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The Absolute Best School Climate Blogging (This Week)

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Happy Friday, Rules readers. It's been a busy week in the school climate world. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed an anti-bullying bill into law. As is the case in many other states, the new law addresses electronic communications, which have been a bit of a sticky wicket in some areas because of free-speech concerns. Those problems are even more pronounced when cyberbullying is treated as a crime, rather than a matter of school discipline. Policymakers would be wise to watch the results of this New York case, in which a student was arrested on misdemeanor charges for a Facebook posting.

But now let's dig into some challenging reads for folks who care about kids. This week, we read about empathy, the challenges of engaging high-achieving students, a warning for supporters of community schools, and more.

On empathy and perception:

"We may pay lip service to character education and empathy, but our children report hearing a very different message."
—The Atlantic writes about a new report that shows children believe their parents value achievement over empathy.

On empathy and boys:

"While parents, researchers, and educators decry the lack of STEM toys for girls—and rightly so—what often goes unnoticed is that assigning genders to toys harms boys, as well. Too often children's playrooms reinforce gender stereotypes that put boys at risk of failing to gain skills critical for success in life and work. The most important of these? Empathy."
—MindShift writes about how changing the way we play with boys can help them develop empathy.

On emotions and learning:

"Scared kids perform poorly, and don't learn new information well. Anxiety is the enemy of memory. And, sadly, in many of today's classrooms, we see children whose intellectual energies and capacities are drained by negative emotional states. Emotion is the on/off switch for learning."
—A commentary at Great Schools addresses how the part of children's brains that controls emotions can interfere with the learning process.

On community schools:

"While leaders in NYC believe they have a lot to learn from Cincinnati, in fact, Cincinnati has something to learn from the NYC reforms in the Bloomberg era: there is no substitute for pressing hard for instructional improvement, giving principals freedom to lead their schools, rewarding the best teachers, and constantly searching for more effective instructional models."
—A commentary at the Center on Reinventing Public Education's website warns that community school models are only effective when they are accompanied by strong academic supports.

On dropping out of high school:

"What we came to realize was that her high school did not meet her needs as a learner. While she was an interdisciplinary thinker and was intellectually curious about a number of different creative areas, her school was highly traditional in its structure and curriculum."
—Donald E. Heller, dean of the college of education at Michigan State University, writes in Education Week about supporting his daughter's choice to drop out of high school because she did not feel engaged.

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