Education Week - January 9, 2013 - (Page 28)

28 EDUCATION WEEK n JANUARY 9, 2013 n COMMENTARY Before a crisis This Commentary was first published on on Dec. 19, 2012. hits, teachers can By Carolyn Lunsford Mears benefit from nce again, we see yellow police tape surrounding a school. We professional see sobbing parents clutching their children in relief, and development on how imagine the others closeted to accommodate and them that their with grief counselors telling children won’t be coming home. Tears on every face. And, over and over, the adjust to the special same questions are asked: How could this haplearning needs pen, and why? a scene on television is heartTo watch such breaking. To experience it firsthand ... spiritbrought on by shattering. Almost 14 years trauma.” among just such aago, myofhusband and I were crowd parents, searching “ After the Tragedy, What Next? O desperately for our child’s name among the lists of survivors of the Columbine High School killings. Three hours after the ordeal began, I glanced toward the entrance of the school where hundreds of parents awaited news of their children, and in the distance I saw a familiar Green Bay Packers hat slowly moving through the crowd. My son was alive. Stunned, but physically uninjured. Today, “Columbine” is often equated with the day so many lives were lost, April 20. It’s a shorthand way of encapsulating all the pain into a simple phrase. But I want people to know that the tragedy didn’t just happen on that day in 1999. It merely began that day. As those in Newtown, Conn., will learn, the repercussions of any school shooting, terrorist attack, or natural disaster do not begin and end on a single day. Still, even as the tragedy in Connecticut continues to unfold, there is a need to look forward. What I’d like to share with you is advice from those who have been in similar tragedies on how to put life, and learning, back together, as well as thoughts on how schools can prepare for events they hope they never actually encounter. As I experienced the sorrow and disruption in my community after the Columbine shootings, I saw people struggle to put their lives back in order. Educators—those amazing teachers, administrators, and other staff members at the high school— went back to work, fighting their own despair, while being there for the kids. I saw many benevolent efforts by service groups and individuals, reaching out to help soothe the pain and offer their support. I also saw some ill-advised and hurtful interventions, offers of help that either came with strings attached or were based on hidden agendas to connect with the school in mourning. As a result, I decided to study the problem, trying to find advice that others might take to heart should disaster strike their community. I entered the University of Denver’s doctoral program in educational leadership and policy studies in 2001, writing a dissertation, “Experiences of Columbine Parents: Finding a Way to Tomorrow,” that focused on actual experiences and advice from a community where a school has undergone a rampage shooting. In the years since, I have continued to study what helped organizations and individuals after a traumatic event and worked with survivors of other devastating violence, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the shootings at Virginia Tech. I ended up writing a book, Reclaiming School in the Aftermath of Trauma: Advice Based on Experience. After a tragedy, everything is in turmoil; it is certainly not the easiest time to make difficult decisions about moving forward. That’s why some decisions should be thought out in advance. Consider this: School districts are required to have detailed plans for crisis prevention and response, but an often-overlooked element in this planning is addressing what to do in the longterm aftermath of tragedy. This means planning not just how we protect kids, or evacuate them, but how to help them recover from a traumatic experience. The educational landscape will change in a school struck by a shooting or natuPAGE 31 > CAROLYN LUNSFORD MEARS holds a research appointment and is a dissertation adviser and adjunct faculty member at the University of Denver. She serves on the advisory board of the trauma-certification program at the university’s graduate school of social work. She is the author of Reclaiming School in the Aftermath of Trauma: Advice Based on Experience (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). Her dissertation, “Experiences of Columbine Parents: Finding a Way to Tomorrow,” was recognized as the American Educational Research Association’s outstanding qualitative dissertation of the year for 2005. She worked previously as an education consultant and education program coordinator. Language Education We Can Use A By David Young & J.B. Buxton s the global nature of work and life in the 21st century becomes clearer by the day, calls for a greater focus on international education and language learning are growing louder. Leaders from the education, business, and national security communities are agreed: International understanding and second-language proficiency are critical to individual and national interests—and our K-12 system must do more to promote them. But with respect to international education and language learning, more of what we are doing today wouldn’t be better. In fact, it might be worse. For too many years, we have maintained a languagelearning strategy that simply does not work. In programs using outdated pedagogies focused on grammar and translation and coupled with low expectations, students take foreign languages with goals that seemingly include everything except actually learning to speak the language. If graduates of our high schools regularly reflected that, after four years of mathematics, they couldn’t solve for an unknown variable, we would be outraged. But we share a laugh when someone says, “I took four years of a language, but I can’t really speak it.” As a nation, we seem unconcerned by students’ wasting years in language programs with instructional approaches that have no chance of helping them achieve meaningful levels of proficiency. Students are neither learning to speak in large numbers nor at high levels because the traditional platform cannot possibly deliver enough intensity or time in the target language. As a result, everyone understands that putting Spanish or French or Mandarin on your resume simply means that you took it, not that you speak it. But what is the goal of traditional programs if it is not learning to speak the language? Teachers and administrators will tell you that there is much more to language classes than just oral proficiency. There is cultural awareness and sensitivity, global knowledge, and exposure to the target language. We seem unconcerned by students’ wasting years in language programs with instructional approaches that have no chance of helping them achieve meaningful levels of proficiency.” They are absolutely right. And these objectives would be well worth the investment if traditional world-language programs were actually set up for those outcomes. Unfortunately, they aren’t. They continue to operate with the primary goal of increased proficiency and a secondary goal of increased global knowledge. The result? We achieve neither. But we could. To do so, however, we will need to part ways with our traditional one-size-fits-all approach to “ language instruction. Let’s start with increased global knowledge. Rather than perpetuate the fiction that world-language classes can result in advanced proficiency, it is time to convert existing courses to a classroom experience that provides a combination of introductory language exposure, cultural studies, and deep, experiential learning about the countries that speak the target language. These middle and high school language courses would have the following three components: • Specific, real-life language instruction narrowed to focus on survival travel skills and with the goal of teaching a subset of the current language curriculum to greater depth and understanding—with relevance and utility as guiding principles; • A cultural-studies framework that teaches students how to understand a country’s cultural identity and to compare and contrast countries; and • Global knowledge through the study, comparison, and contrasting of countries that speak the target language. To be clear, students will not leave these classes with advanced language proficiency. What they will obtain, however, are the language skills needed to travel in countries that speak the language, an understanding of other countries and cultures, and an awareness of the global issues that impact both those countries and our own. For the students who seek to achieve proficiency, classrooms with dual-language instruction will provide the route. In these classrooms, the target language is not taught as a separate subject; it is the language in which instruction is delivered. Students master the curriculum objectives in all subject areas, while becoming highly proficient in a second language. A recently released book by the renowned duallanguage-education researchers Wayne Thomas and Virginia Collier, Dual Language Education for a Transformed World, provides ample evidence that not only is dual language a best practice for second-language acquisition, but it is also the “most powerful school reform model for high

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 9, 2013

Education Week - January 9, 2013
State Lawmakers Gear for Action On Broad K-12 Issues Menu
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: Teachers Seek Specialized Peer Networks
Shootings Revive Debates on Security
Student-Press Ruling Resonates From 1988
News in Brief
Report Roundup
FOCUS ON: INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE: IB Supporters Tout Program’s Links With Common Core
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: Federal Effort Aims to Bridge Ed. Tech., Learning Sciences
U.S. Students Exceed International Average, But Lag Some Asian Nations in Math, Science
New Global Results Spark Questions On Finland’s Standing
Head Start Gains Found to Fade By 3rd Grade in Latest Study
Testing Group Selects Exam to Gauge ‘College Readiness’
State Chiefs Pledge Teacher Prep, Licensing Upgrades
Blogs of the Week
Post-Tragedy, Difficult Choices Loom
At Sandy Hook, Grim Day Unfolds
Legal, Logistical Concerns Seen In Call to Arm Adults
Tragedy Sets Off Fresh Debate Over Federal Gun-Policy Role
Advocates Worry Shootings Will Deepen Autism’s Stigma
K-12 Aid Outlook Murky, Despite ‘Cliff’ Deal
District Race to Top Winners Split $400 Million Pot
Policy Brief
Top State Ed. Positions Turn Over as Year Ends
CAROLYN LUNSFORD MEARS: After the Tragedy, What Next?
DAVID YOUNG & J.B. BUXTON: Language Education We Can Use
W. JAMES POPHAM: Formative Assessment’s ‘Advocatable Moment’
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
JEFFREY R. HENIG: Reading the Future of Education Policy

Education Week - January 9, 2013