An online newsletter produced by EdSource
with support from The California Endowment 


March 19,
Issue 48
Student Health
health data map of state
Click on map to go to report.

What is the teen birth rate in your county? What's the water quality? How many children are living in poverty?

To find out how your county ranks on measures that include rates of high school graduation, sexually transmitted infections and access to mental health providers, check out the 2016 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps.

This year for the first time, the data include the number of drug overdoses per county, although the report cautions that if the number of deaths is relatively small, the data may be unreliable. To see drug overdose data for a county, click on a county from the list of rankings and select "Additional Health Behaviors (not included in overall ranking)." The rankings, which include every county in the U.S., were prepared by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and are part of a national community health report.

Out of 57 California counties, Marin County ranks #1 in "overall" health while San Mateo County ranks #2. Los Angeles County ranks 25th, Riverside County ranks 29th and Sacramento County ranks 32nd.

California summary results are here, but the rankings aren't meant to be an end point. The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps are intended to provide communities with data and strategies they can use to improve healthy behaviors at home, school, work and in neighborhoods, according to its creators.

School Discipline
Report finds discipline disparities at charter schools
In what is called the first analysis of discipline practices at charter schools across the nation, a new report finds that the average suspension rate at charter schools is greater than at non-charter schools.

The Civil Rights Project at UCLA analyzed 2011-12 discipline data from 5,250 charter schools. More than half of the charter schools were characterized as "lower suspending" schools. The report lists the highest-suspending charters in the nation for several racial/ethnic groups and analyzes discipline gaps by race or ethnicity and by disability status. Other findings include:
  • 374 charter schools suspended 25 percent of their enrolled student body at least once in the 2011-12 school year.
  • More than 500 charter schools suspended black charter students at a rate that was at least 10 percentage points higher than the rate for white charter students.
  • 1,093 charter schools suspended students with disabilities at a rate that was 10 or more percentage points higher than for students without disabilities.
Addressing racial bias in school discipline
The U.S. Department of Education hosted a video conversation with a school principal, a  researcher and a federal official about how to change school discipline practices.

Among the highlights: Kent McIntosh of the University of Oregon, a researcher who provides assistance to schools on positive behavior strategies, talked about the unconscious racial biases we all possess, known as implicit bias. Those biases, he said, often come into play when teachers, staff and administrators make "snap judgments" about student behavior. Would a teacher view an incident differently if the student looked like the teacher? he asked.

Discipline incidents that are open to interpretation, such as behavior deemed disrespectful or defiant, are "vulnerable decision points" where implicit bias can emerge, he said. And that bias contributes to disproportionality, he said, where students of color and students in special education are suspended in numbers that are out of proportion to their enrollment.

Most school staff acknowledge that the disproportionate suspension of students of color and students who receive special education services is "a big societal problem," he said. And they are eager for data that identifies discipline hot spots -- times and locations where most incidents occur -- and training in how to neutralize a situation, he said.
 "When we given them tools rather than labeling everyone as racist...they've been pretty  responsive," he said. View the video conversation on YouTube.

Schools commit to reducing suspensions, but parents don't have the details
Every one of California's 50 largest school districts has committed to
reducing the number of students sent home for behavioral infractions. But two years into a state requirement that districts let parents evaluate the path of progress, most of those 50 districts have not set specific suspension goals nor provided comparison rates that would allow parents to see if improvement is happening, according to a new report. Read more at EdSource Today.

In the upcoming 2016-17 school year, parents can no longer refuse to vaccinate their children in public schools, private schools and child care centers based on their personal opposition.

The number of parents who have opted-out of vaccinations for their children has been small  -- in 2015-16, 2 percent of kindergarten students opted out. But many of those parents are ardent in their opposition, and districts will be working with them to meet the requirements of the new law, Senate Bill 277.

To view vaccination rates at schools in California from 2008-09 through 2015-16, visit the EdSource kindergarten vaccination database.

For frequently asked questions about vaccination requirements, visit the EdSource story "What schools and parents need to know about the new vaccination law."

Go to the vaccination database at EdSource Today.

Special Education
California moves to bring special education students 'into the fold' of mainstream education
Large print math books.
Ordered by the federal government to elevate academics for students with disabilities, and by the state to raise low-income student achievement, the California Department of Education is working to create a unified system that will do both. It's a move that aims to bring special education students into every school district initiative to improve achievement.

Read more at EdSource Today.
School Sports
A game-changer on concussions? A top official for the N.F.L. acknowledged for the first time the link between playing football and developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease. And concerns about concussion-related brain damage have touched young players as well. Earlier this month, the Pop Warner youth football organization settled a lawsuit brought on behalf of a man who committed suicide allegedly because of brain injuries he suffered playing tackle football starting at age 11.
Student Safety
Sexual abuse lawsuit. Two former students in the South Pasadena Unified School District are suing the district alleging that they were sexually abused by a high school track coach in 2014 and 2013 because the district was negligent. Their suit comes after Pierre Jonas Hernandez, the former track coach at South Pasadena High School, last fall pleaded no contest to misdemeanor counts of child molestation and sexual battery.

Abuse reports allegedly ignored. Reports of sexual abuse by a Torrance High School wrestling coach were allegedly ignored by Torrance Unified School District administrators, according to a lawsuit filed by 18 current and former students. The coach, Thomas Joseph Snider, pleaded not guilty last year to 33 felony charges of inappropriately touching children and eight misdemeanor charges of child molestation involving 25 boys. 
Social and Emotional Learning
A Harvard University professor who evaluated the CORE districts' research on the relationship between students' social and emotional skills and academic achievement reports encouraging initial results. And he says the work should continue, even if the districts' controversial next step -- incorporating the findings from student surveys into an index that ranks schools' performance -- has pitfalls.

Read more at EdSource Today.

How do educator beliefs, policies and practices contribute to some groups of students being more harshly disciplined than others for similar incidents? The Regional Education Lab West and New York University's Technical Assistance Center on Disproportionality present a webinar to discuss:
  • Using data to identify disproportionality
  • Identifying root causes of disproportionality in discipline rates
  • Analyzing existing policies and practices to address disproportionality
  • The research/knowledge base on cultural competence and equity
Friday, April 1
9 to 10:30 a.m. PT
Register for the webinar here.
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