31 de março de 2010

Sociólogo dice que bajar

la edad penal mínima

en Brasil no reducirá


  • EFE
  • ,

El sociólogo argentino Julio Jacobo Waiselfisz afirmó hoy que la reducción de la edad penal mínima en Brasil no contribuirá para disminuir la violencia en el país suramericano, como proponen líderes políticos y la mayoría de la población.

"Si se baja la edad penal a 16, 15 años, los criminales reclutarán niños de 14 y 13. La solución no es reducir la mayoridad (la edad en la que una persona puede ser procesada) y sí el beneficio que la sociedad da a los jóvenes sin importar la edad", comentó Waiselfisz en diálogo con Efe.

El presidente del Instituto Sangari presentó hoy en Sao Paulo el estudio "Mapa de la violencia 2010: anatomía de los homicidios en Brasil", en el que la tasa de homicidios en Brasil registró una ligera reducción en los últimos diez años, pero la violencia se trasladó de las grandes ciudades a los municipios de interior.

Según el informe, la tasa de homicidios en Brasil bajó desde 25,4 por cada 100.000 habitantes en 1997 hasta 25,2 por 100.000 habitantes en 2007.

En números absolutos, Brasil registró cerca de 47.700 homicidios en 2007, con un promedio de 117 muertes por día, según estadísticas del Ministerio de Salud citadas en el informe.

El educador argentino Jorge Werthein, vicepresidente de Sangari Brasil, lamentó el impacto de la violencia en la población negra.

"Es alarmante el reflejo en los homicidios de la discriminación racial, pues es la población (negra) la que más demora en ser alcanzada por los programas sociales", indicó a Efe el especialista argentino.

Mientras que en 2002 morían 1,7 negros de entre 15 y 24 años por cada joven blanco con la misma edad muerto, esa proporción pasó para 2,6 negros por cada blanco en 2007.

Werthein consideró que "sólo con represión no se reduce la violencia. Es un conjunto de acciones, inteligencia y represión calificada lo que permite una estrategia preventiva para garantizar políticas de inclusión social para la juventud, que es el foco más vulnerable de la violencia en Brasil".

Education in the U.S.

Teacher Surveys Aimed

at Swaying Policymakers

Perhaps at no other time in the history of American education has there been more publicly available information about what teachers think about their profession, their students, and the conditions under which they work.

As advocates pore over the results of teacher surveys being conducted nationally, at the state level, and even at individual schools, observers are beginning to ask questions about how the information can be used to inform policies to improve teachers’ working conditions and promote teacher and leadership effectiveness.

“Teachers make up the bulk of the staffing in districts and schools, and they are the anchor of the profession. It seems to us their voices ought to really count,” said Vicki L. Phillips, the director of education initiatives at the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which earlier this month released the results of a survey of some 40,000 teachers, commissioned in partnership with Scholastic Inc.

In an apparent nod to the importance of hearing directly from teachers, the Obama administration has proposed in its blueprint for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that states collect and report information on a variety of school factors, including teachers’ perceptions of their working conditions and whether there is a pattern of teacher absenteeism indicative of the cultural norms of those schools.

“For a while, we’ve been ramping up accountability without really getting into what’s going on in the school,” said Raegen T. Miller, a senior policy analyst for the Center on American Progress, a Washington think tank, who has supported efforts to generate more school-level data. “We can do better than stand on the outside of the black box and look at a few numbers spit out by the annual tests, and see what rewards and sanctions make sense.”

Is Anybody Listening?

At its heart, the matter concerns the complicated question of whether classroom teachers’ views are taken into consideration in policymaking. At the very least, the surveys released over the past three months are generating new data points upon which to draw.

Those surveys include the most recent iteration of the venerable MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, which has been conducted annually since 1984; a three-part study released by Public Agenda and Learning Point Associates; and the Gates-Scholastic measure, billed as the largest-ever survey of teachers in the United States.

Such data are also becoming increasingly fine-grained. The large sample size of the Gates-Scholastic survey permitted some state-by-state differentiation in responses.

In addition, the Santa Cruz, Calif.-based New Teacher Center’s “Teaching and Learning Conditions” survey, begun in 2002, provides detailed information on the conditions teachers experience in individual schools, a step beyond national and state data.

Despite their differing sample sizes and specific questions, the surveys’ findings about what teachers say they need to be successful are remarkably consistent from instrument to instrument. Some of the top findings: Teachers report that the quality of their schools’ leadership, a say in school decisionmaking, and opportunities to work with their peers affect their own capacity as educators.

Still, it is not as clear how influential such survey results have been in policymaking. Part of the reason could be that most teacher surveys still provide snapshots of teachers’ perceptions, rather than longitudinal data.

Of the major national surveys, Metlife's is the only one that occasionally repeats a question from a previous year. But the bulk of questions are changed every year to provide a deeper look at specific areas of education, explained Dana Markow, the vice president of youth and education research for Harris Interactive Inc., which conducted the survey for MetLife.

But some influential players in the education policy arena also are beginning to pay closer attention to the results of surveys.

The National Education Association and its independent foundation are using school-climate surveys to help tailor their initiatives to close achievement gaps in low-income schools and communities.

The Gates Foundation plans to conduct several follow-up studies homing in on areas of interest in its own survey—for instance, teachers’ use of data to inform their practice. As part of its ongoing work to measure the attributes of effective teachers, it is also administering the New Teacher Center’s school survey. (Gates also provides grant support for Editorial Projects in Education, which publishes Education Week.)

In North Carolina, which has administered the New Teacher Center’s working-conditions survey several times since 2002, lawmakers approved a bill requiring all teachers to have a duty-free lunch period and planning time.

That state has also integrated the survey information into its school improvement planning and into its standards for principals and superintendents. Schools that have taken part in the survey several years in a row can also track their progress in improving working conditions for teachers.

Uneven Accountability?

A short section in the Obama administration’s ESEA blueprint indicates that all districts and states could soon be charged with generating such information about school-level working conditions.

Voices From the Classroom

“MetLife Survey of the American Teacher”

• MetLife

• First conducted in 1984, most recent iteration in 2009

• National survey of 1,000 K-12 public school teachers and 500 K-12 principals

“Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on America’s Schools”

• Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Scholastic Inc.

• Conducted in 2009

• National survey of 40,000 K-12 teachers

“Retaining Teacher Talent”

• Public Agenda and Learning Point Associates

• Conducted in 2009

• National survey of 900 K-12 teachers

“Teaching and Learning Conditions Survey”

• Center for Teacher Quality and the New Teacher Center

• Conducted in North Carolina since 2002; more than 27 iterations of the survey have taken place in 15 states

• State-level surveys of teachers; size varies depending on state’s population and participation rate

The blueprint and the administration’s fiscal 2011 budget documents propose that districts and states would have to report, at least every two years, on the conditions in schools, including whether they are heavily staffed by novice teachers, whether a culture of teacher absenteeism exists, and what teachers say about their working conditions.

But it doesn’t specify what states or districts would be expected to do with the data. That’s one of several reasons officials at the national teachers’ unions say they aren’t prepared to support the draft blueprint.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten contends that the blueprint’s focus on individual teachers’ effectiveness and accountability doesn’t adequately address other actors in the education system.

“The problem is that the survey is a free-standing document, it’s not really a part of any real accountability index,” Ms. Weingarten said. “If teachers express some sentiment about what should be fixed in their school, there’s nothing in here that compels anybody to listen to those voices.”

Ms. Weingarten has long promoted a vision of “360 degree” accountability, in which other key players, such as superintendents and principals, are held accountable for providing teachers with the tools they need to succeed, including up-to-date curricula and common planning time.

“Teachers are looking for real support; they don’t want window dressing,” she said.

That’s a good goal, other experts say, but in practice, developing policy based on perceptual data generated from teacher surveys is tricky, said Eric Hirsch, the vice president of special projects for the New Teacher Center.

“We need to be very, very careful about this data point,” said Mr. Hirsch, who oversees the survey process for the center. “Ultimately, who conducts the survey, how it’s conducted, and how it’s going to be used will influence the results you’re going to get. The challenge of getting teachers to donate their time to take the survey and give authentic perceptions of what’s in place should not be underestimated by federal, state, or district [officials] that are going to have to gather this data.”

Mr. Miller of the Center for American Progress, however, thinks that generating the data could be most important step forward, even beyond naming an agent responsible for responding to the results.

“When we eventually see reports at the school level with a bunch of indicators about school climate and working conditions, there will be a ton of questions worth asking,” Mr. Miller said.

Other experts highlight the administration’s plans for school leadership as a sign that it already acknowledges the effects of school culture on teachers.

“I think one of the hopeful aspects of the Race to the Top is that there is a paired emphasis on teacher performance and principal performance,” said Sabrina Laine, the director of the National Comprehensive Center on Teacher Quality at Learning Point Associates, a federally funded technical-assistance provider, referring to criteria for that federal grant competition.

“Getting serious about identifying what the measures of effective school leadership look like,” she said, “will go a long way toward meeting some of the teachers’ unions’ concerns related to the kind of working conditions in place in a particular school.”

Changing Conditions

So far, the clearest instances of how teacher-survey information can inform education practices are found at the local level.

Jack J. Hoke, the superintendent of the Alexander County school system in Taylorsville, N.C., can cite many instances in which his 5,600-student district’s leaders have used the New Teacher Center’s instrument to improve conditions for teachers.

In one school, the survey results showed that teachers largely felt that that they didn’t have enough time to plan together. To address the concern, the school’s principal reworked the schedule so that fine-arts teachers, for instance, took breaks and planning periods at the same time.

At another school, Mr. Hoke said, teachers reported that they didn’t have enough access to up-to-date technology. Armed with that data, the district won a grant from the federal government to support the provision of new technology and accompanying professional development.

Both schools have seen improvements in student test scores, and teacher-turnover rates in the district are now the second-lowest in the state, down from a former ranking of 25th, Mr. Hoke said.

“I think it has been really beneficial for students,” he said. “The most important job I have, in my opinion, is providing the resources and leadership for principals, because they are working with teachers, and teachers are the most important thing that’s affecting the classroom.”

Education Week

Enforcing School Standards,

at Last

Washington has historically talked tough about requiring the states to reform their school systems in exchange for federal aid, and then caved in to the status quo when it came time to enforce the deal. The Obama administration broke with that tradition this week.

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Share your thoughts.

It announced that only two states — Delaware and Tennessee — would receive first-round grants under the $4.3 billion Race to the Top iniative, which is intended to support ambitious school reforms at the state and local levels. The remaining states will need to retool their applications and raise their sights or risk being shut out of the next round.

That includes New York State, which ranked a sad 15th out of 16 finalists.

The Education Department evaluated grant application from 40 states and the District of Columbia, based on how they planned to meet more than three dozen goals.

To get the maximum number of points, states needed to show that they could build a clear consensus among unions and school districts for programs that would improve training for teachers and principals, turn around failing schools, encourage the creation of high-performing charter schools, create data-driven instructional systems and promote high-quality science instruction.

Beyond that, the education secretary, Arne Duncan, made clear from the start that the process would favor states that proposed ways of taking student achievement into account in teacher evaluations.

The politically powerful teachers’ unions reacted fiercely and predictably to this provision. But the two winning states dispensed with the issue with strong teacher effectiveness laws. The Delaware plan requires teachers and principals to show growth in student achievement as a condition of receiving favorable ratings and allows schools to remove “ineffective” teachers from the classroom. Tennessee passed a strong law mandating that 50 percent of a teacher’s or principal’s evaluation be based on student achievement data.

By passing these laws, the winning states made clear that the political leaders intended to move forward with reform whether or not localities and unions objected. Rather than be left behind, both parties supported the state’s application. Some states that had strong applications, including Louisiana, were shut out partly because of weak proposals in science or other areas.

New York lost a lot of ground because the Legislature failed to lift the cap on the number of charter schools, which are run with public money but are often exempt from many union and curricular rules. The state also passed an ill-advised law precluding districts from taking test scores into account in teacher tenure decisions. New York seems to have done a particularly poor job of articulating and gathering statewide support for the reform agenda laid out in its application.

Like the other finalists that fell short, New York has a great deal to do before submitting its next application. That is due on June 1.

The New York Times

For many, ‘mean girl’

practice starts early

Bullying on rise in lower grades

By Bella English Globe Staff / March 9, 2010

The girl came home from school upset. A classmate had called her names. Told her everyone hated her. Said she couldn’t sit with the others at lunch. The other girls all went along with it.

But this girl was 7 years old.

“I have to tell you: I am floored that it starts this early,’’ says the girl’s mother, who asked for anonymity to protect her daughter. “Usually it’s middle school, when boys come into the picture and there’s jealousy and competition.’’

Bullying, at least among girls, starts at a young age; whether this is new is a subject of debate among behavioral specialists.

Some believe that the popularity of shows such as “Gossip Girl’’ and the talk radio shout-fests that kids listen to from the back seat of the car have fanned the flames, which are spread face-to-face and through cyberspace.

“I think what’s different is how uninhibited it [bullying] has become. There’s just a real lack of empathy,’’ said Deborah Weaver, executive director of a self-defense and safety program for Boston girls, who has worked with more than 6,000 girls between 8 and 18.

A spotlight has been focused on bullying among girls since 14-year-old Phoebe Prince in South Hadley killed herself in January after incessant taunting by female classmates. The death follows a number of suicides nationwide that have been linked to bullying, and has educators and parents scrambling once again for answers.

Schools and child development experts are beginning to acknowledge that bullying begins at the earliest ages, and they are taking steps to combat it by promoting kindness and leadership skills.

They worry that the kind of taunting often observed among the youngest children - criticizing each other’s clothing, saying things like “I’m not your friend anymore’’ - can lead to full-fledged bullying by adolescence.

“I think they’re recognizing it, they’re tuned in a little bit more,’’ says Barbara Coloroso, a nationally known expert who wrote “The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander’’ and other books on parenting and conflict resolution.

But even as the state Legislature considers a bill this month to require antibullying programs in every grade in every school across Massachusetts, some say there is reluctance to accept that children picking on each other amounts to bullying.

“We still have this problem that we only get serious about it when it’s physical,’’ Coloroso says. “The old ‘sticks and stones’ adage is a lie, an absolute lie.’’

Though research on cruelty among girls is relatively new, it is clear that the use of friendship as a weapon begins as early as preschool, says Rachel Simmons, author of “Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls.’’

“By some accounts it happens preverbally in girls,’’ she says. “They close their eyes and put their hands over their ears when they’re upset with you. That’s their version of withdrawing from you.’’

Deba Palma, director of admissions and financial aid at Thacher Montessori School in Milton, has seen bullying in preschoolers.

“We see children younger than 5 years old who can have sort of an attitude toward other little girls,’’ she says. By spring of kindergarten year, children become more verbal.

“When their brain starts changing and they get a lot more verbal, it festers more,’’ Palma says. “You start hearing things like, ‘I’m not going to be your best friend,’ and ‘You can’t come to my birthday party.’ ’’

The family of the 7-year-old girl who was shunned at school had moved last fall from one South Shore town to another. The bullying started soon after: “Only babies wear tights. You’re a big baby.’’ “We hate you here. Go back to your old town.’’ If anyone played with the new girl, the leader would say: “Why are you with her? We hate her.’’ The girl wasn’t allowed to eat at the girls’ table; she ate with the boys.

The parents felt the teacher was unresponsive to their complaints, so they went to the school counselor. As a result, the school will implement a bullying prevention program.

Such programs would be required in every grade across Massachusetts under the antibullying bill in the Legislature.

“This is aimed at those schools that are not doing what they need to do to keep students safe,’’ says Representative Marty Walz, a Boston Democrat who is the House chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Education.

Under the bill, every adult in a school must report any bullying incident to the principal, who is then required to investigate and take disciplinary action. In addition, the principal must inform parents of the bully and the bullied and offer a curriculum for parents on bullying.

“Parents are very much a part of the solution,’’ Walz says. If the behavior is criminal in nature, law enforcement must be brought in.

But critics say the bill does not go far enough because it doesn’t criminalize bullying, nor can schools be held liable if they fail to protect children.

“It’s a real toothless tiger,’’ says victims’ rights lawyer Wendy Murphy, who teaches at New England School of Law.

“The schools must investigate, but they only have to report when and if they determine that it constitutes bullying. It’s an honor system in an institutional environment where the primary goal is to cover up all the bad stuff.’’

And if the schools fail to provide the bullying education, she adds, there’s no sanction.

Experts agree that teacher and parental role modeling and intervention are crucial, especially at early ages.

“When we’re talking about 3-, 4-, 5-year-old girls, your ability is stronger as a parent to police your child’s behavior than when your girl is 15,’’ says Simmons, founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, a nonprofit that teaches assertiveness skills.

Still, many parents don’t take the issue seriously at such an early age.

Research shows that mothers will respond forcefully if their young daughters bite or hit someone, Simmons says. But verbal bullying is different.

“Very often, moms say, ‘That’s just girls being girls.’ But if you make light of it and don’t intervene, you’re giving your daughter permission,’’ she says.

Coloroso says it’s imperative to acknowledge bullying regardless of age because the behavior often progresses.

She described a case last year in Washington state in which a group of sixth-grade girls made an animated video set to a Hannah Montana tune and put it on YouTube. Titled “Top Six Ways to Kill Piper,’’ the video showed two girls shooting their classmate, shoving her off a cliff, poisoning her, and making her kill herself. The perpetrators, 11 and 12 years old, were disciplined by their school, but no criminal charges were filed.

“If we don’t handle it in grade school,’’ Coloroso says, “it only gets worse.’’

30 de março de 2010

Education in England

School smacking

loophole closed

Sir Roger Singleton and Ed Balls
Sir Roger Singleton was asked to consider the rules on smacking

Smacking is to be banned for anyone working with children outside the family, closing a loophole on corporal punishment, the government has said.

Until now part-time education settings in England, including religious lessons taught in madrassas, have been able to use corporal punishment.

The announcement comes following recommendations from the chief adviser on child safety, Sir Roger Singleton.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls said the move was "sensible and proportionate".

Under current rules smacking is already banned in state, private school and nurseries but this has not covered educational settings where lessons were taught for fewer than 12.5 hours per week.

But now it will be banned in all forms of tuition, care and supervision outside of the family.

Mr Balls said: "The government does not condone smacking, nor do we want to criminalise parents who choose to discipline their children with a mild smack.

"We know that the majority of parents agree with this view. "

The laws on smacking in schools

Parents are allowed to give their children a "mild smack". This right to smack extends to those who have parental responsibility, such as grandparents or other family members.

The children's secretary said he was glad Sir Roger's recommendations backed the government's drive to promote positive parenting techniques, giving parents "better alternatives to smacking".

Parents who disapprove of smacking should make this clear to others who care for their children, says the report.

Clear message needed

Sir Roger said: "Banning physical punishment outside of the family home sends a straight forward message that it is entirely unacceptable in any form of care, education or leisure."

He sought the views of parents, children, religious leaders and children's charities for the report.

Mr Balls wrote to Sir Roger asking him to re-consider the rules surrounding the use of corporal punishment in "part-time educational and learning settings".

The issue emerged after MP Ann Cryer raised it in a House of Commons debate.

It is under the exemption that covers parents that adults in part-time educational settings have been able to defend their use of "reasonable punishment".


education in the U.S

An Education Basic

Nearly 600,000 students in the New York City area take the bus or subway to school. For years, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has given most of them three free rides per school day. With the transit agency facing severe budget deficits and paring staff and services, it has threatened to eliminate all student passes. Officials say it would save $214 million a year.

The transportation authority’s situation is dire. But when it comes to public education, this is as basic as it gets: young people can’t learn if they can’t get to class. The authority, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Albany need to make that commute as affordable as possible.

For 15 years, the state, the city and the transit agency have each contributed at least $45 million for student transportation. The city is promising its $45 million, but the state cut last year’s contribution to $6 million. That leaves a big gap for the transit agency to fill at a time when there is no money to fill it.

One partial stopgap would be to limit the number of free rides to two per day. The third ride was allowed for an after-school program that often is beneficial but not absolutely essential. A much better answer, and one that would do more to close the authority’s budget gap, is to start charging the drivers who use four toll-free bridges into Manhattan.

Richard Ravitch, now the lieutenant governor, proposed this idea last year as part of a broader plan for new fare increases and fees from everyone who uses the public transit system. Albany was willing to extract money from riders, businesses and taxi passengers but let those drivers off the hook.

One politician who staunchly resisted the new tolls has now reversed course. State Senator Pedro Espada Jr., a Bronx Democrat, announced last week that he favors a $2 dollar-per-car toll for the four bridges, with the money deployed to help save student discounts.

Mr. Espada has had trouble getting people to stand with him, partly because he is being investigated by state and federal officials for campaign violations. Still, the tolls are a sound, fair idea that would also bring more stability to the transit agency’s finances.

In most places, children get a free ride in a big yellow school bus. In New York City, the buses and subways play the role of that yellow bus. The city’s students should be able to keep their free or cut-rate rides.

editorial, The New York Times

Education in the U.S.

U.S. Names Education

Grant Winners

Delaware and Tennessee beat out 38 other states and the District of Columbia to win a share of $4 billion in federal education grants, convincing the Obama administration that they have bold plans for overhauling their public school systems.

Delaware is to be awarded about $100 million and Tennessee about $500 million.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the two states had won because they had written new laws to support their policies and had marshaled overwhelming statewide support from teachers, school districts and business leaders for comprehensive school improvement plans.

“We got 100 percent sign-on,” said Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware, a Democrat.

By announcing only two winners in the first round, Mr. Duncan held to his vow that only a small number of states with extremely ambitious plans would prevail in the Race to the Top competition, which aims to promote innovation by rewarding a few states for exemplary progress in areas that President Obama considers crucial to education reform.

Georgia and Florida came in third and fourth, but won no money.

The president’s goals include expanding charter schools, reworking teacher evaluation systems, improving states’ student-data tracking systems and turning around the lowest-performing schools.

One highlight of Delaware’s proposal was a new state law that allows teachers rated as “ineffective” for three years to be removed from the classroom, even if they have tenure, the department said.

Tennessee passed a law that will allow the state to intervene in failing schools and will permit student academic growth to be used in educator evaluations.

Forty states and the District of Columbia submitted proposals for the competition in January, more than had been originally expected, in part because plunging tax revenues in the recession have left states hungry for federal money.

New York came in 15th of the 16 finalists. New York’s naming as a finalist had been a surprise because the Legislature did not eliminate caps on the number of charter schools, despite having been pushed to do so by both Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Gov. David A. Paterson.

Mr. Duncan had said political influence would play no part in the competition. But by choosing two states with Democratic governors, and by eliminating several strong contenders with Republican governors, including Florida and Georgia, the administration may face grumbling.

Andy Smarick, a Republican who served in the White House and in the Department of Education under President George W. Bush, said, “I don’t think that political influence was a primary determinant here, but it could have had a secondary effect” because Democratic leaders in both states persuaded teachers’ unions to support their proposals.

Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, a Democrat, said in an interview that Republicans like former Senator Bill Frist had contributed a lot to the state’s proposal, but that his own role in persuading the Tennessee Education Association, a teachers’ union, to sign on had been important, too.

“I was able to get the T.E.A. to accept some things that probably a Republican wouldn’t have gotten done,” Mr. Bredesen said.

Florida and Louisiana were considered by many analysts to have strong chances to win. But the largest teachers’ union in Florida urged its locals not to support the plan. And in Louisiana, only 28 of the 70 districts supported the state’s plan, which alarmed school board officials by calling for forceful interventions in hundreds of failing schools.

From among the 41 applicants, 16 first-round finalists were chosen on March 4 — Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Using a 500-point scoring rubric, the reviewers allotted 454.6 points to first-place Delaware, while the District of Columbia, which came in last among the finalists, got 402 points. All states except the winners announced Monday were eligible to submit proposals for the competition’s second round, due on June 1, and Mr. Duncan said he would probably pick “10 to 15” states as second-round winners in September. They will split the $3.4 billion that remains.

Mr. Obama has requested an additional $1.3 billion to extend the competition next year.

The New York Times

9 Teenagers Accused

of Bullying That Led

to Suicide

Don Treeger/Springfield Republican, via Associated Press

South Hadley students at a vigil after their classmate’s death in January.

It is not clear what some students at South Hadley High School expected to achieve by subjecting a freshman to the relentless taunting described by a prosecutor and classmates.

Prince Family

Phoebe Prince, 15, a freshman at South Hadley High School in western Massachusetts, hanged herself in January. Her family had recently moved from Ireland.

Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

South Hadley High School in western Massachusetts.

Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

Mitch Brouillard, who said his daughter had been bullied by one of the students charged in the case, welcomed news of the indictment.

Certainly not her suicide. And certainly not the multiple felony indictments announced on Monday against several students at the Massachusetts school.

The prosecutor brought charges Monday against nine teenagers, saying their taunting and physical threats were beyond the pale and led the freshman, Phoebe Prince, to hang herself from a stairwell in January.

The charges were an unusually sharp legal response to the problem of adolescent bullying, which is increasingly conducted in cyberspace as well as in the schoolyard and has drawn growing concern from parents, educators and lawmakers.

In the uproar around the suicides of Ms. Prince, 15, and an 11-year-old boy subjected to harassment in nearby Springfield last year, the Massachusetts legislature stepped up work on an anti-bullying law that is now near passage. The law would require school staff members to report suspected incidents and principals to investigate them. It would also demand that schools teach about the dangers of bullying. Forty-one other states have anti-bullying laws of varying strength.

In the Prince case, two boys and four girls, ages 16 to 18, face a different mix of felony charges that include statutory rape, violation of civil rights with bodily injury, harassment, stalking and disturbing a school assembly. Three younger girls have been charged in juvenile court, Elizabeth D. Scheibel, the Northwestern district attorney, said at a news conference in Northampton, Mass.

Appearing with state and local police officials on Monday, Ms. Scheibel said that Ms. Prince’s suicide came after nearly three months of severe taunting and physical threats by a cluster of fellow students.

“The investigation revealed relentless activities directed toward Phoebe to make it impossible for her to stay at school,” Ms. Scheibel said. The conduct of those charged, she said, “far exceeded the limits of normal teenage relationship-related quarrels.”

It was particularly alarming, the district attorney said, that some teachers, administrators and other staff members at the school were aware of the harassment but did not stop it. “The actions or inactions of some adults at the school were troublesome,” Ms. Scheibel said, but did not violate any laws.

Christine Swelko, assistant superintendent for South Hadley Public Schools, said school officials planned to meet with the district attorney this week or next. “We will then review this evidence and particularly the new information which the district attorney’s office has but did not come to light within the investigation conducted by the school,” Ms. Swelko said in a statement.

Ms. Prince’s family had recently moved to the United States from a small town in Ireland, and she entered South Hadley last fall. The taunting started when she had a brief relationship with a popular senior boy; some students reportedly called her an “Irish slut,” knocked books out of her hands and sent her threatening text messages, day after day.

At South Hadley High School, which has about 700 students, most students and teachers refused on Monday to talk about the case. Students waited for parents in the pouring rain and a sports team ran by, with one student telling reporters, “Go away.”

Ashlee Dunn, a 16-year-old sophomore, said she had not known Ms. Prince personally but had heard stories spread about her in the hallways.

“She was new and she was from a different country, and she didn’t really know the school very well,” Ms. Dunn said. “I think that’s probably one reason why they chose Phoebe.”

On Jan. 14, the investigation found, students abused her in the school library, the lunchroom and the hallways and threw a canned drink at her as she walked home. Her sister found her hanging from a stairwell at home, still in her school clothes, at 4:30 p.m.

Some of the students plotted against Ms. Prince on the Internet, using social networking sites, but the main abuse was at school, the prosecutor said.

“The actions of these students were primarily conducted on school grounds during school hours and while school was in session,” Ms. Scheibel said.

Ms. Scheibel declined to provide details about the charges of statutory rape against two boys, but experts said those charges could mean that the boys had sex with Ms. Prince when she was under age.

Legal experts said they were not aware of other cases in which students faced serious criminal charges for harassing a fellow student, but added that the circumstances in this case appeared to be extreme and that juvenile charges were usually kept private.

The Massachusetts House and Senate have passed versions of an anti-bullying law, but disagreement remains on whether all schools will be required to conduct staff training about bullying — a provision in about half the states with such laws and one that is vital, said Robert O. Trestan, Eastern States Civil Rights Counsel of the Anti-Defamation League, which has led the effort for legislation in Massachusetts.

The prospective law, Mr. Trestan said, is aimed at changing school cultures and preventing bullying, but would not label bullying a crime because it is a vague concept. “These indictments tell us that middle school and high school kids are not immune from criminal laws,” he said. “If they violate them in the course of bullying someone, they’ll be held accountable. We don’t need to create a new crime.”

A South Hadley parent, Mitch Brouillard, who said his daughter Rebecca had been bullied by one of the girls charged in Ms. Prince’s death, said he was pleased that charges were brought. One of the students was charged separately in a case involving his daughter.

“My daughter was bullied for three years, and we continually went to the administration and we really got no satisfaction,” Mr. Brouillard said, adding, “I was offered an apology a few weeks ago that they should have handled it differently.”

The school has convened an anti-bullying task force, which met Monday, to help determine how to deal with bullying. “That’s the really clear message we’re trying to send — if you see anything at all, online, through friends, you have to tell us,” said Bill Evans, an administrator leading a group subcommittee.

The task force must also consider whether state law affects existing procedures. “The big question out there is what the legislature will impose on school districts,” Mr. Evans said.

Harvey Silverglate, a lawyer in Cambridge, Mass., who has argued that proposed cyberbullying laws are too vague and a threat to free speech, said that he thought the charges announced Monday would pass legal muster. The sorts of acts of harassment and stalking claimed in the charges were wrong under state law, Mr. Silverglate said, but a question would be whether they were serious enough to constitute criminal violations, as opposed to civil ones.

“There is a higher threshold of proof of outrageous conduct needed to reach the level of a criminal cause of action, in comparison to the lower level of outrageousness needed to prove a civil violation,” he said.

A lawsuit involving another case of high school bullying, in upstate New York, was settled on Monday. A gay teenager had sued the Mohawk Central School District, saying school officials had not protected him.

In the settlement, the district said it would increase staff training to prevent harassment, pay $50,000 to the boy’s family and reimburse the family for counseling, The Associated Press reported. The boy has moved to a different district.

Erik Eckholm reported from New York, and Katie Zezima from South Hadley, Mass.

A construção dos talentos

José Pastore

O Estado de S.Paulo

Esta é uma história verdadeira. Tenho um grande amigo, brilhante Ph.D. em Economia, que acaba de se aposentar num banco internacional. Ainda jovem (58 anos), recebeu um convite para integrar o corpo docente da Universidade da Malásia, em Kuala Lumpur, onde esteve para a entrevista inicial.

Ele teve um choque ao conhecer a carga de trabalho que o aguardava: dois cursos por semestre (cerca de cem alunos por classe), corrigir as provas, orientar dez estudantes de pós-graduação e publicar dois "papers" por ano em revistas de alto conceito internacional. Remuneração: equivalente a R$ 6.500 por mês, sem 13.º salário ou abono de férias e nenhum benefício adicional, exceto uma pequena ajuda para moradia.

Sendo ele um pesquisador sênior, delicadamente recusou o convite. Mas concluiu que, na Ásia, o conhecido rigor que é usado para recrutar e remunerar a força de trabalho industrial é utilizado também para o caso de professores. E que dezenas de Ph.Ds. talentosos aceitam com prazer as referidas condições.

Isso explica o salto daquela universidade ao passar recentemente da 230.ª para a 180.ª posição no ranking das melhores do mundo. A produção acadêmica asiática está prestes a superar a ocidental. Na última década, os cientistas chineses quadruplicaram o número de "papers" publicados nas melhores revistas do mundo.

É uma corrida alucinante para formar novos talentos. A China envia cerca de 100 mil jovens todos os anos para fazer estudos de graduação e pós-graduação nos EUA. O mesmo ocorre com a Índia (Institute of International Education, Report on International Educational Exchange, 2009).

Além disso, os dois países estão promovendo um rápido repatriamento dos seus cientistas. Em 2009, Shi Yiong, prestigiado professor de biologia molecular da Universidade de Princeton (EUA), voltou para a China, dispensando uma verba de US$ 10 milhões que tinha para tocar suas pesquisas. Em 2007, Rao Yi, biólogo de alta reputação na Northwestern University, renunciou à cidadania americana (!) e assumiu a direção da Faculdade de Ciências da Vida na Universidade de Pequim. Na mesma época, o pesquisador Wang Xiandong deixou a Faculdade de Medicina da University of Texas Southwestern e foi dirigir o Instituto Nacional de Ciências Biológicas, também em Pequim (Fighting Trend: China is Luring Scientists Home, The New York Times, 6/1/2010).

A China e a Índia estão oferecendo prêmios sedutores para quem tem experiência com a pesquisa ocidental. Tudo isso para queimar etapas e fortalecer o principal alicerce do desenvolvimento econômico - o conhecimento.

Na educação, a corrida é em relação a um ponto móvel. Isso significa que, por exemplo, enquanto o Brasil avança 10%, a Malásia, a Índia e a China avançam 20% ou 30%. As diferenças aumentam.

Nessa maratona alucinante estamos na rabeira. O Brasil forma 40 mil engenheiros por ano. A China forma 300 mil. O Relatório de Monitoramento Global - Educação para Todos (Unesco, 2010) colocou o nosso país no 88.º lugar entre 128 nações, uma posição desconfortável para quem pretende ser uma potência regional ou mundial. Com todo o respeito, estamos atrás até do Paraguai.

O Brasil continua exibindo um dos mais altos índices de repetência escolar (19%). Menos da metade dos jovens está no ensino médio e apenas 13% chegam ao ensino superior. A força de trabalho do Brasil tem apenas sete anos de escola, em média, e má escola. A da Coreia do Sul tem 11 anos de boa escola.

Em 2009 "sobrou" 1,7 milhão de vagas no Brasil por causa da falta de qualificação dos candidatos. Não é para menos. A maioria dos estudantes que chegam à 8.ª série não entende o que lê e mal domina as operações aritméticas.

Temos de melhorar muito a qualidade do nosso ensino. Para tanto, precisamos de governantes com mentalidade de estadistas, que valorizem a educação e que sejam capazes de envolver toda a sociedade nessa sacrossanta empreita.


29 de março de 2010

RTHAMPTON, Mass., March 29, 2010

9 Teens Charged for

"Unrelenting" Bullying

Massachusetts Prosecutor Brings Charges after Teen Girl Committed Suicide

  • (AP / CBS)

(CBS/AP) Nine teens have been charged in the "unrelenting" bullying of a teenage girl from Ireland who killed herself after being raped and enduring months of torment by classmates in person and online, a prosecutor said Monday.

Northwestern District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel said 15-year-old Phoebe Prince of South Hadley was stalked and harassed nearly constantly from September until she killed herself Jan. 14. The freshman had recently moved to western Massachusetts from Ireland.

"The investigation revealed relentless activities directed toward Phoebe to make it impossible for her to stay at school. The bullying for her was intolerable," Scheibel said.

Six teens — four girls and two boys — face charges including statutory rape, assault, violation of civil rights resulting in injury, criminal harassment, disturbance of a school assembly and stalking. Three younger girls face delinquency charges.

Scheibel said the harassment began in September. She said school officials knew about the bullying, but none will face criminal charges.

While making the transition to a new town and a new country, Prince, officials believe, became the target of intense cyber-bullying.

CBS News correspondent Whit Johnson reports Prince seemed to be well-adjusted and happy, but underneath, friends say, the 15-year-old freshman was tormented - a victim of cyber-bullying.

A friend who did not want to be identified told CBS News, "She was being bullied because she was pretty and people were just jealous." The friend said she was called an "Irish slut" and a whore.

According to a letter from Prince's high school principal, what began as "mean-spirited comments" at school soon found their way online, something experts say is far more dangerous.

Prince was found dead in her South Hadley home on Jan. 14, just days before a big school dance.

The night after she died, fellow students held a candlelight vigil.

"The actions of these students were primarily conducted on school grounds during school hours and while school was in session," the prosecutor said.

Scheibel refused to discuss the circumstances of the rape charges.

Prince's family has moved away from the area and could not immediately be located for comment. Scheibel spoke for them at a news conference to announce the charges.

"The Prince family has asked that the public refrain from vigilantism in favor of allowing the judicial system an opportunity to provide a measure of justice for Phoebe," she said.

Some students accused of participating in the bullying have been disciplined by the school and will not be returning to classes.

Scheibel said the case is still under investigation, and there may be additional charges.

The Massachusetts Legislature cited Prince's death and the apparent suicide of 11-year-old Carl Walker-Hoover of Springfield last year when members passed anti-bullying legislation earlier this month.

This isn't the first time cyber-bullying has ended in death. In 2006, 13-year-old Megan Meier killed herself after being harassed on MySpace by a neighbor's mother, posing as a 16-year-old teenage boy. Several other well-publicized instances have followed.

A Educação Compromete

A baixa qualidade do sistema educacional brasileiro, em especial quanto ao ensino de ciências e matemática, está comprometendo todo o esforço que o país tem feito para avançar em infraestrutura e em uso da tecnologia da informação (TI). Fator de competitividade no mundo moderno, a TI é medida atualmente como indicador de potencial de desenvolvimento e de atração de investimentos em projetos industriais, de agropecuária avançada e de serviços que demandam tecnologia de ponta. Levantamento divulgado semana passada pelo Fórum Econômico Mundial (WEF, na sigla em inglês), mostra que o Brasil perdeu, em 2009, duas posições no ranking mundial organizado pela entidade com base no Índice de Tecnologia da Informação (IPI), em relação ao levantamento de 2008. O Brasil caiu da 59ª para a 61ª, numa relação que envolve 133 países.
O WEF analisou 68 itens e constatou que o Brasil fez progressos em aspectos como telefonia, rede elétrica e centros de pesquisa. Com isso, o país ganhou posições num dos pontos mais importantes da pesquisa, o da infraestrutura. Mas esses avanços são anulados pelas deficiências da educação e pela perda de pontos preciosos em mais dois setores: burocracia e impostos. Responsáveis pela pesquisa alertam para o efeito da elevada carga tributária sobre o s produtos de tecnologia e de comunicação no Brasil, o que torna mais difícil o acesso da maioria da população a esses recursos.

O resultado é que o Brasil está perdendo a corrida para os emergentes China (37ª), Índia (43ª) e Chile (37ª), além do pequeno Barbados (35ª), países que têm investido na criação de condições para o desenvolvimento da tecnologia da informação em suas escolas, empresas e instituições governamentais. Mesmo na comparação com os países da América Latina e do Caribe, o Brasil, além Barbados e Chile, está em posição inferior às de Porto Rico, Costa Rica, Uruguai, Panamá e Colômbia. Na região, somente o México (78ª) e a Argentina (91ª) têm perdido mais posições do que o Brasil. Os economistas do WEF reconhecem que a comparação com Barbados é deficiente, já que em países muito pequenos é mais fácil fazer uma política de desenvolvimento dar certo.

O ITI é um indicador que não deve ser desprezado, pois revela o sucesso e o fracasso do esforço que os países estão fazendo para se manter atualizados e competitivos, pois mede a real implantação de novas tecnologias em cada país. Os pontos fracos detectados no Brasil, em especial o da preparação das pessoas para se interessar e para usar com eficácia os recursos da tecnologia, indicam frentes que o país deveria atacar com prioridade. Na verdade, a conclusão a que chegou o estudo do WEF já vem sendo denunciada por levantamentos realizados por instituições públicas e privadas brasileiras, que têm alertado para a proximidade de um apagão de mão de obra qualificada. Se é mais do que sabido que na área tecnológica essa deficiência na preparação do trabalhador é grave, torna-se incompreensível a falta de ação no sentido de acelerar a correção dessa falha. Privar as novas gerações de oportunidades de trabalho com a importação de técnicos ou, pior ainda, pela inviabilidade do crescimento econômico por falta de mãos e cérebros treinados será imperdoável.

Estado de Minas

Indo com muita sede ao poço

A escolha entre os regimes de concessão ou partilha na exploração de petróleo e a guerra dos royalties entre as unidades federativas têm sido bastante debatidas na imprensa. Mas outra questão também muito importante e menos abordada é a possível destinação desses recursos para fins específicos. Por exemplo, uma alquimia que transforme a riqueza submersa do pré-sal em capital humano, por meio de investimentos maciços em educação.

A inserção da economia brasileira na nova ordem global apenas como fornecedora de recursos naturais não constitui uma perspectiva brilhante para nosso futuro.

São portanto legítimas as aspirações de transformar a riqueza potencial do petróleo em uma oportunidade histórica de remover a pobreza por meio da qualificação do trabalhador brasileiro.

Trata-se de uma alquimia não apenas politicamente desejável mas também economicamente viável. Faz sentido a conversão de recursos naturais exauríveis, parcialmente responsáveis pela riqueza das nações no presente, em recursos humanos mais produtivos, fator crítico de sucesso na futura sociedade do conhecimento. Mas é importante não colocar a carroça na frente dos bois.

Em economia, a ordem dos fatores altera o produto. O primeiro passo é obter novos investimentos, centenas de bilhões de dólares para extrair e transportar o óleo recém-descoberto, de modo a possibilitar o aumento da produção e do emprego. Esse passo exige um marco regulatório que acelere o ritmo de investimentos, sem o que ficaria ainda mais distante a erradicação da miséria.

Em seguida se dará o segundo passo: o expressivo aumento de renda nas atividades petrolíferas converte-se em maior arrecadação de recursos públicos. Aceleram-se as receitas com royalties, a Contribuição Social sobre o Lucro Líquido, a Participação Social e o próprio Imposto de Renda.

Finalmente, o terceiro passo é a transformação desse aumento de impostos no que é uma unanimidade entre as prioridades das políticas públicas: a educação brasileira.

A confusão a ser evitada é a seguinte: uma coisa é a distribuição dos recursos fiscais entre as unidades federativas; outra coisa é a destinação final desses recursos, em nosso exemplo sob a forma de investimentos em educação. A primeira diz respeito às esferas de implementação das políticas públicas; a segunda, às prioridades dessas políticas.

Se a prioridade são os investimentos educacionais, como implementá-los? Pela concentração de recursos na esfera da União, nos moldes centralizados de regimes políticos fechados? Ou pela distribuição desses recursos para estados e municípios, na boa tradição democrática de descentralização? A execução descentralizada das políticas públicas é uma ferramenta democrática a exigir a reforma fiscal. A guerra dos royalties é apenas uma corruptela dessa inadiável reforma disparada por gente que está indo com muita sede ao poço.

Paulo Guedes, O Globo


El Gobierno comenzó

a distribuir computadoras

portátiles en escuelas

Destinará una inversión total de $323 millones que incluye, entre otros equipos, 250.000 netbooks, 1.200 servidores escolares y 250.000 pendrives

A Suécia de olho no Brasil


É extremamente difícil comparar o que se passa na Suécia com o que ocorre no Brasil, principalmente na área da educação

ENQUANTO NA calçada a neve descia em flocos apressados, a cidade de Estocolmo, linda apesar do frio de 6 graus negativos, abrigava um importante seminário sobre o Brasil e o futuro, a cargo de especialistas dos dois países. Falou-se sobre novas formas de energia (etanol, biodiesel, gás natural e até sistemas híbridos) e defesa do meio ambiente.
O embaixador Antonino Mena Gonçalves traçou um panorama bastante otimista em relação à ampliação das relações comerciais mantidas por nosso país com a nação escandinava, que hoje tem aproximadamente 200 empresas em território brasileiro, contabilizando, somente elas, mais de 50 mil funcionários.
Isso ainda pode crescer muito mais, assinalando-se algo visível a olho nu: o povo sueco tem grande estima pelos brasileiros, fato que remonta ao parentesco do nosso imperador com a família real escandinava. Com o reforço, é claro, da Copa do Mundo de 1958, a que lançou Pelé. Até hoje eles se lembram como aplaudiram os nossos craques durante a final, que vencemos por 5 a 2.
A Suécia tem 9 milhões de habitantes e cerca de 2 milhões de estudantes nas suas escolas. O ensino é integral para todos os alunos -e rigorosamente gratuito, das 9h às 16h30. Os professores são bem remunerados e constituem uma categoria socialmente muito respeitada. Os pais se interessam pela educação dos filhos, especialmente nas primeiras séries do ensino fundamental, quando é comum participarem das atividades escolares para estimular os filhos à conquista do conhecimento.
Uma das palavras que ouvimos na Câmara de Comércio foi a do professor Thomas Arctaedius, da Universidade de Estocolmo. De forma bem objetiva, ele traçou para os 180 participantes do seminário as prioridades da sua instituição.
Vale a pena prestar muita atenção: 1) a formação de cientistas; 2) a formação de pensadores; 3) a formação de professores. Isso numa universidade que tem 50 mil alunos.
É extremamente difícil comparar o que se passa na Suécia com o que ocorre no Brasil, sobretudo na área da educação. São duas realidades totalmente distintas.
Querem um exemplo? Fizemos uma visita à Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Ela é uma das quatro responsáveis pela atribuição anual do Prêmio Nobel. Na exposição feita por um dos seus membros, o que mais chamou a atenção foi o cuidado revelado com as crianças. "Elas devem, desde cedo, acostumar-se com a iniciação científica. Damos a isso absoluta prioridade."
É claro que o resultado só pode ser a existência de um país solidamente constituído do ponto de vista científico e tecnológico. Produz talvez o melhor papel do mundo (lembro que era muito utilizado pela revista "Manchete") e tem empresas internacionais do porte da Volvo, da Ericsson, da Scania e da SKF, exportando tecnologias e mão de obra ultraespecializada. Sem contar os aviões de combate (caças Gripen), hoje alvo de movimentada concorrência internacional.
Não é de estranhar, pois, que, cuidando assim dos seus recursos humanos, a Suécia esteja no topo das dez maiores economias mundiais impulsionadas pela inovação, superando países como Estados Unidos, Noruega e Dinamarca.
Em pesquisa da London Business School, a Suécia apresentou a melhor combinação de atributos, com os seus serviços de educação e capacitação.
Com outra particularidade: há poucas probabilidades de que o país perca essa liderança, com o atual estágio em que se encontram as suas tecnologias de comunicação (redes, celulares e computadores).
Na lista dos países em desenvolvimento, impelidos pelos recursos naturais, o Brasil figura em sexto lugar na classificação feita pelo Fórum Econômico Mundial, atrás da Malásia, da África do Sul, do Chile, da Argentina e da Rússia.
A conclusão óbvia é a de que devemos persistir nas estratégias de inovação, para o que se torna indispensável um choque de eficiência no processo educacional brasileiro, hoje muito aquém das necessidades de crescimento do país. Quando se vê o que se faz lá fora, aumenta a vontade de uma grande mudança.

ARNALDO NISKIER , 74, é doutor em educação, professor de história e filosofia da educação e membro da Academia Brasileira de Letras.