Washington, D.C. – Public schools in Cleveland can reduce violence, promote the mental health of students and improve conditions for learning and teaching by implementing reforms contained in a report by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), which follows a six-month audit of conditions in the city’s schools.
The Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson asked AIR to conduct an audit that recommends steps to support the social and emotional learning of students. The audit followed a school shooting in 2007 in which a 14-year-old high school student shot two teachers and two students at his school and then took his own life. AIR’s report, which was released on August 13, 2008, focuses on steps the schools and the community can take to improve the school environment for students and teachers.
The audit found strengths along with weaknesses and “gaps” in the city’s education and mental health services, and provides a strategy that builds upon existing strengths to address the depth and complexity of what is needed for improvement. AIR has been asked by the city and the school district to work with them to implement the plan.
“Schools can not do this work alone,” said David Osher, a managing research scientist at AIR and the report’s lead author. “Many Cleveland students, families and educators confront daily the impacts of poverty, environmental toxins and trauma. Fortunately, they live, attend school and work in a city rich in human and cultural capital and good will.” The report’s recommendations, which would be implemented over the next five years, include:
- Freeing up guidance counselors and school psychologists so they have more time to counsel students, while recruiting graduate students with backgrounds in social work and school psychology to assist them.
- Eliminating or modifying rules and procedures that are counter-productive, like reassigning "problem students" to other schools.
- Training school administrators, teachers and security staff to use positive approaches to discipline rather than reactive and punitive actions, to develop student social and emotional competence and to better understand and communicate with their students.
- Developing an early warning and intervention system to identify potential mental health issues.
- Engaging with parents and caregivers to help them understand the important role they play in supporting their children's education and well-being.
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is an independent, nonpartisan not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research on important social issues and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity.