Chicago’s Ninth-Grade Focus Triggers Climb in High School Graduation Rates

From The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research
April 24, 2014unnamed
Efforts to improve the academic performance of ninth-graders drove large improvements in graduation rates three years later in a diverse set of 20 Chicago public high schools, according to a report released Thursday by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (UChicago CCSR). This suggests that the recent dramatic improvement in the percentage of Chicago ninth-graders who are “on track” to graduate should continue to propel system-wide graduation rates in Chicago Public Schools (CPS).
A second report released today by UChicago CCSR helps explain why ninth grade is such a key leverage point for reducing dropouts.
In 2007, CPS launched a major effort, centered on keeping more ninth-graders on track to graduation. Freshmen are considered on track if they have enough credits to be promoted to tenth grade and have earned no more than one semester F in a core course. The effort was a response to research from UChicago CCSR showing that students who end their ninth-grade year on track are almost four times more likely to graduate from high school than those who are off track.
The district initiative promoted the use of data to monitor students’ level of dropout risk throughout the ninth-grade year, allowing teachers to intervene before students fell too far behind. The diversity of strategies was notable—from calls home when students missed a class to algebra tutoring to homework help. The goal was to match the intervention to the specific needs of the student and prevent the dramatic decline in grades and attendance that most CPS students experience when they transition to high school.  Since that time, the CPS on-track rate has risen 25 percentage points, from 57 to 82 percent.
The first report, Preventable Failure: Improvements in Long-Term Outcomes when High Schools Focused on the Ninth Grade Year, shows that improvements in ninth grade on-track rates were sustained in tenth and eleventh grade and followed by a large increase in graduation rates. This analysis was done on 20 “early mover schools” that showed large gains in on-track rates as early as the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years, allowing for enough time to have elapsed to analyze how the increase in on-track rates affected graduation rates.
“On its face this did not seem like an initiative that would produce a system shift in performance, redefine approaches to school dropout, and call into question the conventional wisdom that urban neighborhood high schools could not make radical improvements.  And yet, CPS’s focus on on-track achieved all of this,” said report author Melissa Roderick, Hermon Dunlap Smith Professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago and a senior director at UChicago CCSR.
Other Key findings from Preventable Failure
Between 2007-08 and 2012-13, system-wide improvements in ninth-grade on-track rates were dramatic, sustained, and observed across a wide range of high schools and among critical subgroups—by race, by gender, and across achievement levels.  Although all students appeared to gain, the benefits of getting on track were greatest for students with the lowest incoming skills. Students with eighth-grade Explore scores less than 12—the bottom quartile of CPS students—had a 24.5 percentage point increase in their on-track rates.  On-track rates improved more among African American males than among any other racial/ethnic gender subgroup, rising from 43 percent in 2005 to 71 percent in 2013.
Improvements in on-track were accompanied by across-the-board improvements in grades. Grades improved at all ends of the achievement spectrum, with large increases both in the percentage of students getting Bs and the percentage of students receiving no Fs. Thus, evidence suggests that on-track improvement was driven by real improvement in achievement, not just a result of teachers giving students grades of “D” instead of “F.”
Increasing ninth-grade on-track rates did not negatively affect high schools’ average ACT scores—despite the fact that many more students with weaker incoming skills made it to junior year to take the test. ACT scores remained very close to what they were before on-track rates improved, which means that the average growth from Explore to ACT remained the same or increased, even though more students—including many students with weaker incoming skills—were taking the ACT.
Key Findings on how to support students during the ninth-grade year from Free to Fail or On-Track to College
Free to Fail or On-Track to College, the second report released by UChicago CCSR, details the dramatic drop in grades, attendance, and academic behavior that occurs between eighth and ninth grade and demonstrates how intense monitoring and support can help schools keep more ninth-graders on track to graduation.
Both high- and low-achieving students struggle when they enter high school.
Between eighth and ninth grade, average grades drop by more than half a letter grade (0.6 points on a 4-point scale). This decline happens across all performance levels. Even among students with very high GPAs in eighth grade, only about one-third maintain a high GPA in ninth grade.
Grades decline because students’ attendance and study habits plummet across the transition to high school—not because the work is harder.
Students miss almost three times as many days of school in ninth grade as in eighth grade, and this increase is primarily driven by a significant increase in unexcused absences. Freshmen also report putting in less effort than they had in seventh and eighth grade. Furthermore, students do not perceive ninth-grade classes as more difficult than their eighth-grade classes.
Adult monitoring and support can prevent the declines that typically happen across the transition from high school.
Interviews with students revealed a significant shift in adult supervision between eighth and ninth grade, which makes it easier for students to skip class and stop doing work. But school and teacher practices can make a difference in the course grades ninth-graders receive, even among students with similar prior performance.
“Taken together, these two studies show that ninth grade is a pivotal year that provides a unique intervention point for reducing high school dropout,” said Elaine Allensworth, Lewis-Sebring Director of UChicago CCSR. “Schools truly can prevent course failure and high school dropout, particularly if they provide students with the rights supports at the right time.”
Both the Preventable Failure and the Free to Fail reports can be found on the UChicago CCSR website.
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Keeping ninth-graders ‘on track’ raises graduation rate: University of Chicago study

BY LAUREN FITZPATRICK, Education Reporter
April 23, 2014 10:02PM

Less than half of students at Benito Juarez Community Academy High School graduated in 2008 when Juan Carlos Ocon took over as principal, but by 2013, he said, the rate rose to about 69 percent.

The secret of Juarez’s success — and the success of 19 other neighborhood high schools in Chicago in getting more students to graduation day — started with the school’s ninth-graders and keeping them “on track,” according to new research to be released Thursday by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School research.

Shepherding ninth-graders through their first year of high school — focusing on helping them to show up to class and complete their work so they pass their courses — leads to jumps in graduation rates, even at high schools once thought of as “dropout factories,” according to the study.

“Attention to those very small things has a big payoff,” said Elaine Allensworth, who directs the Consortium, adding that schools need to intervene as soon as freshmen show a dip in attendance or decline in effort.

The interventions that have worked so far are less expensive and dramatic than a schoolwide turnaround or conversion to a charter school, she said. The gains spanned gender and race but were highest for African-American males.

And outside factors beyond a school’s control — gangs, family, academic weakness of incoming freshmen — affect graduation in a common way by preventing students from showing up and doing their work, she said.

“Schools don’t have to change everything in kids lives — what they have to do is make sure all those other factors don’t interfere with kids coming to class and getting their work done,” Allensworth said.

The authors tracked efforts across 20 Chicago Public Schools that boosted “on-track” rates for ninth-graders over three years by poring over real-time data on a regular basis and then looked at who graduated. According to their findings, those “on track” increases — to 82 percent in 2013 from 57 percent in 2007 — translated into big jumps in graduation rates, up to 20 percentage points.

“On track” means a student has enough credits at the end of the year to go on to the next grade and has earned no more than one semester F in a core class.

The 20 schools adopted a variety of practices, including block scheduling to minimize the effects of tardiness; hiring an “on-track coordinator” to reach out with solutions when students started to fall off; and running a summer program for incoming freshmen.

How the schools specifically chose to keep tabs on their ninth-graders mattered less than how well they kept them on track, said Thomas Kelley-Kemple, a Consortium author.

Juarez, with 96 percent low-income students, leaned on its lead teachers and changed its curriculum to one that focuses on standards instead of specific content.

“It automatically made what was being taught in the classroom more relevant to the students,” Ocon said. That pushed attendance up, too, he said.

“What’s in the classroom now is much more relevant and that’s bringing them back every day,” he said. “Because the curriculum has shifted, it’s not what teachers are interested in, it’s what students need.”

Juarez also opened a “benchmark achievement center” in the library, where students can bolster skills after school, Ocon said.

Juarez still has work to do, with ACT scores barely above a 16 average — below the CPS average of 17.6 and far below 21, considered to be “college ready.” The school also is in its last year of a $6 million state improvement grant that Ocon said bolstered its efforts.

Roxbury Principal Fires Security Guards, Hires Art Teachers

By Susie Madrak

May 2, 2013
ROXBURY, Mass. —

The community of Roxbury had high hopes for its newest public school back in 2003. There were art studios, a dance room, even a theater equipped with cushy seating.

A pilot school for grades K-8, Orchard Gardens was built on grand expectations.

But the dream of a school founded in the arts, a school that would give back to the community as it bettered its children, never materialized.

Instead, the dance studio was used for storage and the orchestra’s instruments were locked up and barely touched.

The school was plagued by violence and disorder from the start, and by 2010 it was rank in the bottom five of all public schools in the state of Massachusetts.

That was when Andrew Bott — the sixth principal in seven years — showed up, and everything started to change.

“We got rid of the security guards,” said Bott, who reinvested all the money used for security infrastructure into the arts.

In a school notorious for its lack of discipline, where backpacks were prohibited for fear the students would use them to carry weapons, Bott’s bold decision to replace the security guards with art teachers was met with skepticism by those who also questioned why he would choose to lead the troubled school.

“A lot of my colleagues really questioned the decision,” he said. “A lot of people actually would say to me, ‘You realize that Orchard Gardens is a career killer? You know, you don’t want to go to Orchard Gardens.’”

But now, three years later, the school is almost unrecognizable. Brightly colored paintings, essays of achievement, and motivational posters line the halls. The dance studio has been resurrected, along with the band room, and an artists’ studio.

The end result? Orchard Gardens has one of the fastest student improvement rates statewide. And the students — once described as loud and unruly, have found their focus.

“We have our occasional, typical adolescent … problems,” Bott said. “But nothing that is out of the normal for any school.”

The school is far from perfect. Test scores are better, but still below average in many areas. Bott says they’re “far from done, but definitely on the right path.”

The students, he says, are evidence of that.

[Chicago] CPS: Expulsion rate higher at charter schools

By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah and Alex Richards,
Chicago Tribune reporters
7:23 a.m. CST, February 26, 2014

As it continues to modify strict disciplinary policies in an effort to keep students in the classroom, Chicago Public Schools on Tuesday released data showing privately run charter schools expel students at a vastly higher rate than the rest of the district.

The data reveal that during the last school year, 307 students were kicked out of charter schools, which have a total enrollment of about 50,000. In district-run schools, there were 182 kids expelled out of a student body of more than 353,000.

That means charters expelled 61 of every 10,000 students while the district-run schools expelled just 5 of every 10,000 students.

It’s the first time the district has released student suspension data for every school and also the first time it has released data on expulsions for charters. For charter critics, the numbers will buttress long-standing complaints that the privately run operations push out troubled students, allowing their schools to record stronger academic performances.

CPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett acknowledged the figures will become additional fuel in the ongoing debate over charters in the city.

“I think there’s been a lot of supposition and conversation about what and how the charter success is measured, whether they throw kids out or they keep kids in,” Byrd-Bennett said. “I think having the data is going to now lead to productive conversations.”

Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, noted that the data show several charter schools do not have high expulsion rates, and discounted the argument that charters use discipline to improve their academic record.

“There’s some above and some below the district average,” Broy said. “You can’t make the argument that expulsions themselves are causing the overall school performance to increase because the (small percentage of) expelled students will not meaningfully change how well students did overall.”

Still, expulsion rates at some of the most touted charter schools were striking. At three campuses in the Noble Network of Charter Schools, which has faced backlash over its disciplinary approach, anywhere from 2 percent to nearly 5 percent of students were expelled in the last school year.

At Urban Prep Academies, which annually boasts a nearly perfect college acceptance rate, more than 3 percent of the student body was expelled during the last school year at three campuses. At district-run schools, just over 0.05 percent of the student body was expelled last year.

So far this year, charter schools already have expelled 151 students, nearly three times the number at district-run schools.

The data released Tuesday also showed that African-American students face a higher rate of disciplinary action in the district. Last school year, approximately 75 percent of all suspensions were handed to African-Americans, a group that makes up about 41 percent of CPS’ student body. (Suspended students are allowed to return to school, as opposed to students who are expelled.)

“Until we called out the numbers, until we had deep conversations with people in schools about the racial disparity, I don’t think people understood it as such,” Byrd-Bennett said of the high rate of suspensions for black students. “There’s something going on here, and we need to address it.”

Byrd-Bennett on Tuesday said she inherited “a really punitive zero-tolerance code of conduct” and that the district will continue to seek to reduce the number of students who are suspended and expelled.

“This is a major goal this year that will not drop off the screen,” Byrd-Bennett said.

Broy said charters will work with CPS to bring down expulsion rates in the privately run schools, and he in turn hopes to share some behavioral programs that have been successful at charter schools with the district.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. attorney general’s office released national guidelines on student discipline codes, acknowledging many urban school districts’ zero-tolerance policies have created school-to-prison pipelines.

“There’s documented research out there that shows these policies increased the chance of students going to prison, worsened the school climate, predicted a high rate of misbehavior in the future and increased dropout rates,” said Jason Sinocruz, an attorney with the Washington-based Advancement Project, a civil rights organization that has focused on disparities in school discipline.

“With Chicago, it’s always been a challenge getting data, and in the past the data that was available showed Chicago is among the worst in terms of its discipline code and certainly among the worst for large cities,” Sinocruz said.

In 2012, CPS revised its discipline policy, eliminating out-of-school suspensions for all but the most serious infractions. The district also did away with mandatory 10-day suspensions.

Officials plan to further cut the types of infractions that can lead to suspensions along with reducing the subjectivity in the discipline code and better defining vague terms such as “defying authority.” They also hope to expand restorative justice programs, which despite CPS efforts only exist in about 60 schools.

Sinocruz said some of Chicago’s charter schools are known nationally for having rigorous discipline policies, but until now there were no data to back up the qualitative accounts.

Mariame Kaba, the founding director of Project NIA, a local group that focuses on reducing youth incarceration, that worked with a coalition of community and student groups to change the district’s discipline code, praised CPS for “being transparent around school discipline data.”

“CPS has taken a big step,” she said.

But Kaba agreed that more needs to be done and that the district needs to push for charter schools to follow district student codes.

“There’s tons of informal ways students are being expelled; either they’re being counseled out or it’s strongly suggested they leave without putting them through a formal process,” Kaba said. “The same thing is happening in traditional schools, but not to the same degree as in charters.”

nahmed@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

Chicago: As school closings vote nears, questions remain on money, academics, safety

By: Sarah Karp / May 20, 2013

A rally in Daley Plaza protests against school closings. Picture by Lucio Villa.

When Margarita Miranda moved to Old Town in 2000, the area looked much different. The Cabrini Green public housing projects cast a long shadow, and neighborhood elementary schools were located on every few blocks.

Today, the high-rise public housing has been wiped away, leaving the area with a smattering of row houses, townhouses and some stretches of still-empty lots.

Over the past decade, three of the schools that served the area’s children have been closed and reopened—one as a charter school, one as a selective enrollment school and the third as a lease by a private Catholic school that costs about $8,000 a year.

Miranda and other parents are now fighting furiously to save one of two neighborhood schools left. A parent volunteer who calls all the students at Manierre Elementary “her children,” she is emphatic that she won’t give up. The School Board is scheduled to vote on the closings on Wednesday.

“My son is upset,” she says. Miranda’s son has a disability that includes learning and speech difficulties and she’s afraid that he will simply “shut down” if he has to transfer to a new school.

But there’s something more that is eating at her. Even though Manierre is surrounded by high-performing schools, the school that her children are now supposed to attend is a Level 3 school with almost identical test scores.

Like Manierre, the receiving school, Jenner, has mostly black, low-income students. The other area schools are more diverse with far fewer poor children.

“I don’t want my children to go from a Level 3 school to a Level 3 school,” Miranda says. “I don’t want that for my children. They are good kids. They don’t bother nobody. They respect their elders.”

In some ways, Manierre is unique compared to the vast majority of schools slated to close on the South Side and West Side. Manierre is on the Near North Side, nestled next to some of the wealthiest areas in the city.

But in other ways, it is not different. Two months ago, CPS leaders announced their intention to close 54 schools, co-locate 11 and hand over six to the Academy of Urban School Leadership to be turned around. The end result of the school actions is that traditional, district-run neighborhood schools will become scarcer. Schools to which students have to apply and those run by private organizations will continue to take over, casting an ever-bigger shadow over the district.

The mayor and CPS officials have cast the move much differently, repeatedly saying that closings and consolidations will allow the district to redirect resources to fewer schools. And with the district facing a $1 billion budget shortfall, officials say closings will save $43 million a year in operating costs (starting in two years) and another $437 million in capital costs over the next decade.

“What we must do is to ensure that the resources some kids get, all kids get,” said Byrd-Bennett in a videotaped message on the CPS website. “With our consolidations, children are guaranteed to get what they need.”

Yet many of the district’s claims have drawn intense scrutiny and raised questions that undercut the rationale for closings as either a cost-savings or school improvement strategy.

Going to “better” schools

The first claim to face scrutiny is that students at closing schools will end up in higher- performing ones. According to state law, Byrd-Bennett has the authority to define “higher-performing,” and she determined that even when a school has the same performance rating, it can be considered higher- performing if it does better on a majority of the metrics, such as attendance and test scores.

Yet researchers note an important point: A move to a school that is only slightly better, at most, likely won’t mean much to students. The University of Chicago Consortium on School Research found that, in previous rounds of closings, displaced students only reaped an academic benefit if they were sent to markedly better schools, defined as those in the top quartile.

In this case, just six receiving schools out of 55 are in the top quartile of all CPS schools. And in only three cases—3 out of 53 closings—are kids being sent from a school in the lowest quartile to a school in the highest, according to an analysis by WBEZ. Two-thirds of the closing schools are among the lowest rated in CPS, but in 18 cases students will be sent to schools that are equally low-rated.

Even among the 12 receiving schools that have the highest CPS rating, there is a broad range in terms of performance. Chopin, on the Near North Side, has nearly 96 percent of students meeting standards on the ISAT and nearly 70 percent exceeding standards, while Faraday, on the West Side, has 73 percent meeting standards and about 13 percent exceeding them. Research has shown that students need to exceed standards to perform well in high school.

Furthermore, no one knows exactly how many students will end up at the designated “receiving school”—the one that by some measure is higher performing. Last year, less than half of students went to the designated receiving school with many parents choosing closer or more convenient schools that performed no better than the school they left, shows a Catalyst analysis.

CPS officials counter that the money invested into the receiving schools will improve technology and other resources. The schools will be air-conditioned, with iPads, playgrounds and libraries. The district is also designating 19 schools as specialty schools, with International Baccalaureate, STEM and fine arts programs. This year, the new specialty schools will receive $250,000 to $360,000 in extra money to pay for positions and training.

While leaders may have meant for this to sweeten the deal, parents and activists have been incredulous that their schools must close in order to get resources that are common place in other schools.

Parents also aren’t convinced that the new turnaround schools will be better for their children. CPS plans to hand over six schools to the Academy for Urban School Leadership for turnaround, which entails firing all or most of the staff, including the principal and the lunch ladies. For each turnaround, AUSL gets $300,000 in upfront costs, plus $420 per student for each student for at least five years.

Contracts with AUSL are for five years, but for several turnarounds they have been extended.

In her letter to parents, Byrd-Bennett said that turnaround schools have improved twice as fast as the CPS district-average.

“We want to provide your child with access to the same opportunities to boost their chance of academic success, which they will receive next school year if this proposal is approved,” she wrote.

Yet parents point out that many of the schools run by AUSL are not high-performers. Only one turnaround school, Morton, is a Level 1 school. And one of the closing schools, Bethune, is a turnaround.

Mathew Johnson, a parent at Dewey Elementary, says 98 percent of parents signed a petition saying they did not want their school given to AUSL. He says the school’s new administration seems to be on the right track and is doing a turnaround of its own.

“We are not afraid to hold the administration accountable,” says Johnson, who serves on the local school council.

Costs and savings

Because so many of the so-called “welcoming,” turnaround and co-locating schools lack resources, CPS officials will spend big money to get them up to par. In April, the Board of Education approved a supplemental capital budget that the district plans to finance with a $329 million bond.

About $155 million of that will go toward improvements at the receiving schools and another $60 million will fix up schools that are slated to be turned around or co- located with another school.

For the next 30 years, CPS will have to pay $25 million in interest and principal on the bond. This expense was not factored into the $43 million that CPS officials say they will save by undertaking these school actions.

CPS leaders have repeatedly cited budget problems as a rationale for closings–yet one reason CPS is facing perpetual large deficits is its already-existing debt. In the upcoming fiscal year, the district’s payment on principal and interest is scheduled to rise by about $100 million to $475 million.

Capital cost savings are also not likely to be higher than estimated. CPS officials lowered their original capital savings estimate and say the district will save $437 million over the next decade by not having to repair or maintain the 50-some buildings they are shuttering.

But only six of the closing schools have had recent assessments to determine their capital needs.  In all of these cases, the updated assessments caused CPS to lower its savings estimate.

In order for the district to save real money from closing schools, it would have sell off shuttered schools and lay off a lot of teachers, said Emily Dowdall, a senior associate for the Philadelphia Research Institute, which is part of the Pew Charitable Trust.

CPS officials say they are going to work with city department heads to figure out what to do with vacant buildings, but there is no specific plan in place.

CPS has sought to steer the discussion away from teacher layoffs, though the closing schools have about 1,100 teachers.

“Many of these teachers will follow their students to welcoming schools per the joint CTU-CPS agreement included in last year’s teachers’ contract, which allows tenured teachers with Superior or Excellent ratings to follow students if their position is open at the welcoming school,” according to a CPS fact sheet.

But school closings will likely mean that class sizes will be bigger in the welcoming schools than in the closing ones, meaning that fewer teachers will be needed for the same number of students.  A quarter of class sizes at closing and welcoming schools have fewer than 20 students—way below recommended sizes of 28 for primary grades and 31 for intermediate grades.

Not including these affected schools, only 9 percent of schools have such small class sizes.

Changing demographics, changing landscape

CPS officials have stressed that the main reason schools need to close is that 145,000 fewer school-age children live in the city than in 2000. But, as many have pointed out, enrollment in CPS has declined by much less: In September of 2013, CPS had 32,000 fewer students than in September of 2000.

Neighborhood schools have been hit hard by the district’s opening of new “schools of choice,” whether magnet schools, charter schools or selective enrollment schools. A Catalyst Chicago analysis of CPS data found that in 14 predominantly black South Side and West Side communities that CPS defines as “underutilized,”an average of 54 percent of elementary students attend their neighborhood school. In other communities, two-thirds of elementary students attend their neighborhood school.

If all of the school actions are approved on Wednesday, the landscape of public education will continue to change–especially for students in particular neighborhoods,

Next fall, CPS will run about 84 percent of public elementary schools in Chicago, down from 86 percent this year. The rest will be run by private entities, most by charter operators or AUSL.

The shifting landscape will result in fewer neighborhood schools—schools where students are guaranteed a spot if they live within the attendance boundaries. In 2000, nearly 98 percent of elementary school students attended neighborhood schools.

Also next fall, the percentage of elementary schools with attendance boundaries will drop to 70 percent, down from 75 percent this year (should all closings be approved and with the planned opening of 10 more elementary charter schools).

CPS officials say this might be the wave of the future as they try to increase choices, without increasing the number of buildings in the district’s portfolio.

For parents like Miranda, the shift means one of two things:  taking their children further from home to get to the new neighborhood school, or filling out several applications to a ‘school of choice,’ then hoping and praying that they win a spot.

Like so many parents in the past few months, Miranda says going further away from home poses increased danger. Miranda is worried about a busy street that her children would have to cross to get to Jenner. Other parents in her school say that there’s an entrenched rivalry between Jenner and Manierre students, so much so that teams from the two schools aren’t even allowed to play each other in sports. They worry about fights and point to nasty posts on Facebook by Jenner students threatening those at Manierre.

Miranda says she doesn’t think this would be a problem at Newberry, LaSalle, Skinner North or Franklin—all of which are closer to Manierre than Jenner.

But these are all magnet or selective schools and assigning children to them is not the way CPS works these days.

The Attorney General’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Exposure to violence is a national crisis that affects approximately two out of every
three of our children. Of the 76 million children currently residing in the United States,
an estimated 46 million can expect to have their lives touched by violence, crime,
abuse, and psychological trauma this year. In 1979, U.S. Surgeon General Julius
B. Richmond declared violence a public health crisis of the highest priority, and yet
33 years later that crisis remains. Whether the violence occurs in children’s homes,
neighborhoods, schools, playgrounds or playing fields, locker rooms, places of
worship, shelters, streets, or in juvenile detention centers, the exposure of children
to violence is a uniquely traumatic experience that has the potential to profoundly
derail the child’s security, health, happiness, and ability to grow and learn — with
effects lasting well into adulthood.

Exposure to violence in any form harms children, and different forms of
violence have different negative impacts.

Sexual abuse places children at high risk for serious and chronic health problems,
including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, suicidality, eating disorders, sleep disorders, substance abuse, and deviant sexual behavior. Sexually
abused children often become hypervigilant about the possibility of future sexual
violation, experience feelings of betrayal by the adults who failed to care for and
protect them.

Physical abuse puts children at high risk for lifelong problems with medical illness,
PTSD, suicidality, eating disorders, substance abuse, and deviant sexual behavior.
Physically abused children are at heightened risk for cognitive and developmental
impairments, which can lead to violent behavior as a form of self-protection and control.
These children often feel powerless when faced with physical intimidation, threats, or
conflict and may compensate by becoming isolated (through truancy or hiding) or
aggressive (by bullying or joining gangs for protection). Physically abused children are
at risk for significant impairment in memory processing and problem solving and for
developing defensive behaviors that lead to consistent avoidance of intimacy.

Intimate partner violence within families puts children at high risk for severe and
potentially lifelong problems with physical health, mental health, and school and peer
relationships as well as for disruptive behavior. Witnessing or living with domestic or
intimate partner violence often burdens children with a sense of loss or profound guilt
and shame because of their mistaken assumption that they should have intervened
or prevented the violence or, tragically, that they caused the violence. They frequently
castigate themselves for having failed in what they assume to be their duty to protect
a parent or sibling(s) from being harmed, for not having taken the place of their
horribly injured or killed family member, or for having caused the offender to be
violent. Children exposed to intimate partner violence often experience a sense of
terror and dread that they will lose an essential caregiver through permanent injury
or death. They also fear losing their relationship with the offending parent, who may
be removed from the home, incarcerated, or even executed. Children will mistakenly
blame themselves for having caused the batterer to be violent. If no one identifies
these children and helps them heal and recover, they may bring this uncertainty, fear,
grief, anger, shame, and sense of betrayal into all of their important relationships for
the rest of their lives.

 
Community violence in neighborhoods can result in children witnessing assaults
and even killings of family members, peers, trusted adults, innocent bystanders, and
perpetrators of violence. Violence in the community can prevent children from feeling
safe in their own schools and neighborhoods. Violence and ensuing psychological
trauma can lead children to adopt an attitude of hypervigilance, to become experts at
detecting threat or perceived threat — never able to let down their guard in order to
be ready for the next outbreak of violence. They may come to believe that violence is
“normal,” that violence is “here to stay,” and that relationships are too fragile to trust
because one never knows when violence will take the life of a friend or loved one.
They may turn to gangs or criminal activities to prevent others from viewing them
as weak and to counteract feelings of despair and powerlessness, perpetuating the
cycle of violence and increasing their risk of incarceration. They are also at risk for
becoming victims of intimate partner violence in adolescence and in adulthood.

The picture becomes even more complex when children are “polyvictims” (exposed
to multiple types of violence). As many as 1 in 10 children in this country are
polyvictims, according to the Department of Justice and Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention’s groundbreaking National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence
(NatSCEV). The toxic combination of exposure to intimate partner violence, physical
abuse, sexual abuse, and/or exposure to community violence increases the risk and
severity of posttraumatic injuries and mental health disorders by at least twofold and
up to as much as tenfold. Polyvictimized children are at very high risk for losing the
fundamental capacities necessary for normal development, successful learning, and
a productive adulthood.

The financial costs of children’s exposure to violence are astronomical. The
financial burden on other public systems, including child welfare, social services,
law enforcement, juvenile justice, and, in particular, education, is staggering when
combined with the loss of productivity over children’s lifetimes.
It is time to ensure that our nation’s past inadequate response to children’s exposure
to violence does not negatively affect children’s lives any further. We must not allow
violence to deny any children their right to physical and mental health services or
to the pathways necessary for maturation into successful students, productive
workers, responsible family members, and parents and citizens.

We can stem this epidemic if we commit to a strong national response. The longterm negative outcomes of exposure to violence can be prevented, and children
exposed to violence can be helped to recover. Children exposed to violence can
heal if we identify them early and give them specialized services, evidence-based
treatment, and proper care and support. We have the power to end the damage to
children from violence and abuse in our country; it does not need to be inevitable.
We, as a country, have the creativity, knowledge, leadership, economic resources,
and talent to effectively intervene on behalf of children exposed to violence. We can
provide these children with the opportunity to recover and, with hard work, to claim
their birthright … life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We invest in the future of
our nation when we commit ourselves as citizens, service providers, and community
members to helping our children recover from exposure to violence and ending all
forms of violence in their lives.

To prepare this report, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder commissioned a task
force of diverse leaders dedicated to protecting children from exposure to violence
and to healing those who were exposed. The report calls for action by the federal
government, states, tribes, communities, and the private sector across the country
to marshal the best available knowledge and all of the resources needed to defend
all of our children against exposure to violence. The Attorney General’s task force
asks all readers of this report to imagine a safe country for our children’s creative,
healthy development and to join together in developing a national plan to foster that
reality.

The findings and recommendations of the task force are organized into six chapters.
The first chapter provides an overview of the problem and sets forth 10 foundational
recommendations. The next two chapters offer a series of recommendations to
ensure that we reliably identify, screen, and assess all children exposed to violence
and thereafter give them support, treatment, and other services designed to address
their needs. In the fourth and fifth chapters, the task force focuses on prevention and
emphasizes the importance of effectively integrating prevention, intervention, and
resilience across systems by nurturing children through warm, supportive, loving,
and nonviolent relationships in our homes and communities. In the sixth and final
chapter of this report, the task force calls for a new approach to juvenile justice, one
that acknowledges that the vast majority of the children involved in that system have
been exposed to violence, necessitating the prioritization of services that promote
their healing.

The challenge of children’s exposure to violence and ensuing psychological trauma
is not one that government alone can solve. The problem requires a truly national
response that draws on the strengths of all Americans. Our children’s futures are
at stake. Every child we are able to help recover from the impact of violence is
an investment in our nation’s future. Therefore, this report calls for a collective
investment nationwide in defending our children from exposure to violence and
psychological trauma, in healing families and communities, and in enabling all of
our children to imagine and claim their safe and creative development and their
productive futures. The time for action is now. Together, we must take this next step
and build a nation whose communities are dedicated to ending children’s exposure
to violence and psychological trauma. To that end, the task force offers the following recommendations.

For full text, use this link: http://www.justice.gov/defendingchildhood/cev-rpt-full.pdf

Are These Schools or Pre-Prison Detainment Camps

How many Chicago juvenile arrests happen at school?    African American students were arrested at a rate nearly four times that of whites or Latinos

By Linda Paul
From The Black Star Project, February 4, 2013

Arrests on CPS property by age:

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Source: Chicago Police Department. Final column indicates total juvenile arrests on CPS property.

Tens of thousands of young people get arrested each year in Chicago, and a lot of those arrests happen on the grounds of Chicago Public Schools. Of course, arrests at school happen all across the country.

The connection even has a name: some people say schools are a worrisome ‘pipeline’ to the criminal justice system for many young people. In fact, last December, Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin held the first ever congressional hearings on the topic. One big worry for people who work with kids is the lingering records kids can get from those arrests.

I’m visiting the home of Chicago Public School teacher Valerie Collins, and her son, daughter and I are crowded around a laptop on their dining room table. Valerie’s kids are both public school graduates. I’d heard about a YouTube video that showed a really nasty fight at Sullivan High School in Chicago, and asked them to watch it with me.

“It’s got a million hits!,” Collins is exclaiming. “A million five hits. A million six!” They’re listening to a television announcers account: “We have video of this and first of all the video is graphic. Okay, it’s literally two girls, 17 and 18 beating up a 14 year old. The 14 year old suffered a concussion.”

I’m here to talk to Collins about arrests at school. She’s a math teacher at Simeon Career Academy, and before that she taught at both Lakeview and Phillips. I wanted to know if fights like the one we’re watching are once-in-a-blue moon events.

Collins says serious fights like this happen at some, but not all, public schools maybe a couple times a year. Her daughter says it “sucks,” but while she was in school she became sort of desensitized to such fights, “I wanna say it starts out as a joke because usually the way these, like fights, start off is off of something so ridiculous, so that it gets around the school and then everyone’s just like, ‘Oh, you know, there’s gonna be a fight this period, you know. Let’s all go out and see.”

“It’s worse with cell phones now,” Collins adds, “because with cell phones they text people that there’s going to be a fight. That’s what they do. They text that there’s going to be a fight and then unless we find out about it, everybody knows except for the administration. That’s what happens.”

There were about 4,600 arrests on public school grounds in 2011. That’s about a fifth of the 25,000 arrests of kids 17 and under that year in Chicago.

But of those 4,600 arrests, only 14 percent were for the really serious stuff, the felonies, like robbery, burglary and fights with serious injuries — like that one on the YouTube video.

Most arrests at school are for the still troubling, but less serious stuff — the misdemeanors.

“So you’ve got some smart-mouthed 15-year-old girl, who the teacher says to her, you know, Miss Thang, sit down.”

Here’s Herschella Conyers, clinical professor of law at the University of Chicago.

“And she says to the teacher, ‘You ain’t talkin’ to me.’ And off they go! And the teacher says, ‘I’ll put you outta my room.’ And the student says, you know, ‘I’ll whip your ass.’ Uh –here come the police ! It’s an ag assault. Now. Is the student absolutely wrong? Absolutely. Is there a better way to handle it? Yes.”

Conyers says there was a time when conduct wasn’t governed by the threat that the police would arrest. “It was, you know, here comes the principal, or God forbid – they’re about to call my mother. In those days it would be, could you just call the police and not my mother, you know?”

There were over 3,500 misdemeanor arrests at Chicago public schools in 2011. The biggest category was for simple battery. That could be a punch, a shove, or a fight –seemingly minor confrontations that these days are taken seriously because they can lead to retaliations.

Next was disorderly conduct. Basically? Kids creating a ruckus. No serious injuries.

And the third biggest category? Drug abuse violations. These are usually arrests for small quantities of marijuana, because if it was a large quantity, or drugs like cocaine or heroin-that would be a felony.

That last category, in particular, bothers Conyers’ colleague down the hall, Craig Futterman – also a clinical professor of law at the University of Chicago. National studies, he says, show that white kids use and sell drugs at a rate higher than black kids do. And, says Futterman, that’s true in Chicago too.

“Where the vast majority of kids who use and sell drugs in high school are white. The vast majority of kids who are arrested for drugs, and or, worse, go to juvenile jail or go to juvenile prison for drugs, are African-American,” says Futterman.

Here’s what the numbers say about arrests at Chicago Public Schools in 2011. Almost 75 percent — three quarters — of all arrests were of African-American students. At the same time, in that same year, African-American students comprised about 42 percent of the student body. In fact in 2011, African American students were arrested at a rate nearly four times that of whites or Latinos.

This kind of imbalance is causing a lot of consternation and was a big topic of conversation at Senator Durbin’s national hearings last month.

Craig Futterman and Herschella Conyers think that lower level offenses, the misdemeanors basically, are better handled within the school. By counselors, social workers and restorative justice practices like peer juries and peace circles.

Kristina Menzel is an attorney who represents kids in juvenile court. She says that when principals request arrest, unfortunately it’s sometimes a way for the school to pass a problem kid on to another system.

“Now part of the problem is schools don’t have money for these services, ” Menzel says. “There’s not money out there for education like there should be. So the schools use the courts to get services for these kids that are problematic.”

There has to be a better way to deal with this, she says, “Since once they’re brought in here, they’re more likely to re-offend. And if they go to the Department of Juvenile Justice, their probability of re-offending goes up even higher.”

As serious as getting arrested in school can be, what happens later can be even more serious. Follow our story of how a juvenile arrest record can mess up a young person’s prospects for finding a job.