U.S. Senate Subcommittee Hears Testimony on School-to-Prison Pipeline

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Twenty-year-old Edward Ward, a sophomore on the honor roll at DePaul University, tried to describe to U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.), the only senators left in the room by the time he spoke on Capitol Hill Wednesday, what it was like to grow up in his neighborhood on the west side of Chicago. “When I was 18, I witnessed a complete stranger’s killing mere feet from me in a neighborhood restaurant,” Ward said before the Senate subcommittee. “I was stopped by the police a few years ago. I saw them train their guns on me until I could show them the item in my hand was only a cell phone.”

Things didn’t get much better at high school, Ward said.

Exploring the Use of Pell Grants To Go From Prison to College

NEWARK, N.J. – Recidivism could be cut and public dollars could be saved if lawmakers lifted a longstanding federal ban on Pell grants to prisoners. Those were some of the key arguments made at Rutgers University last week by a group of academics, criminal justice reformers and formerly incarcerated individuals in a fledgling program meant to serve as a bridge from a youth correctional facility to college. John J. Farmer, Jr., former New Jersey attorney general and now Dean and Professor of Law at the Rutgers School of Law, called the restoration of Pell grants for prisoners “one of the most important dialogues we can have in the context of law enforcement.”

“I think that education in our prisons is the key to preventing recidivism,” Farmer said. Farmer made his remarks Thursday at the Rutgers University Paul Robeson Campus Center during an event titled “Pell Grants and Prison Education: How Pell Grant Access in Prison Transforms Lives.”

Among those who spoke in support of lifting the ban on Pell grants to prisoners was Dallas Pell, daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell, father of Pell grants. Pell, who is founder of an organization called Pell Grants for Public Safety, said providing education for individuals in prison is a “no-brainer” and “one of the most effective tools we have to make our community safe.”

Pell and various speakers noted how a plethora of studies have repeatedly found that higher education for prisoners significantly reduces their likelihood of returning to prison.

2011 Research Data Shows Social Media Sites Can Improve Students’ Education

Spending time on social media sites, such as Facebook, can help students do better in school, according to new research by an education professor at University of Maryland. In a survey of 600 low-income high school students, Christine Greenhow found that students build bonds when they connect with school friends on social networking sites.

Blueprint for Turning Schools Around Fast

Dramatic and comprehensive change is the key to improving school performance, according to a new research paper. The School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight Education says bold strategies are the only way to narrow the achievement gap for low-income and minority students. This advice comes as school systems across the country are applying for the next round of Title 1 School Improvement Grants this year.  Researchers recommend that money should only fund bold and truly different programs. They discourage funding for schools that are using the same old strategies that contributed to their decline in the first place.  Some other recommendations:

Think Big
Relentlessly enforce accountability for student achievement
Encourage school districts to use partners in bold and innovative ways
Create district level strategies
Communicate with families

School Boards Dispute Federal Bullying Policies

School boards across the country are protesting federal bullying policy. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is challenging the U.S. Department of Education on the federal interpretation of bullying as a civil rights violation. As JJIE reported in October, the Department sent a 10-page letter warning schools to comply with federal rules to prevent bullying and harassment. It also said student bullying may violate anti-discrimination laws. The letter sent to schools nationwide said: “When…harassment is based on race, color, national origin, sex, or disability, it violates the civil rights laws that [the Office for Civil Rights] enforces.”

NSBA sent a letter Tuesday to Charlie Rose, General Counsel for the Department of Education, urging the Department to clarify it’s definition of bullying and harassment as a civil rights violation.