College of Education in the news

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Detroit launches attendance initiatives as rising absenteeism threatens pandemic recovery

By Grace Tucker  Detroit school district officials are planning more aggressive steps to reverse a rise in chronic absenteeism, a huge obstacle to their efforts to help students recover academically from the impact of the pandemic. In the latest school year, 77% of Detroit Public Schools Community District student were chronically absent, meaning they missed at least 10% of school days. Researchers say the figures are further evidence that the district needs to do more to address the broad range of causes for Detroit’s long struggles with absenteeism, including socioeconomic and transportation factors. “I think there’s this impression that Detroit parents don’t care about school, and that could not be further from the truth,” said Sarah Lenhoff, an associate professor at Wayne State University’s College of Education. “Families want their kids to be in school.” Lenhoff co-authored a study analyzing the rise in absenteeism rates during the 2020-21 school year, and said technology was a main contributor, noting that 40% of parents reported that computer problems, like Wi-Fi issues and poor-quality laptops hindered student access to online classrooms. When Detroit’s kids don’t make it to school, Lenhoff said. “it really speaks to the need for the city to invest more in employment, invest in stabilized housing, and make sure that families have the food and health care that they need, so that they can give their children what they want to give them…get them into school.”  

Diverse student needs must be considered in school shooting responses

Recovery following the trauma of a school shooting is not uniform – it varies by community, from school to school, across student subgroups and even among individuals. It is also impacted by factors like the availability of school counselors, barriers to accessing mental health support and pre-existing traumas. Family structure, how different communities grieve, and past experiences with gun violence and law enforcement can all inform this process as well. Because of these differences, measures commonly adopted by schools nationwide in response to school shootings — like doubling down on school police or bringing in grief counselors — should be tweaked or reconsidered to fit the needs of Black, Hispanic and immigrant communities, according to school trauma, crisis and security experts. As part of that crisis response, many lawmakers and school leaders have discussed increasing law enforcement and security in schools. However, this option may not be suitable for all students. Black and Hispanic students are already more likely to be in schools with police presence – which is associated with increased school arrests – than their white counterparts. “Schools cause trauma. And not just through school shootings, but in a myriad of ways, especially for historically marginalized and systematically oppressed groups,” said Addison Duane, a former elementary school teacher with a Ph.D. in educational psychology and now a professor at Wayne State University. “And I think that, in the wake of something as horrific and preventable as a school shooting, the trauma compounds.”   

Violent threats against schools increase after Uvalde shooting

By Naaz Modan In the week following the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, multiple school shooting threats have surfaced across the nation, prompting schools to increase security or shut down buildings entirely. Following the COVID-19 pandemic school building reopenings, administrators and staff braced for an increase in student misbehaviors, including aggression and gun violence. While school shootings dropped during building closures, they have returned to pre-pandemic levels and may have even increased, according to Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization started by the Sand Hook Elementary School parents. Following school shootings, it is common for schools to increase security, including tapping into law enforcement for help. There is also concern, though, that some security measures may actually make students feel unsafe. “There is research to support that the presence of police and school resource officers (SROs) and metal detectors and random locker checks and clear backpacks are directly linked to the psychological trauma response,” said Addison Duane, a former elementary school teacher with a Ph.D. in educational psychology who is now a professor at Wayne State University.

The ‘best gift’: Alabama school celebrates final graduation before court-ordered closure

By Rebecca Griesbach and Trish Powell Crain  A federal judge recently ordered R.A. Hubbard high school in Alabama to close its doors – a decision that sparked debate and frustration among many community members. Hubbard will close this summer. Younger students and teachers will be moved out of the majority-Black high school to other schools in Lawrence County. It’s a dilemma that hangs over many other rural, small schools in Alabama and around the country. In addition to losing half of its student population in a short time, the school landed on the state’s ‘failing schools’ list in 2019 after earning an ‘F’ on the state report card. The school has been stuck on the list throughout the pandemic, regardless of the progress they made moving their grade from an ‘F’ to a ‘B’ the following year. The superintendent said there are academic and extracurricular opportunities available at the county’s other schools that are hard to offer at a small high school. “What we learned [from Brown vs. Board], was that the burden of school closures was felt, both socially and emotionally, mostly by Black students,” said Erica Edwards, assistant professor of education at Wayne State University. She said educators in closing schools can face certain stigmas, and that school leaders should make sure that they are investing in culturally responsive practices to ensure a smoother transition. “When these schools close the they begin going to white schools, emotionally you have to bear the brunt of the difference: Being othered, being ostracized, having to prove yourself in ways that predominantly white communities don’t always understand or acknowledge or recognize,” Edwards said.

‘Waiting for the next thing’: What it’s like teaching after a mass shooting

By Naaz Modan  On Wednesday morning, teachers and students nationwide filed into school hallways and classrooms less than 24 hours after news of another mass school shooting poured out of Uvalde, Texas. Students were required to take final exams, and teachers were expected to grade papers and continue instruction. From the outside, maybe, it looked like business as usual. But many teachers were experiencing emotions ranging from fear and helplessness to stress and nervousness. Nothing is new about the range of emotional, physical and behavioral side effects reported by educators across the nation in the wake of the Uvalde massacre. It is a ripple effect that many teachers have described experiencing after similar mass school shootings: Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Sante Fe, Oxford. That’ because those reactions are all symptoms of trauma response, according to Addison Duane, a former elementary school teacher with a Ph.D. in educational psychology and now a professor at Wayne State University. Duane’s research and expertise includes trauma and racism in schools. The trauma experienced after a school shooting can be layered on top of pre-existing traumas resulting from systemic racism, especially for those who work in or are members of communities that have been historically marginalized, like Black, Hispanic and low-income students. Robb Elementary School is a case in point: It is 90% Hispanic and 87% economically disadvantaged, according to school district data. Layering of trauma is now “a ubiquitous part of the U.S. experience,” Duane said.  
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A window to them as people’: This Detroit teacher helps adult learners return to the classroom

By Ethan Bakuli  In recent years, the Detroit Public Schools Community District has prioritized restructuring its GED program. Adult educator Christian Young, a Wayne State University College of Education alumni, was named Adult Educator of the Year by the Michigan Reading Association. Young focuses on welcoming his adult students back to school, recognizing that for many of them, it is the first time they have stepped foot in a classroom in years. For Young, endearing students to class assignments and term papers starts with an autobiographical essay, an exercise that focuses on the student’s life. Not only does it allow him to gauge their writing skills, but it “gives me a window to them as people,” Young said. He added, “I continue to pay attention to them throughout the year and find plenty of ways to incorporate their likes and dreams into the lessons.” 
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Rethinking your drinking

Thirty-five years after the federal government created a public health campaign to raise awareness of a growing epidemic of alcoholism in the U.S., the problem became more pronounced, especially among young women, during the pandemic. Figures from Nielsen report national alcohol sales surged 54% in March 2020. April is National Alcohol Awareness Month, an opportunity to reexamine your relationship with alcohol, said Erika Bocknek, an associate professor of counseling psychology at Wayne State University. “It’s a moment to step back and reflect before your drinking gets out of hand,” she said. The first step to evaluating your drinking is to ask yourself why you’re having a drink, Bocknek said. “Alcohol plays a pervasive role in our culture, so it’s easy to make drinking issues seem less problematic. It’s important to remember that the problem can be invisible…The reason alcohol works as a coping strategy is because it dulls your senses and forces you to relax,” Bocknek said.  
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Why taking fever-reducing meds and drinking fluids may not be the best way to treat flu and fever

By Tamara Hew-Butler  Tamara Hew-Butler, associate professor of exercise and sports science in Wayne State University’s College of Education, wrote an article addressing the use of fever reducers and fluids in battling the flu. These well-intentioned and firmly entrenched recommendations offer comfort to those sidelined with fever, flu or vaccine side effects. But, Hew-Butler says you may be surprised to learn the science supporting these recommendations is speculative at best, harmful at worst and comes with caveats. 
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MLK Day: New Detroit on why we need to talk about race, how to move forward

By Ken Haddad  As we commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the U.S., it’s important to remember the issues Dr. King fought to resolve, and how problems continue to persist today. In a special video presentation from New Detroit, titled ‘Conversations on Race,’ a group of local voices discuss the way forward on race relations, and share some of their experiences with racism. Truman Hudson, Jr., lecturer and outreach and marketing specialist in the division of teacher education at Wayne State University’s College of Education, is a featured speaker. Hudson says it’s important to talk about race, and structural and institutionalized racism. “…I’m always fighting for positionality that I work with and work for. Not just Black men, but Black women, brown men and brown women, red men and red women. It’s like there’s these racially perceptions of what we can’t do, and when we show up and show out, that can’t be,” he said. “We’re the anomaly – no, there are more of us. You’re just not opening up the doors for us to participate in the conversation. And when you do open up the doors, you want us to speak a certain way, look a certain way, and have a certain tonality when we deliver our presentations. And, don’t let me come across too forceful…so I have to temper my delivery, because if I don’t temper my delivery or firm up my look, there’s a perception that I’m coming across too aggressive…So, I’m always on guard…” 
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Critical race theory isn’t taught in Michigan but does play a role in how teachers think about equity

By Malachi Barrett  Culture war controversy surrounding critical race theory gained new ammunition when a Detroit superintendent acknowledged the concept’s influence on anti-racist efforts in his school district. Conservative activists in Michigan and across the country packed school board meetings this year to denounce the teaching of critical race theory – a graduate-level academic framework that examines how racial groups are affected differently by legal systems and institutions. School officials assert CRT is not part of any curriculum in Michigan, but educators are making commitments to understand their own biases and provide students with a wider view of history. Truman Hudson, a professor of teacher education at Wayne State University, said conversations around CRT have become messy because the term is applied too broadly. Critical race theory is a way of thinking about history, Hudson said, and examining the role of race, class, and gender. Hudson said some of the confusion stems from educators themselves, who also conflate CRT with course material. “This is one lens that we can take to explore historic events in this country,” Hudson said. “The unfortunate part is when you start talking about race, it gets misconstrued that it’s CRT, but it doesn’t have to be. The reality is that race is a concern in this country with or without the framework of CRT.”  
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Report: COVID, finances helped drive absenteeism in Detroit district

By Ethan Bakuli  Chronic absenteeism rose significantly for Detroit district students last year as families continued to deal with financial, logistical, and health ramifications of the COVID pandemic. A new Wayne State report shows that 70% of Detroit students were chronically absent – missing 10% or last school year – compared with 62% in 2018-2019. About 54% were described as severely chronically absent, meaning they missed 20% or more of the year. The report comes from a representative survey of more than 800 Detroit families as well as student attendance records and administrative data provided by the Detroit school district. At the core of the study’s results, according to Sarah Winchell Lenhoff, an assistant professor of education at Wayne State, are the ongoing social and economic barriers that chronically absent students face, particularly the difficult choices that families are forced to make in order to meet the expectation of good attendance without an adequate kind of social support structure. “We talked to families who had to quit their jobs to make sure their kids are in schools,” Lenhoff said. “Maybe their child’s attendance is better, but then they’re unemployed, and they’re not making any money.”  
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Youth-led groups reach out to Oxford students to ‘grieve, heal, grow’

By Hani Barghouthi  Gun violence survivors, educators and students gathered on Sunday at a community healing event in downtown Oxford. The event, which was focused on offering mental health resources and resources to the Oxford community and others who were affected by the shooting, was organized by the Michigan chapter of March for Our Lives, a youth-led organization dedicated to gun violence prevention, and the Detroit Area Youth Uniting Michigan, a youth-led social and economic justice organization. Some the support comes from the Mental Health and Wellness Center and the Family and Mental Wellness Lab at Wayne State University, which has been providing in-person and telehealth therapeutic services to people in Metro Detroit who have been affected by the Oxford High shooting. “The kids we’ve spoken to are having a very wide range of feelings, and their feelings are changing all the time,” said Dr. Erika Bockneck, a professor of educational psychology at Wayne State University. “They’re experiencing grief and loss, then the next day they might be feeling really angry. And then there are some days where they’re kids, and I think they’re just not sure what to feel.” In addition to direct counseling, Bocknek and other counselors at the center are working with the Mala Child and Family Institute in Plymouth to develop a free text service where they send out messages of support and information about trauma response.  
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10 years of strict teacher evaluations haven’t boosted learning in Michigan

In 2011, Michigan implemented a tough new teacher evaluation system in which educators’ annual job reviews were based partly on the standardized test scores of their students. The plan seemed straight-forward: Reward good teachers, weed out bad ones and Michigan’s moribund learning would improve. A decade later, that experiment is generally considered a failure by educators, policymakers and researchers, and there’s an effort now to change the state’s teacher evaluation system, or at least pause it, until schools return to normal after the pandemic. Before the reform, determining which teachers were superstars was nearly impossible, because virtually all teachers were rated as effective. The teacher accountability measures were seen as a way to allow schools – and families – to distinguish great teachers from the average ones. “It was seen as a potential reform that could make a big difference and improve equitable outcomes,” said Sarah Lenhoff, associate professor of educational leadership at Wayne State University. “It was bipartisan, and had broad support from the education advocacy community.”  
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The doctor is in: Children and trauma

Dr. Sarah Kiperman, assistant professor of educational psychology and a child psychologist at Beaumont Health, shares advice on how families can help children deal with trauma and talk about tragedies such as the Oxford High School shooting. “The first thing, and the easiest thing, we can do is check in with them – ask your kids directly how they’re doing and if they want to talk about anything…When we do notice changes in their behavior, their appearance or how they’re eating and sleeping – those are things to be looking out for.” 
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7 tips to stay healthy over the holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – and, perhaps, the most stressful. For some reason, the impending holidays may only conjure anticipation of family, fun, and good fun, but for others, it also brings trepidation about staying healthy when routines are upended, treats beckon around every corner, and the pandemic is still around. Local experts shared their best tips on juggling the season’s demands while keeping your mental and physical health intact. “Be thoughtful about how you spend your time and where you put your energy,” said Erika Bocknek, a professor of counseling psychology at Wayne State University. “Meaningful interactions are more important than box-checking…Try not to let your investment in the holidays detract from being a healthy, whole person.”
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Health experts explain why drinking a gallon of water a day is too much

Hydration is important for health, but drinking a gallon of water a day is unnecessary. “Just like caloric intake and energy expenditure, there is no magical ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to the daily water requirements that everyone needs to ‘stay healthy,’” says Tamara Hew-Butler, associate professor of exercise and sport science at the College of Education, Wayne State University. “Although ‘Gallon Challenges’ and ‘8 x 8’ glasses per day recommendations are widely touted by both lay people and health professionals alike, the science behind these recommendations is largely mythical but widely propagated through clever marketing — think bottled water, oxygenated water, vitamin water, alkaline water, etc. — rather than clinical evidence.” 
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The serious consequence of exercising too much, too fast.

Every 365.25 days, when the Earth completes a full orbit around the Sun, we humans have the opportunity to hit the reset button and become fitter, finer versions of ourselves. As usual for January, social media is humming with advice on how to eat better, exercise regularly, lose weight and remain healthy. We feel particularly invincible at this time of year, armed with renewed vigor and motivation to purge ourselves from previous indulgences and our couch-potato ways. The New Year is also the time when our overzealous, instant-gratification selves emerge, and we do too much exercise too soon to make up for lost time. Exhaustive muscular work, especially following a period of inactivity, can cause mechanical and chemical disruptions to muscle cell membranes which trigger the muscle cells to burst. 
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Critical race theory: politics enters the classroom

According to experts, critical race theory is really an academic and legal theory first developed in the 1970s in response to the civil rights movement. According to those railing against it, it will teach young students they are racists and White supremacists, and rewrite Black History and those of “others,” including indigenous people. “The goal of critical race theory is that people existed besides the typical European narrative that we see in text books,” said Truman Hudson, Jr., EdD, instructor, College of Education, Wayne State University. “We don’t need to have separate narratives; we’re the United States, yet we’re not united. We’re teaching separateness. It’s looking through a multicultural lens. It does not look at Black, White, Arab, Jew – it lifts up everyone’s story. As long as we continue to look at education and race through a separate lens, we’ll end up with separate and unequal, which is what happened. It hurts all kids when we don’t look at race through a culturally sustaining pedagogy. We’re missing all these stories, the richness by all these people that don’t look like the people in these textbooks. The richness adds to all of our lives when we build on this space. It shouldn’t be us versus them. Our future generations need to know. It’s okay to say the country is an experiment that we’re still trying to figure out – it’s okay to make people feel uncomfortable talking about it. The amendments to the Constitution show growth. They helped establish justice, of where we want to go. Education helps us grow, and the more we learn, we can continue to grow.”
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Gatorade’s new sweat patch can help your nutrition and hydration issues during your run

Most runners figure out their hydration strategy via trial and error because everyone’s body reacts so uniquely to workout intensity and environmental conditions. “In the same distance race in the same environment, some athletes lose less than 14 ounces an hour and some athletes lose 85 ounce an hour,” explains Matt Pahnke, a principal scientist at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. But Gatorade’s new Gx sweat patch ($24.99 for two) aims to take the guesswork out of hydrating. The catch with the patch and the app is they’re only as useful as you make them—to get the full benefits, you need to be scheduling your workouts, checking out the pre-run plan and checking back in post-run. “The more information you put into it, the stronger the advice is going to be,” says Pahnke. That may work well for some runners, but it may seem like too much work for others. While the data makes it seem like an exact science, think of it as more of a guideline, says Tamara Hew-Butler, Ph.D., an associate professor of exercise and sports science at Wayne State University. “The move toward measuring fluid and electrolyte loss is a good start, but it should never be followed as an exact rule,” she explains. “You also have to listen to what your body’s telling you.” 
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Transgender, non-binary search for selves, rights

Blake Bonkowski grew up in Royal Oak uncomfortable in his own skin, not knowing who he was, bullied as an outsider throughout school because other kids thought he was a lesbian. “I got the idea – you're weird, you don't belong,” Bonkowski said, who was born female. “People had been calling me a lesbian my whole life, but I knew that didn't fit. I never questioned gender. It was something I was never aware of. Until I graduated high school, I didn't know that trans people existed – I knew that some trans women existed, but not trans men, and I didn't know that non-binary was real. I knew that calling myself a gay woman didn't fit, so I repressed everything until the end of high school, and then I met a girl I couldn't deny I had a crush on ”Bonkowski said he never spoke to his parents about his sexuality, gender dysmorphia or even the harassment and bullying he experienced. They just weren't the kind of family that talked about things, he said. Roland Sintos Coloma, a professor in the Wayne State University College of Education, noted that being older is not at all unusual. “Because of cultural, generational pressures to conform and be a certain way, as well as there weren't as many models. Trans folks were seen as freaks, as people on the margins of society. Trans folks, they've been seen, especially in non-Western cultures, they've been revered as spiritual,” such as the “two-spirits” of indigenous cultures, the hijras in India, South American culture and their widespread presence in ancient Greek mythology.