority/disadvantaged students lag behind.  And, with supplementary funding sources such as Title I, many impoverished schools are actually able to receive more assistance funding than more "well-to-do" peer schools. So, if it's not about funding, then what? (more…)

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