News on IDEC 2012

June 20, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Posted in AERO, Democratic Education | 1 Comment
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The IDEC 2012 was launched in the presence of students, teachers, university professors, leaders from the non-profit sector as well as local business people. The press conference took place last month with a detailed description of what the IDEC is and what it will mean to host the great event in Caguas, Puerto Rico in March of 2012. Lourdes Aponte who presides the Alliance for Alternative Education spoke about the role of the multi-sectorial effort behind the IDEC so that it will have an impact on the schools and education of the children and youth in Caguas and Puerto Rico. Scott Nine from IDEA spoke about the event and his projections for a deep dialogue among the participants that will take the IDEC to a new level of exchange and learning. The Mayor of Caguas, William Miranda Torres, shared with the group the importance of the IDEC for the new projects that will transform the city into a “living laboratory for learning” and the IDEC will be the launching pad for this great effort.
A highlight of the press conference was the testimonies of two former students of Nuestra Escuela, Viviana Pacheco and Jorge Vazquez, who eloquently shared their anticipation in receiving young people from all over the world in their community. The IDEC 2012 was off to a great start, the web site was presented and the request for presentations was launched. The public dialogue about democratic education has begun in Puerto Rico and will set the groundwork for an exciting IDEC 2012.

Find out more and register online at: www.idec2012.org

Alex Olek from Themes Network Schools, Mayor Torres of the host city of Caguas, Justo Méndez Arámburu of Nuestra Escuela and Scott Nine of IDEA.

Lourdes Aponte of the Alliance for Alternative Education, Mayor Torres of the host city of Caguas, Justo Méndez Arámburu of Nuestra Escuela and Scott Nine of IDEA.

Viviana Pacheco, former student of Nuestra Escuela and student leader of the Youth Forum and Jorge Vazquez former student and now teacher at Nuestra Escuela.

Andrea Barrientos of the IDEC2012 Coordinating Committee speaking about the call for presentations.

A review of recent research into children’s rights based education in state schools in Hampshire, England (Report)

March 31, 2011 at 11:01 am | Posted in AERO, Democratic Education | Leave a comment
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A REVIEW OF RECENT RESEARCH INTO  CHILDREN’S RIGHTS BASED EDUCATION IN STATE SCHOOLS IN HAMPSHIRE, ENGLAND

(by Derry Hannam for the Spring 2011 edition of the EUDEC newsletter, Leipzig, Germany)

In 2002 one of the county education officials in Hampshire, England learned of research carried out  by researchers at Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia, Canada, into the effects of children’s rights education which involved the consistent teaching and modelling in ‘rights respecting classrooms’ of what are generally referred to as the ‘participation rights’ set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC –  www.unicef.org/crc/ ) (Covell & Howe, 1999; 2001; Covell, O’Leary & Howe, 2002; Howe & Covell, 1998).  These early findings in Canada indicated that, compared with their peers, children who learn about their rights under the Convention, in a rights-consistent classroom, show ‘increased levels of self-esteem, increased perceived peer and teacher support, a more adult-like understanding of rights and responsibilities, more supportive attitudes toward children of minority status, and more rights-respecting behaviours.’ (Covell and Howe, 2007 and 2008 – available from www3.hants.gov.uk/education/childrensrights/  )

In 2002 and 2003 administrators and a small group of interested infant, junior and primary head teachers from Hampshire County undertook  study-leave in Cape Breton, Canada. Following these visits the Hampshire Education Authority’s Rights Respect and Responsibility Initiative (RRR) was created. This involved a programme of whole school reform in some Hampshire schools which began with infant, junior and primary schools and later extended into a small number of secondary schools. The initiative, perhaps surprisingly, received the whole hearted support of key locally elected conservative party politicians and the current policy is that RRR should eventually involve all the county’s schools at all age levels.

The UN agency responsible for monitoring the implementation of the UNCRC by signatory states (which include all the UN member states except for the USA and Somalia) is UNICEF. In 2004 UNICEF UK  created a two level national award which proved appropriate for validating the efforts of RRR schools in Hampshire and which encouraged the creation of similar programmes in several other cities and counties in England. This is known as the Rights Respecting Schools Award (RRSA) details of which can be found at www.unicef.org.uk/rrsa

In 2005 the Cape Breton researchers Covell and Howe agreed with Hampshire staff that they would carry out a 3 year longitudinal study from 2005 to 2008 on the effect of the RRR programme in 16 infant, junior and primary schools some of which they categorised  as fully implemented (FI) schools and others as less fully implemented (LFI) schools (later changed to PI or partially implemented). They  used a 1 to 8 scale for this school self evaluation with 1 representing ‘not really started’ and 8 indicating that children’s rights were central to the overall functioning and ethos of the school,  operationalised in every classroom and understood and supported by all staff. In 2005 at the start of the study school ratings ranged from 3.0 to 7.9. By the end of the second year in 2007 3 schools had dropped out and of the survivors 4 had reached level 8, 4 had lower scores than at the start, and the other 5 had made some improvement, one very considerably (3.00 to 7.67) and one only very marginally  (4.40 to 4.50). The researchers attributed the drop-out, the improvements and the declines entirely to the relative commitment, planning, leadership and enthusiasm, or lack of it, of the individual school headteachers for the aims of the RRR project.

In 2006 a second study covering much of the same ground was initiated by UNICEF UK to evaluate the impact that their RRSA (Rights Respecting Schools Award) was having on participating schools. This was carried out by the Universities of Sussex and Brighton and resulted in a preliminary report in 2008 after one year of a 3 year longitudinal study and a final report in 2010 (Sebba and Robinson, 2008 and 2010   – www.unicef.org.uk/Documents/Education-Documents/RRSA_Evaluation_Summary.pdf ). The study collected data from 12 schools in 5 local authority areas, including Hampshire where in one or two schools data was also being collected at the same time by Covell and Howe causing some confusion in these schools according to the Cape Breton researchers! Strangely Sebba and Robinson make no reference to the work of Covell and Howe in their reports though surely they must have known of it.

Covell and Howe’s findings are certainly interesting for those trying to implement more democratic approaches in state (or in the US ‘public’) schools and school systems. There is no space here to detail all the findings or the methodologies of the two Covell and Howe reports so I will quote their summary –

‘…we can confidently say that where RRR has been fully implemented, teachers and pupils are showing many benefits. Teachers are feeling less stressed and enjoying their classes more, and are able to see the positive effects on their pupils of the work they are doing. Pupils are aware of their rights, they respect the rights of others, they feel respected, and their levels of participation and engagement in school have increased. Schools in which RRR has been fully implemented emanate an atmosphere of mutual respect and harmonious functioning. They are clearly, in the words of the overarching principle of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in “the child’s best interests.” ‘ (Covell and Howe, 2010)

Significantly the authors noted a qualitative difference in the understanding of the programme between children in the fully implemented or progressing schools and those where the school RRR rating was static or declining. In the former schools children had an understanding that rights were inalienable but need to be accompanied with growing responsibilities and respect for the rights of others whereas in the latter schools children saw the programme as mainly to do with rules and obedience to those rules.

One of Covell and Howe’s findings is of particular interest to me and supports one of the guiding hypotheses of the study that I conducted for the UK government in 2001 into ‘more than usually participative schools’, a concept that substantially overlaps with that of a ‘rights respecting school.’ (Hannam, 2001  – www.csveducation.org.uk/downloads/research-and-reports/Impact-of-Citizenship-Education-Report.pdf ) This involves

‘… the possibility that the positive effects of RRR are the most pronounced in the schools which are in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods. In such schools, absences and behavioral incidents have decreased markedly; and test scores, motivation, and self-regulation in learning and behavior, and parental involvement have increased significantly. Pupils’ behaviour, academic motivation, and achievement test scores have shown remarkable improvement. It would appear that the rights education program has altered the educational experiences, and in turn, the motivations and aspirations of the pupils.

Pupils living in adverse family circumstances, through RRR, are perhaps for the first time experiencing respect, success, and hope for their futures. In the words of one pupil, “It (RRR) gives you self-encouragement knowing that you have rights and someone cares about it.”  There is reason to believe that RRR may in fact function as a protective factor in promoting educational resilience among children living in adversity.’

Sebba and Robinson’s findings are similarly positive and a selection are set out below under the six headings required by the UNICEF UK commissioning brief which are themselves based on the six headings used for evaluating schools for the RRSA.

  1. Knowledge and understanding of the CRC. This developed well in most, though not all, of the studied schools and gradually became a ‘way of being’ in some rather than a list of rights to be learned one by one. Responsibility developed parallel to the growing understanding of rights. Some schools had difficulty in taking along ancillary staff such as playground supervisors. As with Covell and Howe, Sebba and Robinson found the attitude and commitment of head teachers to be crucial to the successful implementation of the project.
  2. Relationships and Behaviour. The study schools reported improvements in relationships between students, between staff, and between students and staff. Where conflicts between students did occur students became more able to resolve these for themselves.
  3. Pupils feel empowered to respect the environment and rights of others locally, nationally and globally. Awareness of international issues and campaigns grew though understanding of national and local issues was less well developed.
  4. Pupils demonstrate positive attitudes towards inclusivity and diversity within society. Positive change in attitudes towards ethnic minorities and disabilities of all kinds was reported in all the study schools over the 3 years of the study.
  5. Pupils actively participate in decision-making within the school community. Although there was progress on this issue within all the study schools there were still  examples of adults making decisions for students that they were perfectly capable of making for themselves.   Much of the decision making allowed to many school student representative bodies such as student councils was still restricted to issues such as toilet cleanliness rather than curriculum design or other core purposes of the schools, though there were examples where this was not the case. On the whole progress was better than the average for English schools as a whole reported in a major review of student involvement in school decision making in England carried out in 2007 by Whitty and Wisby (2007). (Whitty and Wisby’s review is available on-line and  makes reference to several  studies in which I have been involved. I can provide copies to anyone interested.)
  6. 6. Pupils show improved learning and standards. Aside  from begging the question of ‘standards of what?’ students and staff in the study schools reported that the rights respecting approach created a classroom climate that was ‘more conducive to learning.’  Scores on standardised tests improved in a majority of the study schools and exclusions and suspensions  for anti-social bahaviour declined in most during the 3 years of the study. There are always so many variables at work in educational research that causal connections can rarely be demonstrated but the associations are nonetheless  interesting and match

those in my own 2001 study.  Also consistent with the findings of  Covell and Howe and my own work was the finding  that the shift to higher test scores and less anti-social behaviour appeared to be greatest in schools in poor socio-economic areas. ‘RRSA may mediate the influence of poor socio-economic circumstances on outcomes.’

Both studies presume that there are no ambiguities within the overriding requirement of the UNCRC that the ‘best interests’ of the child should always be the yardstick for its interpretation and implementation. Neither study  explores the fundamental contradiction that I would certainly have felt as a child in a ‘rights respecting’ school between on the one hand my “…right…to education…compulsory and free to all” (article 28) if it was experienced as subjection to testing that damaged my self confidence and self-esteem, being grouped by ‘ability’ in a way that labelled me as ‘bright and gifted’ or ‘being a slow learner’, being coerced into lessons where I must ‘attend’ to a compulsory curriculum much of which I find to be uninteresting or irrelevant and on the other hand my participation rights set out in the Covention. Namely my “…right to express (my) views freely in all matters affecting the child…the views…being given due weight…” (article 12), my “right to freedom of expression…to seek, receive and impart information of all kinds…” (article 13),  my “right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion…” (article 14), my “right to freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly..” .(article 15), my right not to be “…subjected to arbitrary interference with…privacy…” (article 16), and my right to be protected “…from all forms of physical or mental violence…” (article 19).

There are moves to introduce Matthew Lipmann’s Philosophy for Children (P4C) programme into Hampshire schools. Perhaps this will provide the students and the teachers with the analytical and critical tools to make sense, or not, of these contradictions in the UNCRC and the RRR programme?

As a teacher in state schools for many years I see the RRR  programme and the RRSA accreditation as steps towards a more humane school system. Educators in democratic schools might have other views of course.

Derry Hannam, March 2011

REFERENCES :

Covell, K. & Howe, R.B. (2005). Rights, Respect and Responsibility. Report on the RRR Initiative to Hampshire County Education Authority. Nova Scotia: Cape Breton University Children’s Rights Centre

Covell, K. & Howe, R.B. (2007). Rights, Respect and Responsibility. Interim Report on the RRR Initiative to Hampshire County Education Authority. Nova Scotia: Cape Breton University Children’s Rights Centre

Covell, K. & Howe, R.B. (2008). Rights, Respect and Responsibility. Final Report on the RRR Initiative to Hampshire County Education Authority. Nova Scotia: Cape Breton University Children’s Rights Centre

Hannam, D. (2001) A Pilot Study to Evaluate the Impact of the Student Participation Aspects of the Citizenship Order on Standards of Education in Secondary Schools. London: CSV

Sebba, J., and Robinson, C. (2008). Evaluation of UNICEF UK’s Rights Respecting Schools Awards (RRSA) Scheme. Interim Report at the end of Year 1. Brighton: Universities of Sussex and Brighton

Sebba, J., and Robinson, C. (2010). Evaluation of UNICEF UK’s Rights Respecting Schools Awards (RRSA) Scheme. Final Report. Brighton: Universities of Sussex and Brighton

Whitty, G. And Wisby, E. (2007). Real Decision Making? School Councils in Action. DCSF Research Report RR001. London:DCSF

 

 

Let Kids Rule School: The Independent Project at Monument Mountain Regional High School (Article/Video)

March 15, 2011 at 10:42 am | Posted in AERO, AERO Online Video Series, Democratic Education | 1 Comment
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Susan Engel
In a speech last week, President Obama said it was unacceptable that “as many as a quarter of American students are not finishing high school.” But our current educational approach doesn’t just fail to prepare teenagers for graduation or for college academics; it fails to prepare them, in a profound way, for adult life.

We want young people to become independent and capable, yet we structure their days to the minute and give them few opportunities to do anything but answer multiple-choice questions, follow instructions and memorize information. We cast social interaction as an impediment to learning, yet all evidence points to the huge role it plays in their psychological development.

That’s why we need to rethink the very nature of high school itself.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/opinion/15engel.html?_r=3&emc=eta1

Watch a video about The Independent Project:

What is Democratic Education? in YES! magazine (Article)

March 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Posted in AERO, Democratic Education | Leave a comment
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Isaac Graves

As a leader within the alternative and democratic education community, I am frequently asked the question, “What is democratic education?” When I was a teenager, and at that time a recent graduate of a democratic school, I used to give a fairly dogmatic and uninviting response which included a bullet point list of requirements to be “democratic.” Surprisingly, this was not an effective method to talk about what I was most passionate about. This style of communication disappeared as I grew up and my experience as an organizer and educator evolved. I learned to approach individuals humbly, listen genuinely, internalize and digest, respond gently and with care, share what is true for me, and not feel as though I needed to provide answers and solutions. I learned what I try to teach the young people in my life today—how to meaningfully and authentically communicate and be in community with others while honoring one’s own unique self and needs. When asked, “What is democratic education?” today, I am excited to share my current answer as well as shed light on what other voices in the wider education community have to say which are gleaned from hours of interviews I recently conducted.

What is democratic education?
Read more at http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/what-is-democratic-education

Democratic School Seeking Teacher and Intern (Job)

February 8, 2011 at 9:15 am | Posted in AERO, Democratic Education, Education Job | Leave a comment
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Democratic School Seeking Teacher and Intern

Harriet Tubman Democratic High School is a democratic high school located in downtown Albany, New York. We are currently looking to fill a part-time teaching position and a part-time intern position, both starting at the end of August 2011. For more information, please visit our website at www.tubmanschool.org.

______________________________________________________________________________

Part-Time Teacher Position Description: Harriet Tubman Democratic High School is currently looking to fill a part-time teaching position starting at the end of August 2011. Our school serves students ages 14-18 (grades 9-12) from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Staff members at our school act as teachers, advisors, mentors, and administrators. General responsibilities include: attendance for all school hours three days a week, attendance at school functions, teaching academic classes and workshops, advisory of students to help them meet their personal and academic goals, administrative meetings, and parent conferences. Staff members also share daily responsibilities such as serving meals, mediation, spontaneous activity involvement, cleaning, and maintenance.

Qualifications: Previous experience working with teens from diverse backgrounds preferred but not required. Must be self-directed and posses strong communication skills. Previous work references requested. Harriet Tubman Democratic High School is a cooperative and each part-time staff member receives a stipend of $6,250 during the school calendar year. Apply to this position by sending a resume by e-mail to director@tubmanschool.org or by mail to:
Harriet Tubman Democratic High School
59 Elizabeth Street
Albany, NY 12202

Harriet Tubman Democratic High School strives to create a diverse educational community and encourages people from varied backgrounds and experiences to apply. Harriet Tubman Democratic High School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identification.

______________________________________________________________________________

Part-Time Intern Position Description: Harriet Tubman Democratic High School is currently looking to fill a part-time intern position starting at the end of August 2011. Our school serves students ages 14-18 (grades 9-12) from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Interns at our school act as teachers, mentors, and general support to the staff. General responsibilities include: attendance for school hours three days a week, attendance at school functions, teaching at least one class, support of students to help them meet their personal and academic goals, and administrative meetings. Interns also assist staff with daily responsibilities such as mediation, spontaneous activity involvement, cleaning, and maintenance.

Qualifications: Previous experience working with teens from diverse backgrounds encouraged but not required. Must be self-directed and posses strong communication skills. Previous work references requested. Harriet Tubman Democratic High School is a cooperative and each intern receives a stipend of $1,000 during the school calendar year. Apply to this position by sending a resume by e-mail to director@tubmanschool.org or by mail to:
Harriet Tubman Democratic High School
59 Elizabeth Street
Albany, NY 12202

Harriet Tubman Democratic High School strives to create a diverse educational community and encourages people from varied backgrounds and experiences to apply. Harriet Tubman Democratic High School does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identification.

AERO Conference Documentary (VIDEO)

January 18, 2011 at 11:15 am | Posted in AERO, AERO Conference, AERO Online Video Series, Democratic Education, New Resource | Leave a comment
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This is a short film by Franzi Florack of the 7th annual AERO conference, which took place in Albany, NY June 24-27, 2010. The theme of the conference was “Learner-centered alternatives for everyone.” Find out more about AERO conference and this year’s event in Portland, OR, “Transforming Education & Our World,” by visiting www.educationrevolution.org/​conference.html

2010’s ‘Best of Democratic Education’ List (Resource)

January 3, 2011 at 10:26 am | Posted in AERO, AERO Conference, AERO Online Video Series, Democratic Education, Education Events, Education News, Education Revolution Magazine, International Democratic Education Conference, New Resource | Leave a comment
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Isaac Graves

I recently read through Education Week’s “Revisiting the Most Popular Stories of 2010” list and was generally disenchanted. This is not to say it’s a bad list, rather it didn’t represent my work and passions in democratic and alternative education. After a few days of jogging my memory, looking through a few ‘cheat sheets,’ and asking around I now present to you my ‘Best of Democratic Education’ list for 2010. I’ve organized the links into a few categories with no ranking system (I wouldn’t want Alfie Kohn to get mad).

Best of…

Visit http://www.democraticeducation.com/2011/01/03/bestof2010/ for the list.

Democratic School in Givat Olga, Israel (VIDEO)

November 5, 2010 at 1:23 am | Posted in AERO, AERO Online Video Series, Democratic Education | Leave a comment
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A look at Givol, the democratic school in Givat Olga, Israel.

 

Lives of Passion, Schools of Hope: The Alumni Project for the Jefferson County Open School (ARTICLE)

November 3, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Posted in AERO, Democratic Education | Leave a comment
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Rick Posner

***The book that came out this project, Lives of Passion, School of Hope, was published in November of 2009 by Sentient Publications

This project entails an in depth follow-up of the graduates of an unusual public school: the Jefferson County Open School in Lakewood, Colorado. The Open School (as it is usually called) is a public school that goes against the grain of current educational practice. For nearly 36 years, the Open School has thrived as an alternative to conventional schooling. The pre K-12 school is non-graded, self-paced and experiential. No grade point averages or academic credits cloud its approach to the education of the heart, mind and spirit. Every student has a personal advisor on the staff or in the community as well as a personal learning plan with goals in the social, personal and intellectual domains.

*****

Goals of the Open School
Rediscover the joy of learning
Engage in the search for meaning in your life
Deal with and understand the world that is
Prepare for the world that might be
Help create the world that ought to be

*****

Students have a direct say in school governance and curriculum as well as in the hiring of staff and administration. Students move out of program levels based on the completion of rites-of-passage projects and their development as self-directed learners. In fact, they demonstrate they are ready to graduate or become members of the adult tribe by writing their own narrative transcripts. Thus, the skills and attitudes learned at Open School are not meant to be disposable. The idea is to create an educational experience that sticks with you, that you can actually use to live a full, meaningful life—a sustainable education, if you will.

Read more at:

http://www.democraticeducation.com/2010/10/27/jcos-alumni-project/

Moving Forward with the Struggle: What Can We Learn From the Alumni of the Open School (VIDEO)

November 3, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Posted in AERO, AERO Conference, AERO Online Video Series, Democratic Education | Leave a comment
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Moving Forward with the Struggle panel discussion was facilitated by Rick Posner and featured at the 7th annual Alternative Education Resource Organization conference (AERO Conference).

From the original description:
My book, Lives of Passion, School of Hope, discusses the relations, influences and recommendations from the alumni of one of the longest lasting alternative schools in the public sector, Jefferson County Open School. This workshop will address where we’ve been, where we’re going and hopefully, how we get there. The workshop will include a panel of alumni, from different eras from The Open School.

Rick Posner taught public school for thirty years, eighteen of those at Jefferson County Open School (one of the longest lasting public schools of its kind) as a teacher, administrator and as a proud parent. He did his doctoral work at University of Denver, focusing on self-directed learning and rites-of-passage curriculum. Currently, he is an affiliate faculty member at Regis University and Prescott College. He has written a book about the alumni of the Open School entitled,Lives of Passion, School of Hope: How One Public School Ignites a Lifelong Love of Learning (Sentient Publications, Nov. 2009).

We had trouble embedding the videos here, so watch them at:

http://www.democraticeducation.com/2010/10/26/open-school-panel/

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