Monthly Archives: July 2018

Students Surviving

For students who identify as LGBTQ or are gender non-conforming, school can be a difficult, even dangerous, place. Especially in the wake of shifts in federal guidance on transgender students, educators can make a difference by openly supporting these students.

WHEN SCHOOL ISN’T SAFE

LGBTQ students can feel “isolated and alone and rejected” when peers and teachers don’t accept them, says Tracie Jones, who runs student diversity and inclusion programs at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Children as young as kindergarten can be bullied for not fitting in with typical gender expectations. Transgender students are especially vulnerable, facing more hostility in school than peers who identify as gay or bisexual. According to a 2015 survey [PDF] by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 77 percent of transgender youth were mistreated at school (ranging from verbal harassment to prohibitions on dressing according to gender identity to physical or sexual assault); according to the Human Rights Campaign, transgender youth are twice as likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol[PDF] as straight, cisgender peers.

All of this affects learning. LGBTQ students who are harassed or excluded have lower GPAs than straight peers and are half as likely to pursue post-secondary education. “If you’re constantly in that space of fear, there’s no chance of being able to reach the content and the learning that’s going on in your classroom,” says Tina Owen-Moore, who founded the Alliance School in Milwaukee with the explicit mission of providing an environment that would support LGBTQ students.

Even coming to school can be difficult. When Owen-Moore started the Alliance School in 2005, attendance rates were at 61 percent. Many students who enrolled simply were not in the habit of coming to school because they didn’t perceive it “as a safe or welcoming place,” she says.

Vocal support from teachers and administrators can make a world of difference. Now the Alliance School has an attendance rate of 91 percent, and students are applying to college and focusing on their careers, rather than just trying to “get through” high school. “It’s so important to build a place where young people can thrive instead of just survive,” says Owen-Moore, now pursuing a doctorate at Harvard.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

  • A deeper dive into the discrimination and harassment that LGBTQ students face, from GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey
  • A comprehensive report of LGBTQ youth’s experiences and how adults can best support them, from the Human Rights Campaign
  • Resources, strategies, and background information on gender and the importance of supporting transgender students, from Welcoming Schools
  • A toolkit on allying with nonbinary youth and a fact sheet on being transgender, from Teaching ToleranceWe Want to Hear from You

Our country is polarized: How is that showing up in your school? What are you doing to protect students, confront discrimination, prevent bullying, and foster inclusion? Usable Knowledge would like to hear from you. Join us on Facebook and Twitter, using #OneAllHGSE. Send your advice and resources to uknow@gse.harvard.edu, and we’ll share as much as we can

Schools Respond to Threats

First of all, a superintendent isn’t making a decision like this on his or her own, especially in large cities, where the school system is embedded in many other systems that are servicing kids and families. You make decisions about closing schools, in normal circumstances, with city hall, with the police and transportation department — as part of a team that is thinking about how the city functions. You’re changing the entire flow of what’s happening in a city on a given day.  A terrorist threat is not a normal circumstance, which makes it more imperative that you work as part of a team that is thinking about the entire city.

But the decision should be part of the same protocol that helps shape more ordinary decisions around closing schools. In every year, in every school system, you’re going to have to make a set of calls around closing or opening schools where you could be right or you could be wrong. Most of the time you’re going to have 50 percent of the people happy and the other 50 percent of the people unhappy. Whether it’s snow, water main breaks, Halloween pranks — no matter what you do, you’re going to have a sector of the community that thinks that you acted in the wrong way, because it impacted their lives in a negative sense. Here, the stakes are incredibly higher. If the protocols are off, then you compound what is already fraught and extraordinary.

What factors do you weigh when you make these decisions?

The safety of children always comes first. But because there are no guarantees, you are also weighing families and home care, you’re weighing children who are eligible for free and reduced meals and their access to food, you’re weighing issues with teachers and their travel and their ability to get to school and deal with their own family responsibilities in an emergency.

So there are going to be dilemmas. Normally, you have a bias toward keeping schools open and keeping kids in schools. That should be the default. Kids generally are safest at school. On the other hand, there are going to be some circumstances where that’s not true.

In every circumstance, you are going to go with your judgment — that it’s a hoax or it’s a prank or you’re only going to get three inches of snow instead of 12. Sometimes you’re going to be wrong. But I would always rather be wrong in a way that protects the safety of the children. The challenge, of course, is that you have a lot of parents and a lot of children who are counting on schools being open.

The type of decision facing Los Angeles and New York and other districts in recent days seems unique and new because of the threat of political, mass violence — and because it’s happening in a climate that is highly sensitized to that threat of violence. That makes it even more imperative that you’re making decisions in the context of a team of people who are making the best judgment at a specific point in time, with a specific set of facts, bringing expertise that you and your staff might not have.

Some have criticized the LA schools for the decision to close. What’s your perspective?

Without having specific information or being part of those decisions, I think it’s irresponsible to criticize someone for choosing to close schools. Of course, you need to have the real-world understanding that you’re always going to be making these decisions, and you can’t close schools every day of the year because people are saying terrible things are going to happen. You would be surprised how often districts have to make judgments about safety, even if not to this degree of risk.

As a superintendent, you have to know that this is the kind of call where you’ll have a lot of backseat driving. People are always going to be responding to what you do after the fact. Hopefully, as in this case in Los Angeles, they are going to be responding when nothing has happened.

You’d rather take the hit and say, as I think Ramon Cortines did in Los Angeles, “I made the call to the best of my abilities, and as always, I’m accountable.” And if you’ve done your job in advance with the community and your partners, you’re going to have plenty of people who are going to be there with you saying, “The superintendent made the right decision.”

the Good Student

The world needs young adults who are ethically aware, connected to their communities, and ready to dig into the problems threatening the common good. But today’s college admissions process, which can consume teenagers and dictate what they do and value, instead encourages a competitive focus on personal successes and accolades. Colleges admissions do endorse community service, but too often, service commitments become sidelined, trumped up, or perfunctory.

A growing consortium of key stakeholders wants to change that dynamic, joining an effort to reform the college admissions process so it prioritizes concern for others and authentic community engagement. Those goals are part of a new approach to admissions outlined in Turning the Tide, a report from the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common (MCC) initiative that has now been endorsed by more than 140 colleges and universities, high schools and districts, and allied organizations and scholars.

To actually change the annual rituals of college admissions is a daunting challenge, since many of us have grown accustomed to the idea that the path to the perfect school means focusing intently on personal metrics. But the report offers a roadmap of practical steps that school counselors and college admissions officers can take to reframe the process. The advice centers on one key idea: The importance of intentional messaging that colleges will place a high value on authentic community engagement and contributions to others.

FOR HIGH SCHOOL COUNSELORS

For high school counselors, already the primary coaches in the college search process, a report that elevates the value of personal commitments and authentic connection can help lead students in the right direction.

“It’s a great tool to have as a counselor, because I can point to it and say this Turning the Tide report suggests that colleges want to see that you’re engaging in authentic service,” explains Sarah Style, a guidance counselor at Newton South High School in Massachusetts. “It gives us an opportunity to say, this is what authentic service means, and this is what it doesn’t mean.”

FOR COLLEGE ADMISSIONS OFFICERS

Changing college admissions is a two-way street. Beyond the work that high schools do, colleges will have to indicate to applicants the value their institution places on community service and ethical development — and what exactly service means to them.

To do that, college admissions officers can:

  • Include explicit opportunities on applications for teenagers to write about community service engagements or significant family responsibilities. Some students won’t explain a service commitment if they aren’t given the space to do so. Applications should also give examples of what students can include in this section. Students may not understand that caring for younger siblings or working on an anti-bullying campaign counts as authentic service.
  • Look critically at how service has impacted students. Admissions officers should use these written responses to assess how service has helped students become more cognizant of their strengths and weaknesses, deepen their understanding of communities different from their own,
  • Ask recommenders to consider how students work with diverse groups.Along with asking teachers and coaches about students’ intellectual engagement, growth, and leadership,
  • Consider the messages imparted through admissions materials. At the University of Washington, for example, the school’s key value is contribution to the common good, says Phillip Ballinger, the associate vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions. “And if that’s not being perceived by families and parents, then we need to make some efforts to change that,” he says.

GETTING STARTED

the University of Washington, admissions readers have a “holistic review process” that looks at what kinds of opportunities students have had in their high school, and how they have taken advantage of those opportunities. Essay questions examine students’ day-to-day responsibilities and commitments. “If they’re already contributing to their community before college,” says Ballinger, “that’s something they’re going to want to continue doing.”

Admissions readers at the University of Rochester are looking for students with a “developmental arc,” says Jonathan Burdick, the dean of college admission and vice-provost for enrollment initiatives. And while grades are important, “we are less interested in that than we are at all the other things they still have left to do in college,” Burdick says. “We care a lot about assembling a diverse freshman class with many different perspectives, and that doesn’t always align hand in hand with higher academic achievement.”

A recent essay question at Rochester has allowed students to more directly demonstrate this path of growth. The application asked students to respond to a quotation from Frederick Douglass, who lived in Rochester, that reads, “Man’s greatness consists in his ability to do and the proper application of his power to get things done.”

Through this question, says Burdick, “The university is trying to enroll and foster independent thinkers who are positive change agents in their communities, and we want to know how they approach that ideal and do that in their own community.”

America University Rankings 2017

In calculating the top universities in Latin America, the Times Higher Education Latin America University Rankings 2017 use the same 13 performance indicators as the THE World University Rankings, but they are recalibrated to reflect the qualities of Latin America’s institutions.

The universities are judged across all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook – to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons available.


The institution knocks previous champion and neighbour, the University of São Paulo, down to second place in the THE Latin America University Rankings 2017, thanks to a strong performance in terms of its research influence (citations) and industry income.

However, while Brazil dominates the ranking, claiming two-fifths of places – or 32 out of 81 – only 18 of these make the top 50, down from 23 last year. Overall, 20 Brazilian universities have dropped places.

Marcelo Knobel, rector of the State University of Campinas, said that the rankings results reflected long-term improvements that the institution has made to its research strategy and knowledge transfer efforts over the past 15 years.

He said that the university has a “very selective process in hiring new faculty” and works in close collaboration with businesses on research.

However, he said that the university is struggling financially because of Brazil’s economic crisis.

“Our budget is close to what it was in 2008, but the problem is that the university grew by about 30 per cent in that same period,” he said.

“We have to restrict our investment in new buildings. It will affect the research and the functioning of the university.”

The institution knocks previous champion and neighbour, the University of São Paulo, down to second place in the THE Latin America University Rankings 2017, thanks to a strong performance in terms of its research influence (citations) and industry income.

However, while Brazil dominates the ranking, claiming two-fifths of places – or 32 out of 81 – only 18 of these make the top 50, down from 23 last year. Overall, 20 Brazilian universities have dropped places.

Marcelo Knobel, rector of the State University of Campinas, said that the rankings results reflected long-term improvements that the institution has made to its research strategy and knowledge transfer efforts over the past 15 years.

He said that the university has a “very selective process in hiring new faculty” and works in close collaboration with businesses on research.

However, he said that the university is struggling financially because of Brazil’s economic crisis.

“Our budget is close to what it was in 2008, but the problem is that the university grew by about 30 per cent in that same period,” he said.

“We have to restrict our investment in new buildings. It will affect the research and the functioning of the university.”

School for the super-rich opens in London’s

School assemblies will be held in a state-room hung with original 1761 green silk wallpaper. History will be taught in neoclassical rooms designed by Robert Adam, and chemistry experiments will be carried out in basement laboratories being converted from what are amusingly described as “Mrs Patmore’s kitchens”.

This is Eaton Square upper school, the first new co-ed private school in central London for decades, which is preparing to open its doors to the children of the super-rich bankers, aristocrats and oligarchs of Mayfair and Chelsea.

On 6 September, the headteacher, Sebastian Hepher, will welcome 96 12- to 14-years-olds through the doors of 106 Piccadilly – a Grade I-listed townhouse, once home to Lord Coventry and for more than a century the location of the St James’s Club. The co-ed school roll will eventually number 450 and the building is currently undergoing a £5.2m conversion – backed by private equity funding – into what might be the most fancily located school in the world.

“Are our parents super-rich?” It is a description that Hepherchooses not to use. He prefers to just say they are “certainly wealthy enough to pay the school fees … which are high.”

The historic building – on some of London’s most valuable land – is restricted by the council for use for social or community benefit. It was previously the London outpost of a Malaysian university. It was once the home of the French ambassador and for 110 years it was the St James’s gentlemen’s club, where Ian Fleming and Evelyn Waugh were members.

Hepher said “a lot” of his pupils live on Eaton Square, the most expensive residential street in the country where the average home is worth £16.9m according to Lloyds Banking Group, and a pleasant 15-minute walk around Buckingham Palace Gardens from the school’s front door.

Other pupils live “in Chelsea, on the Kings Road”, he said. “South Ken today is a hugely international population so the schools are populated by those families, which makes it the richest melting pot.”

Hepher meant rich in diversity, but the parents are also probably among the richest financially. Hepher said stumping up the school fees of nearly £22,500 a year would not be a problem. The fees are actually slightly cheaper than at Westminster School which costs £26,000 a year and St Paul’s, in leafy south-west London, at £24,000.

Eaton Square upper school said demand for places has been much stronger than expected and the school will open with three classes of Year 7s, two Year 8s and one Year 9 class. Hepher had originally planned on two Years 7s, and one class in each of Years 8 and 9.

New York Schools

The New York School was an informal group of American poets, painters, dancers, and musicians active in the 1950s and 1960s in New York City. They often drew inspiration from surrealism and the contemporary avant-garde art movements, in particular action painting, abstract expressionism, jazz, improvisational theater, experimental music, and the interaction of friends in the New York City art world’s vanguard circle.

Concerning the New York School poets, critics argued that their work was a reaction to the Confessionalist movement in Contemporary Poetry. Their poetic subject matter was often light, violent, or observational, while their writing style was often described as cosmopolitan and world-traveled.The poets often wrote in an immediate and spontaneous manner reminiscent of stream of consciousness writing, often using vivid imagery. They drew on inspiration from Surrealismand the contemporary avant-garde art movements, in particular the action painting of their friends in the New York City art world circle such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning.

The New York School which represented the New York abstract expressionists of the 1950s was documented through a series of artists’ committee invitational exhibitionscommencing with the 9th Street Art Exhibition in 1951 and followed by consecutive exhibitions at the Stable Gallery, NYC: Second Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, 1953;[2] Third Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, 1954;[3] Fourth Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, 1955;[4] Fifth Annual Exhibitions of Painting and Sculpture, 1956[5] and Sixth New York Artists’ Annual Exhibition, 1957.[6] Included in the New York School were Bradley Walker Tomlin (1899–1953), Rosemarie Beck (1923–2003) and Philip Guston (1913–1980)

Martin Guichardo’s first shot at high school did not go well. While attending Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn, which has over 3,500 students, he would skip class to hang out with his friends, and he rapidly fell behind.

By the fall of what should have been his senior year, in 2006, he had only nine of the 44 credits he would need to graduate. A counselor told him that if he stayed at F.D.R., it might take him several more years to finish.

But she suggested another option: a small school that had recently opened called West Brooklyn Community High School, dedicated to helping students who had gotten off-track get their diplomas. In its more intimate setting, with a lot of one-on-one attention from teachers and counselors, Mr. Guichardo buckled down and was able to graduate in 2008.

“Without West Brooklyn, I think I would have probably ended up dropping out or going for a G.E.D.,” said Mr. Guichardo, 27, who is now a commercial pilot. “I’m really, really glad I had that opportunity.”

West Brooklyn Community High School is what is known in New York City as a transfer school. The city’s Education Department now runs 51 such schools, serving 13,000 students.

The schools are small, and many of them work with community-based organizations to offer counseling, college and career advising, and internships. They have a significantly better track record than other high schools in graduating students who are two or more years behind. But because students often enter transfer schools with few credits, it can take them six, seven or even eight years in total to graduate.

Now advocates and city education officials fear the schools may be in danger. On Monday, the State Education Department is expected to present the Board of Regents with regulations to conform with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the successor to No Child Left Behind. Under the expected regulations, the vast majority of the city’s transfer schools would be designated as “in need of improvement” and could be at risk of being closed.

Under the regulations, schools that fall short of a six-year graduation rate of 67 percent would be put on a list to receive “comprehensive support and improvement.” Only four of the city’s 51 transfer schools currently meet, or are on track to meet, that benchmark.

If a school could not get off the list within three years, it could be moved into the state’s receivership program, which could eventually lead it to close.