Freedom to Learn Experiment -delinquent boys make progress when freed from lessons

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ie/blog/freedom-learn/201709/another-example-less-teaching-leading-more-learning

From Psychology Today Sept 2017

Another Example of Less Teaching Leading to More Learning

Delinquent boys made huge academic gains when freed from classroom lessons.

Posted Sep 26, 2017

Some of the most fascinating experiments in education occurred in the 1920s and ‘30s, and almost nobody talks about them today. That was an era when progressive ideas about education were in the air. Even public schools were experimenting with the idea that less teaching and more opportunity for self-direction would pay big educational dividends.

Benezet’s experiment on the non-teaching of arithmetic

In a previous post (here) I described an experiment conducted by L. P. Benezet when he was superintendent of schools in Manchester, New Hampshire, in the late 1920s and early ‘30s. He altered the curriculum for half of the schoolchildren in the poorest schools in his district, so they would not be taught arithmetic until 6th grade. He found that those children, at the beginning of 6th grade, before they had received any arithmetic instruction at all, performed much better than the others on math story problems—the kinds of problems that require common sense applied to numbers. They were even better on those than were the kids in the rich schools, all of whom had been studying arithmetic all along. Of course, they were behind the others in doing calculations (adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing) set up in the usual school way, but by the end of 6th grade they had fully caught up to the others on that and were still ahead on story problems.

Benezet concluded that the early teaching of arithmetic was not only a waste of everyone’s time, but was counterproductive to the eventual learning of arithmetic. In his words, the early teaching of arithmetic was “chloroforming the children’s minds,” leading them to lose their common sense about anything to do with numbers. Nobody in education talks about Benezet’s experiment these days. Few people in education seem to have even heard of it. Benezet’s results fit well with research showing that school children make greater gains in mathematical reasoning during summer vacation than they do during the school year (see here), which is another finding that nobody in education talks about.

Williams’s experiment in which delinquent boys were freed from being taught

Now here’s yet another bit of education research that nobody today talks about. It was published in 1930 in the academic journal School and Society under the title “An Experiment in Self-Directed Education,” by Herbert Williams, the teacher who carried out the research.

The practical problem Williams was trying to address was what to do about delinquent boys, who were frequently absent from school and were causing trouble in the community. For the sake of this experiment, he went through the Juvenile Court records for the city of population 300,000 and identified the “worst” boys he could find. To that group the school principals added a few more, whom they considered to be their “most serious problems.” He ended up with a group that “ranged in age from eight to nearly sixteen, in IQ from 60 to 120, and included colored, Polish, Hungarians, and native white Americans.”

The experiment was started in January, 1924, and lasted until the beginning of June that year. During that period the boys were excused from regular school classes and, instead, were assigned to a special room created for them in a technical school. The room was equipped with desks, blackboards, a large table, and a collection of books, including storybooks, nonfiction works, and textbooks for the various grades. The boys were given standard academic achievement tests in January and again, four months later, in May.

And now, I know no better way to convey what happened than to quote Williams directly:

“No formal instruction was given. In the beginning of the experiment the children were told to keep busy and refrain from annoying any of the others. This was the only rule that was enforced. Otherwise, they were permitted to occupy themselves as they saw fit.  The instructor [Williams] from time to time passed from one to another to see what was being done. One child might be busily occupied in copying a picture from one of the books; another might be reading a fairy story; another occupied with a problem in arithmetic; another reading a history; others might be looking up places on a geography map; and still others would be studying about some machinery.

“Whenever a child was found manifesting an interest in some particular thing, opportunity and encouragement were given him to develop that interest…The child with an interest and aptitude for mechanical work was given an opportunity to do this sort of work in the high-school machine shop. The same was true for those interested in automobile mechanics, woodworking, printing and the like. Arrangements were made for recreation at the neighborhood YMCA…” 

“Each child was told of his accomplishments on the achievement test and encouraged to make up for any deficiencies, but he was not forced to devote his time to these. It was a revelation to the writer how these children turned naturally from one subject to another. A boy might spend an entire day on some book that he was reading. The next day he might devote to arithmetic. One 10-year-old became interested in working square root problems and worked all of these he could find in the arithmetic book. A colored boy became interested in history and read all the histories we could supply. His accounts of interesting historical events kept the entire group keenly interested as he related them. Whenever one of the boys found something in his reading which he felt would prove interesting he was permitted to tell it to the group. However, they were not required to pay attention to the speaker if they wanted to continue what they were doing.

“Many of the boys went to the blackboard to work arithmetic problems, primarily for the activity involved. They made up certain games involving arithmetic processes… For example, two or more boys would start at a given signal to add by seventeens to a thousand. The rivalry was often intense, and for some of the boys the increase in speed and accuracy in the fundamentals was striking. The reports of the various boys on interesting material read would stimulate other boys to read the same thing or something of like nature. It is quite possible, too, that the desire to obtain recognition from their fellows motivated them to do tasks that would not have been otherwise attempted.” 

“Although a total of twenty-six boys were in attendance in this special experimental group for shorter or longer periods, only thirteen were present for both the January, Form A, and May, Form B, Stanford Achievement Tests. This was due to out-of-school adjustments, transfers and other causes. Social adjustment was given first importance, and completeness of the experimental records was not allowed to prevent placing a boy on a farm, for example, if this met a pressing need.”

Here are the results from the achievement tests:

Over the 4 months period of this experiment, the thirteen children gained an average of slightly over 15 months in language age, 14 months in arithmetic; 11 months in reading; 11 months in science; and 6 months in both history and literature. By the end of the experiment all of these children were above grade level overall. The three boys who showed the least gains were also the three who, for reasons of health or family problems, were most often absent from the group. The average gains for the ten students who were regularly present were 17.4 months for language and arithmetic; 15.8 months for science; and 15.5 months for reading.

In concluding the article, Williams wrote:

“The most striking fact is that such marked improvement could and did result from such informal, self-directed activity. The writer was not greatly interested in the educational development of these boys. The problem of social adjustment entirely outweighed it in his estimation. He used the special room merely to get better acquainted with the individual boys and to keep them from violating the compulsory attendance law. Whether they learned reading, arithmetic, geography, history and the other subjects was considered relatively unimportant…It should be remembered, too, that these boys spent less time in the classroom and more in shops and the gymnasium and on the playground than is usually the case…In accounting for this increase in educational achievement the writer can only surmise that…a personal interest on the part of the supervisor in each child’s home conditions, neighborhood, recreation, health and the like as well as an interest in the child individually may have stimulated the child.”

My own suspicion, not mentioned by Williams, is that age mixing also played a role. The boys ranged in age from 8 to almost 16. Self-directed education always works best in age-mixed environments (see here and here). Also, of course, these boys were free to spend as much time as they liked on whatever they were studying, which allowed them to dig much more deeply than is ever possible in a standard classroom; and because they were always free to talk with one another they learned from one another. While regular classrooms are perfectly designed to prevent the development and pursuit of genuine interests, this “classroom” did not prevent these.

Wouldn’t it be great if education authorities would take a look back at some of these old research studies and try repeating them today? Today education authorities seem to think the only solution to educational deficiency is more teaching—more of the same of what already isn’t working. But research such as Benezet’s and Williams’s suggests that the solution might lie in less teaching and more trust.

Basic Books, with permission
Source: Basic Books, with permission

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m not a fan of standardized academic testing, nor of any sort of school system that sees high scores on such tests as a primary educational goal. In my view (and I suspect Williams’s as well), the years that we think of as school years should be devoted to discovering who you are and what you like to do, to developing skills in what you like to do, to acquiring social and emotional competence, and to gaining the confidence that you can learn whatever you want, on your own initiative, at the time you need to know it. That all comes from real Self-Directed Education, where young people are free to explore the world in ways that are not dependent at all on a special room with textbooks, nor on encouragement to improve scores on someone else’s concept of “achievement.” Williams’s experiment is, to me, just one more example showing that the kinds of “achievements” that we fret and sweat about in our schools are actually quite easily and painlessly attained by young people who for one reason or another decide to attain them and are free to do so in the ways that work best for them.

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And now, what do you think about all this? This blog is, among other things, a forum for discussion, and your views and knowledge are valued and taken seriously by me and other readers. Make your thoughts known in the comments section below. As always, I prefer if you post your comments and questions here rather than send them to me by private email. By putting them here, you share with other readers, not just with me. I read all comments and try to respond to all serious questions if I feel I have something useful to add to what others have said.

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See also: Free to Learn; the website of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education; and follow me on Facebook.

References

Herbert D. Williams (1930).  Experiment in Self-Directed Education.  School and Society, 31, 715-718.

Big Money Saves National Parks

Conni and Craig French own C Lazy J Ranch in northeastern Montana. Conni is concerned about the American Prairie Reserve buying up ranchland to turn it into a wildlife sanctuary.

Claire Harbage/NPR

This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

A privately funded, nonprofit organization is creating a 3.2 million-acre wildlife sanctuary — American Prairie Reserve — in northeastern Montana, an area long known as cattle country.

But the reserve is facing fierce opposition from many locals because to build it, the organization is slowly purchasing ranches from willing sellers, phasing out the cows and replacing them with wild bison. Those private properties are then stitched together with vast tracts of neighboring public lands to create one giant, rewilded prairie. The organization has purchased close to 30 properties so far, but it needs at least 50 more.

Don’t see the graphic above? Click here

“I see them coming in with big money, buying up ranches and walking over the top of the people who are already here,” says ranch owner Conni French. “For them to be successful in their goals, we can’t be here, and that’s not OK with us.”

She isn’t alone. Driving around, you see signs everywhere that say, “Save The Cowboy, Stop The American Prairie Reserve.”

Conni is surrounded by horses as she goes about her daily chores on the cattle ranch. “I see them coming in with big money, buying up ranches and walking over the top of the people who are already here,” she says.

Claire Harbage/NPR

But the project’s efforts have garnered a lot of positive attention from those living outside northeastern Montana because, once it’s complete, it will be the largest wildlife sanctuary in the Lower 48 states — about 5,000 square miles, nearly the size of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

A new kind of national park

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Sean Gerrity founded the American Prairie Reserve more than 18 years ago after he moved back home to Montana from Silicon Valley, where he ran a firm that consulted for companies such as AT&T and Apple.

Claire Harbage/NPR

Sean Gerrity, founder of American Prairie Reserve, is standing on one of the vast ranching properties his organization recently purchased. It looks like a miniature Grand Canyon — a panorama of deep, white canyons cut through by a wide, muddy river.

“What you’re seeing here is the incredible beauty of the Missouri River out in front of us,” he says. “Those beautiful cliffs and the raking light coming across in the afternoon.”

The project’s goal is to rewild this swath of the Great Plains and return all the animals that lived on this landscape more than a century ago, before white settlers arrived. Wolves, grizzly bears, thousands of genetically pure, wild bison.

Gerrity points down to the valley below. “Over here would be some elk,” he says. “Over here would be bison. On the riverbanks would be a mama grizzly bear with two or three little cubs walking along the mud there.”

These are animals one would see at Yellowstone National Park, but without so many tourists. The reserve is a new kind of national park, one that’s free to the public and privately funded through both small donors and some of the wealthiest people in the world.

American Prairie was founded more than 18 years ago after Gerrity moved back home to Montana from Silicon Valley, where he ran a firm that consulted for companies such as AT&T and Apple. For him, the project promised a different kind of long-term investment.

Bison walk on American Prairie Reserve land. The organization is slowly purchasing ranches from willing sellers, phasing out the cows and replacing them with wild bison.

Claire Harbage/NPR

“To work on something — pour your heart into it — and arrange it like a giant work of art and the public would by and large appreciate and realize it would last far, far beyond my lifetime? That just seemed like a dream come true,” Gerrity says.

The reserve has since garnered multimillion-dollar donations from a German billionaire, heirs to the Mars Candy Co., and a handful of top executives in the finance industry, at least two of whom helped steer big investments in oil, gas and coal. Those industries have exacerbated climate change, leading to increased wildfires, floods and drought in the northern Great Plains.

A “Save the Cowboy” sign is posted along a fence. The “Little Rockies” on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation are seen in the distance.

Claire Harbage/NPR

Some see hypocrisy in this kind of money, including Rob Reich, director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford University.

“The structure of global capitalism, which they had a role upholding, is partly responsible for the degradation of the environment,” Reich says.

But Gerrity says the reserve can’t afford to be that picky because almost all of his donors, big and small, are driving the climate crisis.

“The person who puts the gas in their car, or uses the coal in their house to heat, or the person who gets on a nonessential jet trip to take a vacation or go to a wedding or something like that, is the person actually creating the business and encouraging the oil companies to keep on doing what they’re doing,” Gerrity says.

Cattle and birds near the Frenches’ land.

Claire Harbage/NPR

Besides, he argues, this is one of only a few intact grassland ecosystems in the world and he wants to fully restore it before it disappears.

“This wildlife habitat is going away and there is almost none left,” he says. “This is the last bit in the Great Plains, for the most part, where we can do a project of this size.”

“The best option for conservation”

Questions about American Prairie’s financial support aren’t the only issue facing the organization. For the ranching families who have lived and worked in this pocket of northeastern Montana for more than a century, the reserve is an affront.

Craig French rides a horse on his ranchland. While some ranchers in this pocket of the Great Plains overgrazed their spreads and plowed up native grasses, most did a good job taking care of it.

Claire Harbage/NPR

They make a lot of different arguments against it. Some border on crazy, such as the conspiracy theory that the reserve is part of a cunning plot by the United Nations to clear everyone from the Great Plains. But the most common argument boils down to this: God gave people this land so it can be worked, so we can produce food or fuel from it.

At a community hall that serves as a makeshift church for a small group of ranchers every Sunday, traveling pastor Hal DeBoer says this is a biblical idea.

God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, “and the very first words that he said to the man was, ‘I want you to work this and take care of it.’ So to me, that is what the ranchers and farmers are doing. They’re working the land, but they’re taking care of it.”

Ranchers gather with traveling pastor Hal DeBoer for a religious service at First Creek Community Hall.

Claire Harbage/NPR

French, who owns C Lazy J Ranch, is rooted in the Christian notion of stewarding the land and says she will never sell her spread to the reserve.

“We are the best hope to keep this land here,” French says. “I really feel like ranchers — these land stewards — are the best option for conservation.”

While some ranchers in this pocket of the Great Plains overgrazed their spreads and plowed up native grasses, most did a good job taking care of it. That’s a big reason this area is still considered one of the few intact grassland ecosystems in the world. Ranchers here are pretty good stewards.

Conni checks on a bull on her ranch. She says she will never sell her spread to the reserve. “I really feel like ranchers — these land stewards — are the best option for conservation.”

Claire Harbage/NPR

Powerful conservation groups have taken notice. They are working with some ranchers here to help them save what’s left of the prairie while at the same time sustainably raising cattle. But as land prices become more expensive and ranchers struggle to find family members to take over their spreads when they die, their control over northeastern Montana is weakening.

That’s a big reason American Prairie is here. There’s a lot of land for sale. And as the nation shifts away from its ranching and farming roots, wild places like northeastern Montana are becoming destination spots for hunters, hikers and campers. But French says there’s a big difference.

“So then you’re a tourist,” she says. “You’re a visitor. You’re an observer. So you’re there for a short time and then you go home. When you actually live there, you’re a participant. You are involved in the day-to-day life of not just your animals but the land around you.”

Justin Schaaf, a hunter and conservationist, scouts for elk in the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.

Claire Harbage/NPR

Still, some locals support American Prairie’s plans to build a 3.2 million-acre wildlife reserve here, including hunter Justin Schaaf. He foresees the reserve becoming a sportsman’s paradise because, unlike a traditional national park, you can hunt there. He says northeastern Montana’s population has been in decline for decades and ranching hasn’t stymied the flow. So maybe it’s time to try something different.

“Is a little shot of tourism, capitalizing on hunter dollars, bringing more hunters into this area, will that make the difference?” he asks.

Schaaf foresees the reserve becoming a sportsman’s paradise. He says northeastern Montana’s population has been in decline for decades so maybe it’s time to try something different.

Claire Harbage/NPR

Rural recreation counties are growing faster than counties that don’t have a lot of hiking, hunting and fishing opportunities, according to the nonprofit Headwaters Economics. Schaaf himself stayed in northeastern Montana because of amenities American Prairie Reserve and other wild places offer.

“I can make more money in other places but it’s the outdoors, being able to pull my pickup up here and not talk to anyone and go for a hike all day long, that keeps me here,” he says. “Opportunity to just roam, I think, is enticing to young people.”

Schaaf starts his boat to head home after scouting for elk.

Claire Harbage/NPR

“A symbol of God”

The project has also garnered support from two local tribal councils, including at the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, home of the Nakoda and Aaniiih.

At a powwow there, Kenneth Tuffy Helgeson, a member of the Nakoda Tribe, says the reserve’s goal of bringing back thousands of wild bison to the plains will help restore a crucial part of his tribe’s culture. The animals were nearly eradicated from the prairies by white settlers and the U.S. government more than a century ago. Helgeson recalls his grandfather telling him why the bison were so important to his people.

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George Horse Capture Jr. is a member of the Aaniiih Tribe. “To me [buffalo] are a symbol of strength, endurance and the failure — the absolute failure — to go the way of the dodo bird,” he says. “They were teetering, but now they’re back.”

Claire Harbage/NPR

“The buffalo to the Indian is a symbol of God,” he says. “They knew if they took away our main food source — our main symbol of God — that we would be rendered to literally nothing.”

But now that symbol of God is coming back to the plains in a big way. American Prairie’s wild herd of bison will be the largest in North America. There are already more than 800 on the land.

“It’s a reminder of days past,” says George Horse Capture Jr., a member of the Aaniiih Tribe. “It’s hard to put into words. To me they are a symbol of strength, endurance and the failure — the absolute failure — to go the way of the dodo bird. They were teetering, but now they’re back.”

Tribes and others are given regulated opportunities to hunt American Prairie’s bison. But the land itself will still be owned by white people. Helgeson says that doesn’t bother him because land is never really owned.

“In our old songs, our old teachings, there’s one song that our people sing. And it says, ‘My friend, don’t be foolish. The only thing that lives forever is the earth.’ ”

“We can fight over land, we can fight over dirt, we can fight over all these things,” Helgeson continues. “But really all you ever have is what’s on your shoes. That’s the only dirt that you’ll ever own. The only ground that you’ll ever own is on your shoes. And that will fall off, too.”

With that, Helgeson shakes my hand and walks back to the powwow.

American Prairie’s mission to save some of the last grasslands in the world comes with casualties. Whether that’s good or bad depends on your story and your relationship with this land.

The American Prairie Reserve project has also garnered support from two local tribal councils, including at the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, home of the Nakoda and Aaniiih. Bison were nearly eradicated from the prairies by white settlers and the U.S. government more than a century ago.

Claire Harbage/NPR


This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration among KUER in Salt Lake City, Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Should High Schools Rethink How They Sequence Math Courses?

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_now/2019/11/high_schools_need_to_rethink_math_pathways_new_report_says.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news2&M=58979552&U=2796909&UUID=4a2ceba1d9c3dbf87bcf2d1235a5f82a&fbclid=IwAR0jUHpyiD5HnCg7ysoISOiRlVaCc5LhfHAOVBDqtaWS_KsSctT19GjXh-0

hould High Schools Rethink How They Sequence Math Courses?

Most students don’t aspire to careers that will require calculus, so high schools must create sequences of math courses that reflect the wide variety of young people’s occupational goals, a math advocacy group argues in a report published Wednesday.

“Mathematics education needs to support students’ transitions to and through college, whether they’re pursuing STEM disciplines or other promising majors that prepare students for careers in other fields like law, politics, design and the media,” says the report by Just Equations, a group that’s trying to get school districts to consider the equity of their math offerings.

Too often, “irrelevant math hurdles” are becoming stumbling blocks for students who don’t aspire to careers in science, technology, engineering, or math. Additionally, schools do poorly at nurturing and recruiting black and Latino students into challenging math classes, the report says.

To serve all students well, schools must start thinking differently about their math courses, write co-authors Phil Daro, a lead author of the Common Core State Standards in math, and Harold Asturias, the director of University of California-Berkeley’s Center for Mathematics Excellence and Equity.

The authors propose a model that would eliminate the classic Algebra 1-Geometry-Algebra 2 model in favor of a pattern that would have all students in the same math classes in 9th and 10th grade, followed by a set of choices beginning in 11th grade.

Some of those choices would be aimed at students who will need the highest levels of math, while others would be for students in what the authors call “branch” fields—a term they coined to distinguish these students from STEM students in general, and from those who aspire to jobs that require calculus.

Courses Designed With All Students in Mind

An 11th grade course for “branch” students might delve into statistics, game theory, and math modeling. They could build students’ skills at symbolic notation, and use functions to model real-world situations. They “should not be watered-down versions of STEM topics, but instead topics with their own heft and potential relevance in branch fields” like data science, statistics, probability, digital graphics, decision theory, robotics, and game design, the report said.

All courses and pathways should be rigorous, and prepare students for college without demanding that they master types of math they won’t need down the road, the report says.

The report includes examples of course sequences from districts that have ventured into this work.

The five high schools in Escondido Unified School District in California now use common math courses for all 9th and 10th graders, and offer a choice of two courses for 11th grade. Math 3C includes precalculus, while Math 3S is “common-core math with statistics,” Abi Leaf, a math content specialist for the district, said during a webinar Tuesday. In their senior year, STEM-oriented students can take AP Calculus their senior year, and other students can choose between Math 4 or AP Statistics.

Escondido teachers and counselors use a “decision tree” to help students think through their math options, starting with questions about their career goals. Leaf said the district has also eliminated remedial classes, and does its best to provide support for students where they need it. Teachers are participating in “teaching studios” to help them get used to “having all students in their classes,” and to absorb the district’s new “value system” in math, Leaf said.

Escondido-math.PNG

Even still, after a few years of using the new approach, Escondido is concerned that the Math 3S is “considered a pathway for students of color,” Leaf said, with more white students opting for Math 3C. “It’s one of the biases of our system that we’re working against,” she said.


Read about San Francisco’s work to “de-track” math.


Oregon has been rethinking its math pathways, too. About 50 high schools are piloting versions of a new model that has common courses in 9th and 10th grade, followed by options in 11th. State content specialists in math and career-tech-ed designed the pathways together, in recognition of students’ widely varying goals and needs.

Oregon-math.PNG

The 9th and 10th grade courses cover a year’s worth of Algebra, and a half year each of geometry and data science, said Mark Freed, a math specialist with the state department of education. Schools can cover that content sequentially, or integrate it over the two years, he said. Courses in 11th grade include Algebra 2/precalculus, for students who aspire to careers that would require calculus, and, for other students, a variety of applied math classes, such as “construction geometry,” “financial algebra,” and “math in computer science.”

“The idea is to create math systems that all our students can see themselves in, and see the relevance of math,” Freed said. “We have a system that works for [future] math majors. We need one where all students see themselves as ‘math people.'”

Choosing Instead of Placing

Rethinking math courses should go hand-in-hand with shifting the way schools think about assigning students to courses, Daro and Asturias wrote in the new report. Instead of “placing” students in classes based on adults’ perceptions of their mastery, schools should engage in a dialogue with students, asking what their career goals are and offering information about each math pathway so students and their families can decide the best match.

That approach will likely mean that many students need support to be successful in their chosen math classes, the report said, so schools will have to provide things like summer bridge courses, or classes that students can take alongside their regular math classes—a model colleges call “co-requisite” courses—instead of getting mired in remedial math courses.

Teachers will need to shift instructional strategies as well, from a model that values the students who quickly raise their hands to a model that encourages “curious and thoughtful” dialogue that includes all students, the report says. Teachers and counselors will need to work with students to heal their “damaged math identities,” it said, since so many students, ill-suited to the classic math course progression, end up feeling like they’re bad at math.

For the new kinds of courses and sequences to work in high school, colleges will have to embrace supportive policies, the report said. Too often, colleges require completion of Algebra 2, or use calculus as a “signal” of students’ potential, the report said. Some universities are starting to crack those doors open, dropping the Algebra 2 expectation and using courses like Advanced Placement statistics as signs of a wider variety of math mastery, the report said.

The themes in the new report aren’t new. “Catalyzing Change in High School Mathematics,” released last year by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, urged schools to end tracking and create new pathways that would have shared courses for the first two years, and then diverge into various options in students’ third and fourth years that reflect their goals and interests.

joint statement in 2012 by NCTM and the Mathematics Association of America urged schools to leave calculus to universities, and cultivate high school students’ expertise in algebra, geometry, and trigonometry.

Nestle Steals More water from FLorida natural spring

Nestlé Plans to Plunder 1.1M Gallons a Day from Florida Natural Springs

BUSINESS

Crystal water of Ginnie Springs in Florida.

Colors and shapes of underwater world / Moment Open / Getty Images

Nestlé Waters’ proposal to take 1.1 million gallons per day from Ginnie Springs has drawn a backlash from conservationists who say the food giant wants to take publicly owned water and sell it back to the public, as the Guardian reported.

Conservationists fear that if Nestlé’s plans go through, there will be considerably less water in Ginnie Springs, which sits in the Santa Fe River and serves as a home for several species of turtles that nest on the river’s banks. Environmental groups say the river is too fragile to serve Nestlé’s interests since it is already labeled as “in recovery” by the Suwannee River water management district after years of over pumping, as the Guardian reported.

Residents have also criticized the business practice that allows for taxpayer money to restore the spring, while allowing Nestlé to take water out. The Florida Water Resources Act declared that all the water in springs, rivers and lakes is the property of the state, not the landowners, but it never set a price on water. That means, Nestlé will be able to take the state’s water, but not pay the state for it, according to the Gainesville Sun.

“[W]e have an ethical issue with our state putting large sums of money into conservation practices and recharge projects on the Santa Fe River and then, at the same time, counteracting this action by fomenting the free extraction of a publicly owned natural resource by a for-profit company,” wrote Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Jim Tatum, from the conservation group Our Santa Fe River, in a column for the Gainesville Sun. “Essentially, taxpayers are funding replenishment of the aquifer and then allowing Nestlé to take it out and sell it back to us.”

That bizarre marketplace has residents teaming up with conservationists to ask the Suwannee River Water Management District to deny renewing Nestlé’s permit.

“Ginnie Springs is one of Florida’s treasures. It’s loved by locals and travelers alike,” Julienne Wallace wrote in creating a change.org petition, as the Gainesville Sun reported. “Nestlé is known for destroying places like Ginnie Springs and its breaking our hearts! PLEASE DON’T GIVE NESTLÉ THE PERMIT TO TAKE WATER FROM GINNIE SPRINGS!!!”

The current permit holder, Seven Springs, has never drawn more than 260,000 gallons per day, but Nestlé has invested heavily in a new bottling plant so it can draw as much water as possible. Nestlé insists that that drawing 1.1 million gallons of water per day is only .05% of the total daily volume there, according to WTSP News in Tampa.

“Springwater is a rapidly renewable resource when managed correctly. Nestlé Waters North America is committed to the highest level of sustainable spring water management at all of the springs we manage,” Nestlé Waters North America said in a written statement posted on its website. “We have worked to be a good neighbor in Florida for decades. Our commitment goes beyond just caring about the water. We value our relationships with Florida residents and community leaders, and always strive to create shared value within the communities where we operate.”

That argument did not hold much water with Malwitz-Jipson who said to the Guardian, “The Santa Fe River is already in decline [and] there’s not enough water coming out of the aquifer itself to recharge these lovely, amazing springs that are iconic and culturally valued and important for natural systems and habitats.

“It’s impossible to withdraw millions of gallons of water and not have an impact. If you take any amount of water out of a glass you will always have less.”

She also pointed to the threat the permit will pose to wildlife. “Few places on Earth have as many turtle species living together and about a quarter of all North American freshwater turtle species inhabit this small river system. A big threat to this diversity is habitat degradation, which will happen with reduced flows,” she said to the Guardian.

Plastic Bags Kill Livestock cows and horses in Texas

https://www.texastribune.org/2019/08/14/texas-wont-approve-bans-plastic-bags-which-can-be-fatal-livestock/

Plastic bags are killing horses and cows across the state. What’s Texas to do?

A year after the Texas Supreme Court dealt a death blow to municipal bans on plastic bags, legislative efforts to revive them have fallen flat, and ranchers, city leaders and environmental groups say plastic bag litter is as big a problem as ever.

Kristie West, who owns a ranch and bed and breakfast in Pleasanton, has worked to raise awareness about the fatal impact plastic bags have on livestock.  Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune

Kristie West was driving down the highway in rural South Texas when she saw it.

The drive from her ranch to the nearby town of Poth was usually uneventful. But on that day in 2017, West saw something that made her slam on the brakes of her pickup.

A white plastic bag had flitted into a horse pen behind a house where a young palomino was grazing. Someone who doesn’t work with livestock probably wouldn’t have thought twice about it. But West trained horses, and she knew the colt would treat the bag like a toy.

She quickly pulled into the yard and raced to the front door. A man answered.

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“I said, ‘Do you care if I run out to check on your horse?'” West recalled. He said it was fine. “That’s all I said. I ran behind his house just as the horse took off running.”

When West got to the pen, the colt had already swallowed the bag, and she could see that he was suffocating. He then bolted, jumping a barbed wire fence. West ran after him. But she was too late.

“He was dead,” she recalled.

The prevalence of such incidents has prompted states and cities across the country to enact regulations to curtail the use of plastic bags, which can suffocate and cause fatal digestion blockages in livestock and wild animals. But in Texas, the regulation of plastic bags — grocery or otherwise — is all but nonexistent, and recent developments indicate it will remain that way.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Eva Guzman agreed with her colleagues but said the state Legislature should clarify whether plastic bags can actually be banned and described the pollution as “an ongoing assault on our delicate ecosystem.” Earlier this year, Democratic state lawmakers attempted to do that, but the legislation they filed never even received public hearings.

Meanwhile, the absence of municipal regulations means many Texans have reverted to using plastic bags once again. And some say the litter is getting worse.

Although retailers like H-E-B still encourage customers to bring reusable bags to the store — the grocery chain also did away with the thin, single-use bags altogether in Austin — the wispy receptacles quickly reappeared at stores that had briefly switched to paper sacks before the court ruling, and the sight of plastic bags wafting down the highway remains a common one.

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With little state regulation and a full stop from the state’s highest civil court, what’s a rancher to do?

“I don’t know what they could do,” West said. “The biggest thing is the people — that they just need to quit littering.”

Rancher Kristie West.  Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune

Since the incident with the Palomino colt, West has been doing her part to raise awareness of how lethal plastic bag litter can be. For two years, she’s worked with the Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas to distribute bumper stickers that warn people in bold red letters that “plastic bags KILL animals.” For its part, the state’s environmental regulatory agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, has its own anti-litter awareness campaign, called “Take Care of Texas.” (The well-known “Don’t Mess With Texas” campaign was developed in 1985 by an Austin ad agency for the Texas Department of Transportation).

The TCEQ, which is also responsible for enforcing the state’s litter and dumping laws, does a number of things to combat littering, such as sending $5.49 million every year to councils of government across the state to fund public awareness campaigns, community trash pickups and litter surveillance. Between 2016 and 2017, that funding bankrolled more than 230 such projects across the state.

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But environmental groups say it’s not enough.

Andrew Dobbs, legislative director at Texas Campaign for the Environment, said the state needs to ban single-use plastic bags or the problem will continue.

“Picking everything up is not really a solution at all, right?” he said. “You’re much better off unloading the gun than you are trying to wear a bullet-proof vest.”

Texans and environmental groups from across the state filed amicus briefs in support of the Laredo bag ban. One of them was Billy Easter, a rancher who lives near Wichita Falls.

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Easter runs 200 head of cattle on 1,400 acres. He owns 2 miles of land along U.S. Highway 281, where he said he is constantly pulling plastic bags off barbed-wire fences. He said he’s lost cattle to plastic bags and that oftentimes ranchers don’t notice their livestock has swallowed one until it’s too late.

“These cows in the pastures, you don’t see them every day,” Easter said.

Although Easter and others urged the court to allow cities to make the bag ban choice for themselves, the state supreme court sided with the merchants. In its ruling, the court said that single-use bags are considered garbage and fall under the state’s solid waste disposal law, which preempts municipal ordinances.

But in her concurring opinion, Guzman urged the Legislature to take “direct ameliorative action” and change the laws to better address environmental concerns.

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“Standing idle in the face of an ongoing assault on our delicate ecosystem will not forestall a day of environmental reckoning — it will invite one,” she said.

Two Democratic lawmakers attempted to heed that call earlier this year.

Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, filed legislationduring this year’s legislative session that would have exempted single-use plastic bags from the Solid Waste Disposal Act, specifying that they do not quality as a “container or package.” That would have freed up municipalities to regulate them again.

Hinojosa argued that the law needed to be clarified because the original intention of the act was to regulate styrofoam and other manufacturing waste that went into landfills, not plastic bags.

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My bill sought to make absolutely clear that the statute is not meant to include single-use plastic bags in order to ensure local plastic bag ordinances are not preempted,” she said in an email.

Last year’s court ruling was the latest in a string of mostly legislative moves that have eaten away at local control. For cities like Brownsville, one of the municipalities that had to stop enforcing its ban on single-use bags after the court ruling, it’s frustrating that the state has not allowed communities to have control over their own environments.

Lawmakers “don’t want the federal government to tell them what to do, but they turn around and want the state to have control over the communities,” said Arturo Rodriguez, Brownsville’s public health and wellness director. “It’s a bit ironic because municipalities need to be able to exercise their due diligence within their domains.”

So why won’t the Texas Legislature take up the single-use plastic issue?

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Jose Aliseda, a former Republican state representative, is the district attorney for Bee, Live Oak and McMullen counties, where he also runs cattle. Aliseda said he believes the plastics industry is too large and powerful to be swayed by the concerns of the agricultural community.

“The honest truth is there’s not enough of us,” he says of ranchers. “Yes, we’re a big part of the economy, but as far as the number of people, there’s not that many ranchers and farmers in the whole country.”

Chemical companies spent between $840,000 and $1.4 million on lobbyists during the 2019 legislative session, according to filings from the Texas Ethics Commission. The Texas Chemical Council, which represents the industry, declined to comment.

The Dow Chemical Co., one of the world’s foremost producers of plastic, didn’t respond to requests for comment about its Texas lobbying goals, but public records show the company spent the highest amount of any chemical company — between $275,000 and $459,000.

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When asked about plastic lobbying efforts, a Dow spokesperson said the company participates in the political process in compliance with state and federal laws. Dow has several initiatives to end plastic waste, said spokesperson Ashley Mendozaand promotes “post-use solutions” of plastics.

Some chemical groups take issue with the term “single-use” plastic bags and say they have many secondary uses, such as small trash can liners. Mendoza pointed to a 2019 study from the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management that found carryout bag bans in California resulted in greater numbers of heavy plastic garbage bags.

Some bag ban opponents say it’s up to retailers to prevent litter or that it’s the responsibility of each individual Texan. But the way Aliseda sees it, as governments across the country face mounting pressure to take action on environmental issues, Texas will eventually have to face the problem plastic inflicts on Texas agriculture and make a choice on how to deal with it.

“The state has to decide what’s more costly of the two options,” he said, “forcing the people that use the plastic bags or make plastic bags to change, or continue to basically be a nuisance on agriculture.”

Save on Back-to-School shopping for environment

https://www.dailyfreeman.com/lifestyle/stocking-up-for-school-can-be-eco-friendly-and-economical/article_0b82eed6-7f5b-51c8-98cc-812d3275d913.html

Stocking up for school can be eco-friendly AND economical

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Earth-friendly school supplies might sound expensive, but you can be gentle with the planet and respectful of your wallet. Start by widening your idea of what’s “green.”

LOOK FOR FREEBIES FIRST

Using what you already have is the ultimate environmentally friendly move and fits with a frugal lifestyle . Look for pens, pencils, unused journals picked up at a convention, binders no longer in use, and unused or lightly used supplies from last year.

You may not have to buy at all. Chelsea Brennan, who blogs at Smart Money Mamas, says she sees posts on her hyperlocal Buy NothingFacebook group every fall requesting notebooks and other school supplies. “And then someone may comment, ‘We have those, plus three composition books that have never been written in. Do you need those?'” Brennan says she borrows, donates and receives items through the group.

SAVE ON BACKPACKS AND OFFICE SUPPLIES

For backpacks, Mary Hunt, founder of the website Cheapskate Monthly, recommends JanSport or Eastpak for durability. If you are shopping resale, those are labels to look for because they’ll last longer. And JanSport backpacks have a lifetime warranty.

Or choose a backpack made from recycled materials. Whether you choose new, used or recycled, look for sturdy zippers, pockets and supportive, padded straps. You don’t want this year’s backpack to be in a landfill next year.

Many stores now carry office-supply lines that are earth-friendly. Several companies offer pens made from recycled plastic. Pencils can be made from recycled newspaper, but they’re more expensive than pedestrian wooden pencils. A mechanical, refillable pencil might be the more economical green choice.

Notebooks and loose-leaf paper made from recycled paper can be fairly pricey. For example, a set of four college-ruled “decomposition books” at Target costs more than $25. If recycled paper products don’t fit your budget, you can still be green by making sure your student recycles used paper instead of throwing it in the trash.

Derek B. Davis, a spokesman for Earth.com, noted that many schools now bundle required items and offer them to parents. You may not save money but you’ll save gas and time.

CUT COSTS ON FOOD AND DRINK CONTAINERS

Davis thinks the item likely to have the biggest impact on the planet is your student’s reusable water bottle — hardly a budget breaker. Reusable packaging for lunches and snacks also saves you money and lets you contribute less to the enormous problem of plastic in oceans and landfills.

To estimate the impact of a water bottle, know this: Americans use an average of 13 single-use plastic bottles per month, according to the nonprofit Earth Day Network. One reusable bottle, over a nine-month school year, could keep 117 single-use bottles out of circulation. Tap water is vastly cheaper than bottled, and eliminates plastic waste and the carbon emissions needed to distribute bottled water for sale.

There are also reusable — and dishwasher-safe — containers or bags for sandwiches and snacks. You can put those reusable bags inside a reusable lunch container. Bento boxes, which have compartments for various types of food, are another alternative. Reusable lunch bags and boxes can be purchased fairly inexpensively new — or keep an eye out for used ones.

Davis, the father of a rising second-grader, notes that kids lose things, and suggests buying backups of water bottles or lunch containers if you see an especially good price.

SHOP SECONDHAND FOR CLOTHES

For back-to-school clothes, consider resale stores. You may find clothes that are practically new for pennies on the dollar. You save money and extend the life of the clothes, keeping them out of landfills. You can shop online with ThredUP and similar sites.

Finally, no matter where you’re shopping, bring a reusable bag, Davis says. Keep one handy in the car.

What will ultimately be most effective in cleaning up the Earth, he says, is kids seeing parents who weave green living into everyday life: For instance, making coffee at home, drinking from reusable cups and making their own seltzer.

When Zero Tolerance Failed

https://www.edsurge.com/news/2019-03-26-when-zero-tolerance-was-failing-students-this-school-turned-to-restorative-justice?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialflow&utm_campaign=03-28-2019&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWW1KaE5XUmxOVFZsTVRFeSIsInQiOiJqa0drYzZQWmxxNXp4MngxZkNqeWJaeE1ZYnlkRHVCZXhQUnhLWTNJaXR6dldKY2dmMzNRY05JcjMyTGswaGk4UW5NVTBrZzJpVG9QbWR4ZkN6SVA0SjVsOHFvcnRNN21iVjRFUnZscFd2M25rWmkrTkt0aVdYUzZIZDRBWjJWNSJ9&fbclid=IwAR0cJk9qgW967uPVN1O8G5iI4lM7cLTerUzLIWjCUdIzUsWdkzzuX4eBth8

By Emily Tate   Mar 26, 2019

AUSTIN, Texas — Even in elementary school, Luz Annette got into a lot of fights with other girls. In the hallways, in the cafeteria, in the girls’ restroom. Just about every day brought another confrontation.

These were not just shouting matches. Luz, who is now in eighth grade, was getting into physical altercations with her classmates.

“When you get in an argument, you just straight up go and fight,” the 14-year-old says, describing a lesson that was ingrained in her at a young age.

But Luz doesn’t get in fights anymore—not since the one she was involved in at the beginning of the school year, which she says was her last.

At her old school, the teachers might have broken up the fight and sent her to in-school suspension—a standard disciplinary response to altercations where “they just take you to this room and then you have to be quiet and do work” for several hours, sometimes several days in a row, she says. (She’s been in such rooms many times before at other schools.)

But at Austin Achieve Public Schools, a K-12 school where Luz is enrolled now, in-school suspension is not an option. In fact, the school stopped suspending students altogether in 2015, after administrators realized the practice was denying their most at-risk students important social, emotional and academic reinforcements.

Instead, the public charter school has embraced “restorative justice,” an alternative disciplinary approach that exposes students to mindfulness exercises, one-on-one counseling and group therapy sessions with a social worker.

Restorative justice emphasizes repairing harm, rebuilding relationships and rehabilitating the offender over meting out punishments for infractions. As more research and case studies come out in support of restorative justice programs, schools are increasingly turning to the approach to reduce suspension rates (which disproportionately affect students of color) and improve graduation rates.

“At most schools, when kids do something suspension-worthy, you take away support,” says Reece Hartle, the middle school principal at Austin Achieve. “At our school, they get more support.”

The program has transformed the culture of the school, officials say, and it’s changed the way students like Luz handle conflict and manage their emotions.

A ‘Critical Need’

Located in the rapidly-gentrifying East Austin neighborhood, Austin Achieve was founded in 2012 by John Armbrust, a Teach for America alumnus, to set a new bar for what schools in the area could be.

Armbrust, who had taught in Atlanta and Los Angeles, zeroed in on East Austin as a neighborhood in “chronic need” of a high-quality option. The schools were consistently underperforming; the middle school most Austin Achieve students were zoned for, he says, was the lowest-performing school in the state of Texas the year Austin Achieve opened. He wanted something better for local families.

Austin Achieve is tuition-free and open enrollment. Nearly all of its 1,500 students are Latino and designated as low-income. Most will be the first in their families to go to college—an expressed goal of the school staff, who set high expectations for both behavior and academics.

In its first three years of operation, Austin Achieve responded to disciplinary violations the way many schools do: with in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension and expulsion, all of which would show up on a student’s record.

“One of the things we saw” early on, says Emily Morrison, the chief advancement officer, is that “our most at-risk scholars—those facing pregnancy, homelessness, issues at home—were also the ones affected by our zero-tolerance approach to discipline.”

In short, the students who were most frequently suspended were the same ones Austin Achieve was designed to serve.

“I didn’t start a school to serve a bunch of kids who are going to make it on their own without me,” Armbrust says. “I started this school to serve a certain population.”

The school administrators then faced an existential quandary. Were they living up to their mission? Was Austin Achieve serving its intended purpose?

Armbrust and his staff visited schools across the U.S., including ones in Nashville and San Antonio, that better supported students socially and emotionally. Through those visits, they realized “a critical need” for Austin Achieve, Armbrust says, and began thinking about how they could weave those practices into their own, homegrown program.

In the end, they decided to shift from the zero-tolerance policy they had started with to a program that keeps students in school. “We decided if we have children who are facing difficulties, we need to provide them with programs and opportunities for remedying those situations,” Morrison says, “because in some cases, going home doesn’t help them to restore, get better and grow.”

RJ in Action

Shortly after the start of this school year, when Luz ran into a girl she had not been getting along with on her way to the restroom, her instinct was to fight her. But when she and the girl lunged at each other, their friends and Hartle, the principal, saw what was happening and jumped in to separate them.

Luz, as a result, was assigned to the restorative justice program, or RJ, as it’s known at Austin Achieve.

I was building anger to her.Student Luz Annette describes how school staff helped prevent a fight.
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Few students are admitted to RJ for a single offense, Hartle says. It happens when there’s a physical altercation or when students bring drugs or other contraband to school. In most cases, students are sent to RJ after a series of episodes in which they’ve acted out or shown disrespect to their peers or teachers. “It comes out in different ways,” he says, and is usually the last resort for students after trying a number of other interventions focused around conflict resolution.

One of the first things Luz did every day during her three weeks in RJ was work on her proposal—a multi-page document that, when complete, outlines what she did wrong, who was affected, what she learned in RJ, any tools and techniques she acquired to address the source of the problem and how she plans to use those moving forward. When students like Luz think they’re ready to leave the program, they present their proposal to a panel of peers, which is made up of “ambassadors” at Austin Achieve who have been selected and trained for this purpose.

Students in RJ are expected to keep up with their regular class work, which is supported by a blended learning program the school instituted in the second year of RJ, after the teachers observed that students were falling behind. As a result, they spend a significant amount of time in RJ working on their assignments.

The rest of the day is devoted to what the school deems restorative practices, including a morning circle and a closing circle—group conversations themed around why the students are in RJ. This is when students have a chance to talk to each other about what’s going on in their lives and why they are struggling.

“It was gorgeous,” Luz gushes. “[The other students] talk about their problems and then you’re, like, ‘Oh, same,’ you know? And that was literally the best—that we had a trust in that circle. We can tell, like, everything in there—we can compare our problems and then we can help each other.”

Restorative Justice practices
Posters hanging in the RJ classroom at Austin Achieve’s middle school. (Image credit: Alex Sigillo)

They also have a daily lesson around social-emotional learning and another on mindfulness, which can involve yoga lessons, guided meditations and music therapy.

During her time in RJ, Luz’s opinion of the program improved. At first she thought it was “boring” and didn’t take it very seriously. But she began to see the merits of the exercises she was doing.

For example, the two RJ coordinators encouraged Luz and the girl she tried to fight to talk through their conflict. The two had been friends years ago, and after going through the RJ program together, they are getting along again. “With her, I made, like, a bond,” Luz says.

She also took away some practical techniques for managing her anger, she says. One of the things she learned is impulse control. Now, when she gets mad, she counts to 10 in her head before responding. She also has the option of going in to the RJ classroom at any time to talk through her feelings with one of the coordinators.

The whole experience has given her a new perspective.

“It’s just like a silly thing right now, getting in a fight,” she says proudly, echoing her teachers. “And then we’re about to go to high school, and it’s just, like, I’m thinking right now of going to college. Ten years later, I’m not going to care about a fight.”

I could have just gone to jail.Seventh-grader Monse talks about her school’s reaction to contraband.
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Introducing School-Wide Restorative Practices

The school staff has had to adjust and iterate on the RJ program multiple times since its launch. They shortened the average length of stay for students in RJ, from nearly a month to about two weeks. They’ve improved the instructional element, too. In addition to better utilizing blended learning, the school also requires that teachers check in with their students in RJ at least once a week during their planning period.

The RJ classroom is isolated from most academic classrooms on campus, but it doesn’t look all that different from them. The room features whiteboards, a projector and standard desks. But it also has several couches, two dedicated teachers (the RJ coordinators, who work full-time on the program) and typically no more than eight to 10 students at a time.

RJ classroom couches
RJ classroom Mr. Peters
Above: The cool-down area of the RJ middle school classroom. Below: Kenn Peters, one of two full-time middle school RJ coordinators, speaks with a student in the RJ program. (Image credit: Alex Sigillo)

“Having a five-to-one staffing ratio is not sustainable if we were doing that everywhere,” Armbrust acknowledges, “so it’s showing the world this is our priority. We’re going to spend some full-time salary dollars on this person because it’s important.”

But the school’s embrace of a restorative justice program didn’t just benefit the students with the greatest need. Shortly after Austin Achieve launched an RJ program, it also introduced a social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum to all students across all grades.

“We saw the restorative practices working in the smaller pilot environment for the most at-risk kiddos and thought, ‘This should be something that we do district-wide,’” Morrison says.

During those SEL lessons, students learn about emotional intelligence and how their brains work so they can better talk about what they’re feeling and why they may be feeling that way. They tailor these lessons to each age group, Morrison says. So elementary students, for example, learn about good and bad decision-making through the lens of their “wizard brains” and their “lizard brains,” respectively.

These lessons are supposed to set up the students to address conflict through honest, open conversations called “restorative circles,” which are practiced widely throughout the school by students who may never see the inside of the RJ classroom.

The circles can happen one-on-one or in a group, and they can address conflict among peers or between students and teachers. A teacher or administrator usually mediates the discussion, asking what happened, why it happened and what techniques the students have learned in their SEL classes to be able to overcome the conflict or repair any harm done. In many ways, the circle is a condensed version of the proposal students in RJ have to complete.

The mediator present helps assess the conflict by using a mood meter, which kids can use to identify the emotions they’re experiencing.

Austin Achieve Mood Meter
The mood meter used at Austin Achieve, adapted from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

“It’s a very different way of discipline because it’s not about the adults, and it’s not about immediate fixes,” Hartle says. “It’s been really cool to build the idea that you can … be heard by each other and be able to come up with what each person needs to feel comfortable moving forward.”

The students have transitioned to the circles and the RJ program well, Armbrust says. They take both seriously and are proud of the new school culture it’s created.

“Now, it’s cool to be good,” he says. “And when we enroll new kids, [students] will be like, ‘Yo, that’s not the Austin Achieve way. Like that’s just not how we roll here.’”

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