Gangs and Politicians in Chicago: An Unholy Alliance

David Bernstein and Noah Isackson: few months before last February’s citywide elections, Hal Baskin’s phone started ringing. And ringing. Most of the callers were candidates for Chicago City Council, seeking the kind of help Baskin was uniquely qualified to provide. Baskin isn’t a slick campaign strategist. He’s a former gang leader and, for several decades, […]

Madison Police Department expands gang unit: 40 Gangs in Madison

Sandy Cullen:

Police estimate there are now more than 1,100 confirmed gang members in Madison and about 40 gangs, about 12 of which are the main Latino gangs.
The Dane County Enhanced Youth Gang Prevention Task Force recommended in August 2007 that a countywide gang coordinator’s position be considered. That group’s co-chairman, former Madison police Capt. Luis Yudice, who’s also security coordinator for the Madison School District, first called for a “comprehensive strategy so we can all work in unison” to address gang violence in September 2005.
Since then, Yudice said, staff in Madison schools are recognizing more issues involving gangs among students, which he attributes in part to greater awareness and training.
“We have gang-involved kids in probably most of our high schools and middle schools and some of our elementary schools,” he said. Staff do a good job of keeping gang activity out of the schools, he said, and work closely with students, families, police and social workers in an effort to keep students out of gangs.
Locally, the gang issue is not unique to Madison schools. “We’re seeing more gang activity in the suburban school districts,” Yudice said, as well as the emergence of hate groups targeting blacks and Latinos in Madison, Deerfield, Cottage Grove and DeForest.

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum audio, video & links.

More teenage girls joining Hong Kong street gangs

Lana Lam: A growing number of girls are muscling out the boys in Hong Kong’s teenage street gang culture, according to a charity that has been helping troubled youngsters for over two decades. Social workers at Youth Outreach, who take in 200 children off the streets every night at their Sai Wan Ho drop-in centre, […]

Poverty and Food: Why do so many people in poor countries eat so badly–and what can be done about it?

The Economist:

IN ELDORADO, one of São Paulo’s poorest and most misleadingly named favelas, some eight-year-old boys are playing football on a patch of ground once better known for drug gangs and hunger. Although they look the picture of health, they are not. After the match they gather around a sack of bananas beside the pitch.
“At school, the kids get a full meal every day,” explains Jonathan Hannay, the secretary-general of Children at Risk Foundation, a local charity. “But in the holidays they come to us without breakfast or lunch so we give them bananas. They are filling, cheap, and they stimulate the brain.” Malnutrition used to be pervasive and invisible in Eldorado. Now there is less of it and, equally important, it is no longer hidden. “It has become more visible–so people are doing something about it.”

Who’s teaching L.A.’s kids? A Times “Value Added” analysis, using data largely ignored by LAUSD, looks at which educators help students learn, and which hold them back.

Jason Felch, Jason Song and Doug Smith

The fifth-graders at Broadous Elementary School come from the same world — the poorest corner of the San Fernando Valley, a Pacoima neighborhood framed by two freeways where some have lost friends to the stray bullets of rival gangs.
Many are the sons and daughters of Latino immigrants who never finished high school, hard-working parents who keep a respectful distance and trust educators to do what’s best.
The students study the same lessons. They are often on the same chapter of the same book.
Yet year after year, one fifth-grade class learns far more than the other down the hall. The difference has almost nothing to do with the size of the class, the students or their parents.
It’s their teachers.
With Miguel Aguilar, students consistently have made striking gains on state standardized tests, many of them vaulting from the bottom third of students in Los Angeles schools to well above average, according to a Times analysis. John Smith’s pupils next door have started out slightly ahead of Aguilar’s but by the end of the year have been far behind.

Much more on “Value Added Assessment” and teacher evaluations here. Locally, Madison’s Value Added Assessment evaluations are based on the oft criticized WKCE.

A Gangland Bus Tour, With Lunch and a Waiver

Randal Archibold:

The tour organizer received assurances, he says, from four gangs that they would not harass the bus when it passed through their turf. Paying customers must sign releases warning of potential danger. And after careful consideration, it was decided not to have residents shoot water guns at the bus and sell “I Got Shot in South Central” T-shirts.
Borrowing a bit from the Hollywood star tours, the grit of the streets and a dash of hype, LA Gang Tours is making its debut on Saturday, a 12-stop, two-hour journey through what its organizer calls “the history and origin of high-profile gang areas and the top crime-scene locations” of South Los Angeles. By Friday afternoon, the 56-seat coach was nearly sold out.
On the right, Los Angeles’s biggest jail, “the unofficial home to 20,000 gang members in L.A.,” as the tour Web site puts it. Over there, the police station that in 1965 served as the National Guard’s command post in the Watts riots. Visit the large swath of concrete riverbed taken over by graffiti taggers, and later, drop in at a graffiti workshop where, for the right price, a souvenir T-shirt or painting can be yours.

The war at home: the spread of violent gangs

Thomas Ricks:

Here is a report from my CNAS colleague Jennifer Bernal-Garcia, who is working with Bob Killebrew on the merger of drug gangs and terrorism, about a meeting they held recently with law enforcement experts on gang violence:

By Jennifer Bernal
Best Defense Drugs & Crime Correspondent
Cops are the first line of defense against gangs, and they have a pretty good understanding of the issue. Talking with them yields a pretty grim assessment: There is a huge gang problem in the United States. Our cops in attendance estimated that the U.S. might have up to 1 million gang members, although the problem is often underreported both because it is difficult to detect and because of local politicians’ incentives to downplay crime figures in their areas. The gang problem is inherently tied in to broader regional criminal trends. The extensiveness of drug trafficking south of the border and the degree to which cartels violently contest state authority is well acknowledged. There is nonetheless a common misperception that drug networks disintegrate when you cross the border into the U.S. They don’t. Gangs — mostly youth gangs — step in to domestically distribute the drugs that cartels traffic in.

Charter tackles middle school challenges with young faculties and a no-nonsense attitude

Howard Blume:

At Lakeview Charter Academy, inexperienced teachers have strong support and high expectations.
Eleazar and Nora Gonzalez decided to send their son Daniel to Lakeview Charter Academy because, they said, large public middle schools have a reputation for gangs and drugs. They also worried about academics.
So they warmed to the no-nonsense welcomings issued at the first monthly parents night.
“It will be a miracle the day I don’t give homework because home is to review,” Alexandra Aceves, 25, announced, in English and Spanish, to the Gonzalez family and others crowded into a second-floor classroom.
The scene exemplified the characteristics of the 10 schools operated by Partnerships to Uplift Communities, a locally based charter management organization that, like others in Los Angeles, has focused on serving low-income minority communities. It has taken on, in particular, the thorny challenge of middle schools, especially in the Latino neighborhoods of the San Fernando Valley and downtown.

Gangs & 4th Generation War

William S. Lind:

The November 15 Washington Post had a story about gangs in Salinas, California, that deserves close attention from 4GW theorists. Salinas is reportedly overrun with Hispanic gangs. The Post wrote that its homicide rate is three times that of Los Angeles. It quoted a Salinas police officer, Sgt. Mark Lazzarini, on one of the classic results of state breakdown, chaos:

“Only half of our gangs are structured; the Norteños,” he said. “The southerners are completely unstructured. Half of our violence is kids who get into a car and go out and hunt. These kids don’t know their victims. How do you stop that? It’s very chaotic.”

Salinas’s new slogan might be, “Salinas: where even the lettuce has tattoos.”
But what is interesting in the Post’s article is not the gangs themselves. It is a new response to the gangs. Salinas has brought in the U.S. military to apply counter-insurgency doctrine to a situation on American soil. The Post reports that:

Madison police chief: Time to gang up on gangs

Steven Verburg:

Madison police chief Noble Wray wants to send more officers after gang members, and he plans to talk to the mayor next week about an initiative to make that possible.
A recent assessment by the police department’s two-officer Gang Unit indicated more than 900 confirmed Madison gang members and another 500 people considered associates of gang members.
“It is clear the number of young people connected to gangs is on the rise, and we need to respond to that growth,” Wray said in a press release issued Friday.
Many gang members and their associates commit burglaries, robberies, assaults, shootings, and they deal drugs, he said. Wray wants to form a new “Gang/Crime Prevention Unit.”
The unit would work closely with neighborhood officers, community policing teams, detectives and others by tapping the expertise of staffers who analyze crime data.

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum.

Notes and Links on Last Week’s Southwest Madison Student Murder

David Blaska mentions that Madison’s Mayor is holding a meeting this morning. The meeting includes Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Several landlords have invited the mayor to take up residence on our troubled streets so that he can experience firsthand what many of our neighbors must put up with in their daily lives. Some of them extended the invitation/challenge even before — hours before — the murder. [Let the Mayor come to Meadowood.]
In the meantime, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has made good on his promise to convene a meeting to deal with the “Lord of the Flies” chaos in certain sections of southwest Madison.
The mayor’s meeting will be held Wednesday morning — exactly one week after Madison woke up to the news that a 17-year-old boy had been shot to death at Leland and Balsam Roads the previous evening, June 9, on the troubled southwest side. Shortly afterward, three 16-year-olds boys were apprehended and charged in connection with his murder — two of them as adults for first degree intentional homicide.
Some of us, including Ald. Pham-Remmele, saw the trouble coming long agI blogged on May 20, quoting a neighbor, “Unless the police are able to get a handle on the roaming gangs, this summer is going to be bloody.” [Going to be a long, hot summer]

A previous post mentioned this:

Police officer Amos said the principal of Toki Middle School will not permit him to arrest children in the school, even though some of them are chronic drug users.
“These people know how to work the system,” said another. Yes, they know their rights but not their responsibilities.

Nearly four years ago, Rafael Gomez organized a Gangs & School Violence forum. The conversation, which included local high school principals, police personnel and Luis Yudice, among others, is worth revisiting.
Related: Police calls near local high schools 1996-2006 and more recent police calls via a map.

Gangs in Dane County? Yes, they’re everywhere, detective says

Karyn Saemann:

Gangs are everywhere in Dane County, from the largest Madison high schools to the smallest rural hamlets.
In the latest of a series of informational meetings led by a Dane County detective who monitors local gang activity, Sun Prairie parents were told their help is needed.
Detective Joel Wagner estimated that 3 to 4 percent of Dane County youths are involved in a gang. Recruiting begins in the fourth grade, he said; gang members can be of any race and socioeconomic status, but are primarily kids who have fallen away from school and family and are looking for a group to belong to.
“The best thing is prevention,” Wagner said. “We need to get back to eyes and ears.”
“Know your children’s friends. Know them well,” he said. “Know your children’s friends’ parents. Know them better.”
Wednesday night’s meeting at Sun Prairie High School stretched more than two hours and included disturbing video of gang fights and other violence from Dane County and across the nation as well as online photos of gang members who identify themselves as being from Sun Prairie and other Dane County communities.
Particularly disturbing was video — not from Dane County — of a gang initiation in which a teen’s head was smashed into a cement curb and into a florescent light tube. In another video, a teen was beaten in a bathroom as part of an initiation.


Bullying, Brawling and Bringing Weapons; Maryland Students Discuss Realities of School Life

Nelson Hernandez:

As about 200 students from across Maryland took their seats at a summit to discuss the problem of school violence, the stereo played an instrumental version of a song familiar, questionable and yet somehow appropriate: “Gangsta’s Paradise.”
Coolio’s elegy to gang violence (sample lyric: “You better watch how you talking, and where you walking/Or you and your homies might be lined in chalk”) perhaps didn’t speak to the experience of the students from rural Garrett County in western Maryland, but the causes and tragic outcomes of school violence haven’t changed much since the hit song was released in 1995.
Gossip, rumors, dirty looks exchanged in the hallway. Neighborhood beefs or quarrels over a girlfriend or boyfriend. The temptation to bully somebody defenseless or different. All could kick off a fight back then, and to listen to the students who spoke at the summit last week in Greenbelt, they still do.
A girl from Parkville High School in Baltimore County rattled off a list of the things she sees at her school: “Gang violence. Student-teacher violence. Sexual harassment. Bullying.”

Moms team up to battle influence of gangs: ‘We didn’t raise our kids this way’

Annie Sweeney:

It’s what everyone wants to know after a gang member terrorizes a neighborhood: Where are the parents?
For the last several months, at least some of them have been meeting in a South Side church basement to pray and cry and face a deep shame: They are mothers of the gang-bangers on the corners. Or they fear their child is about to join a gang.
Many are also single parents, struggling to pay bills. They work 16 hours a day, and every time they hear a gunshot, they worry their child has been shot or has shot someone else’s child. Some chase after their kids at 2 a.m.; others have stood in defiance when they won’t leave a corner.
And yes, they wonder what they did wrong.

Educating the Community on Gangs in Madison

Rose Johnson-Brown:

Many times people hide their heads in the sand when there is an accusation of behavior in Madison that might put the community at risk. “Not in my neighborhood” seems to be the response from many citizens in denial when the community is tainted with the reality of the growth of gang activity in Madison.
On this note, a group of University of Wisconsin-Madison social work students wanted to raise awareness in Madison of the prevalent increase in gang activity in Dane County communities. As a group project, they have researched the existence of gangs, their history, their trends and movement that could put children at risk.
On April 23 at Leopold Elementary School, Erin Wearing, Corrina Flannery, Amanda Galaviz, Teresa Rhiel, and Yer Lee, students of Professor Sandy Magana’s Advanced Macro Practice Social Work class, coordinated a community outreach event and informational session. It was presented for parents and educators in the Madison and surrounding communities by the Dane County Youth Gang Prevention Task Force.
Madison Police Detective George Chavez and Officer Lester Moore, along with Frank Rodriquez of the DARK Progam shed some light on the growing activity surrounding gang involvement in this area.

Gangs & School Violence Forum audio and video.

Schools embracing powers for police
New law allows districts to authorize officers, set policies and obtain law enforcement training

Andy Gammill:

Half a dozen Indiana school boards are considering whether to take on the new responsibility of authorizing police officers.
The move could create a minefield of issues from issuing badges to setting policies. So far, Pike Township Schools may be the only district to use a new law that allows school boards to appoint officers.
Previously, school districts could not grant police powers, although several have long said they have “police departments” that derive authority from a local sheriff or police chief.
In districts that convert, students will see little difference. A badge or uniform may change, but few officers will change duties.
The change affects school boards, which will have greater responsibility for making police policy regarding training, firearms use, police chases and various protocols.
Any school police policy entrusted to mayors and sheriffs would rest with school boards, too.
Pike Township Schools became the first school district to launch its own police department in July. Brownsburg, Center Grove and Indianapolis Public Schools are among those considering the change.

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum audio / video.

Smaller gangs proving deadly

Laura Maggi: Cities across the country are facing a new kind of gang problem, involving loosely affiliated, but heavily armed, neighborhood organizations that deal drugs and ferociously defend their small turf, acting Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford said Monday. Federal and local law enforcement officials have long identified such gangs as major factors in New […]

Madison Police Chief on Gangs in Schools

Madison Parent: Madison Police Department Chief Noble Wray spoke on downtown safety at the monthly meeting of Downtown Madison, Inc. on June 28, 2007, and also briefly addressed the topic of gang activity in Madison schools during the program, as reported in The Capital Times (via the MadCrime101 blog, a welcome and valuable new resource […]

Gangs, Schools & City Government

Paul Soglin & Mary Kay Battaglia: When I posted Teachers Strike in Madison: Thirty Years Later January 27, 2006, Mary commented: While failing public schools are linked to the high number of low income students attending them, you may be interested in some MMSD data. If you go to the MMSD web site and look […]

New Dane County Gangs Task Force

Channel3000: Concerns about the growth of street gangs in the Madison area are prompting authorities to create a new task force that will target Dane County’s top gang leaders and drug dealers, WISC-TV reported. Federal, state, and local police will play a key role in the new gang unit. There’s a great deal being planned […]

Videoconference on youth gangs on January 11th, 2006

Please join the City of Madison, Madison Police Department, UW Police Department, Dane County Human Services, Dane County Youth Prevention Task Force, Project Hugs, NIP, Dane County Sheriffs Office and others for a nation-wide videoconference addressing strategies and community programs concerning gangs and gang violence. Following the videoconference there will be an interactive discussion about […]

Presentation on Gangs & School Violence

Gangs and School Violence Presentation Wednesday, September 21, 2005 7:00p.m. to 8:00p.m. Organized by volunteers from McDaniels Auditorium Doyle Administration Building 545 W. Dayton St. Madison, WI 53703 Directions Discussion Topics: 1) Has the gang issue changed over the past 10 years? 2) What have we learned from our initiatives? 3) What partnerships are […]

Gang activity in Madison often flies under public radar

Wisconsin State Journal:

A few years ago, a Madison gang targeted a prominent detective for murder. That plot failed. But police say gangs have been responsible for at least three murders in the last three years.
Although there are now more than 1,100 gang members in the Madison area, they’re not always visible. Nor is the connection between gangs and crime. Regardless, police and social workers say the gang problem here is real and they’re actively trying to combat it.

Gangs & School violence forum audio / video.

‘Everything for the children’

Tatiana Pina:

The moment of truth for Ivan and Olga Rojas came in 2008, when their son Esteban finished his sophomore year at the Blackstone Academy Charter School in Pawtucket and told his parents he wanted to transfer to Central Falls High School. The thought alarmed them. The high school had been under-performing for years, and Esteban’s mother feared there were gangs and drugs at the school.
For Blanca Giraldo the reckoning came in February 2009, when Central Falls High School Principal Elizabeth Legault sent a letter asking her to come to the school. Legault told Giraldo that her daughter Valerie Florez was failing: she was frequently late, skipping class and not doing her work.
For Jackie Wilson, a random act of violence forced her to uproot her daughter Sakira during her junior year at Central Falls High.

1/8/2008 Madison Event on K-12 School Models

Rafael Gomez is hosting a discussion of school models (traditional, charter, magnet) with Madison School District Superintendent Art Rainwater.
When: 6:30p.m. Tuesday January 8, 2008.
Covenant Presbyterian Church
318 South Segoe Rd
Madison, WI 53705 [Map]
Many communities offer a growing number of K-12 educational options. Learn about Madison’s current offerings and the climate for future charter/magnet initiatives.
Question and Answer
Rafael has hosted a number of previous forums, including those that address:

Madison Teacher Safety: Going to Court

WKOWTVWKOW-TV [Watch Video | mp3 Audio]:

February 13 became a tense day in two, separate Madison schools.
Police reports show a fifteen year old student at Memorial High School became angry with special education teacher Tim Droster. Another staff member told officers the student made motions to mimic the act of shooting Droster. The student was arrested.
At Cherokee Heights Middle School, police reports show a thirteen year old student reacted to being denied laptop computer priveleges by posing this question to special education assistant Becky Buchmann: “Did you want me to gun you down?” Juvenile court records show the student had previously shot an acquaintance with a BB gun, and Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI) information stated the student had also brought a BB gun to school and had gang affiliation.
Buchmann went to court and obtained a restraining order against the student.
Droster worked through school officials and his threatening student was given a different school schedule and new conduct rules.
Attorney Jordan Loeb has represented teachers seeking restraining orders to protect themselves in the classroom. “It’s controversial,” Loeb told 27 News.
But Loeb said teachers are no different than someone from any other walk of life when it comes to needing the authority of a judge to insure a threatening person does not cause harm.
“When it’s your safety on the line, you have to do everything you believe is necessary to keep yourself safe.”
Loeb estimated an average of ten teachers and other school staff members per year over the past decade have obtained restraining orders against threatening students and adults in Dane County courts.
But school district statistics show a more than five fold increase in teacher and staff injuries caused by students in the past three years.
In 2003, of 532 injury reports submitted by teachers and staff members, 29 were the result of student assaults.
In 2006, 540 teacher and staff injury reports involved 153 student assaults.
School district spokesperson Ken Syke said the most recent student assault numbers may be inflated by the inclusion of teacher injuries incidental to fights between students.


Madison Schools’ Expulsion Data Update

Susan Troller:

A total of 92 students were recommended for expulsion in 2006-07, compared with 105 similar recommendations the previous year. Students are recommended for expulsion for a serious violation of the district’s student conduct and discipline plan.
Following the recommendation, the student may be expelled, or may be diverted or dismissed from the process for special education reasons, or because there is not sufficient proof of the violation.
According to the report, 12 students were expelled for use of force against a staff member, eight were expelled for possession of a weapon with intent to use, and seven were expelled for possessing an illegal drug with intent to deliver.
Other offenses included engaging in physical acts of violence as part of a gang (four students), possession of a bomb or explosive device or making a bomb threat (three students), possession of a pellet or BB gun (three students), and physical attacks, arson, serious threats to students and something called “volatile acts.”
School Board President Arlene Silveira noted that the board will be considering expulsion policies at its meeting on Monday.
“The board has had a series of meetings to ensure that we have a fair, consistent and unbiased process for considering expulsions,” Silveira said. “This is an ongoing process, and we will be taking a look at how we fairly handle the student code of conduct in coming meetings.”


Much more on gangs and school violence.

Three arrested in shooting near La Follette; alleged shooter not a student, Madison police say

Shelly Mesch and Bill Novak: The school district screened students entering the school Thursday and Friday with metal detector wands as a precaution following the shooting. Joe Balles, safety and security coordinator for the school district, said screening will not need to continue next week but there will be screening for students entering Saturday’s Homecoming […]

Madison schools committee scraps concept of police liaison program

Logan Wroge: A Madison School Board committee on Wednesday scrapped the concept of replacing school-based police officers with a liaison program, while it continued to draft recommendations on the future of the school district’s relationship with the Madison Police Department. A draft report from the committee studying armed and uniformed officers stationed in the Madison […]

Madison’s K-12 Governance Non Diversity: Police in Schools Meeting

Logan Wroge: Throughout the public comment period, several people said the presence of police officers inside school can negatively affect students of color and feeds into the “school-to-prison pipeline.” “Ain’t no amount of training, ain’t no amount of special certificates is going to matter when it comes to black and brown kids, because (police officers) […]

Written Off

Amber Walker: Reese’s experience raises broader questions about what information is shared between MMSD and the Dane County Juvenile Court when it comes to youth in their care. While the district insists it was an isolated incident, juvenile court staff, like Smedema and her supervisor, Suzanne Stute, said collecting statements from school staff is a […]

Data show suspensions up in Madison schools for first semester

Amber Walker: Out-of-school suspensions are up in the Madison Metropolitan School District at this point in the school year compared to last year. On Monday, the Madison School Board received its midyear update on the Behavior Education Plan. District data shows 1,122 suspensions across the district so far this school year, compared to 892 at […]

Wisconsin Association of School Boards: Conversation about arming teachers should start at local level

Lisa Speckhard Pasque: In an often passionate debate that can become a battle between extremes, Robert Butler, associate executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, doesn’t think there’s a top-down, one-size-fits-all solution. On an episode of the Sunday political talk show “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” Butler suggested asking local police, liability carriers and […]

Three Madison high schools erupt in chaos Monday noon

David Blaska: From what we can determine, the misbehaving students were not peacefully protesting for gun control, social justice, or better cafeteria food. They were just fighting. Let’s start with Chief Koval’s bare bones police blotter: MIDTOWN: Disturbance – 12:12 p.m. MPD Educational Resource Officer (ERO) requested back-up to assist with a large disturbance in […]

Local groups speak out against Teacher Protection Act

Amber Walker: Several groups assembled at the state Capitol on Thursday to speak out against a bill that would require police departments to inform school administrators if a student is taken into custody for a felony or violent misdemeanor. The bill would also give teachers the right to appeal directly to the school board if […]

A Look At Police Calls To Madison Schools

Doug Erickson: Also, incidents occurring anywhere on or adjacent to a high school campus or across the street from the campus were captured in the data. So in a handful of cases, district officials said, the person arrested may have been an adult or a juvenile not currently enrolled in the district. Black individuals were […]

Madison Schools’ Discipline Policies

Pat Schneider: “Usually the first quarter is a honeymoon period when students are excited to be in school and behaviors are good. So when things were already deteriorating rapidly, it was a sign to me that this was not going in a good direction,” said Bush, 50, who has taught at Jefferson Middle School on […]

Study Questions School Discipline Effectiveness

Alan Schwarz:: Raising new questions about the effectiveness of school discipline, a report scheduled for release on Tuesday found that 31 percent of Texas students were suspended off campus or expelled at least once during their years in middle and high school — at an average of almost four times apiece.When also considering less serious […]

School Crime Data in Madison

Madison Parent: How safe are our schools? This question can’t be answered without consistent collection and analysis of information about violent and disruptive incidents in our schools. While the Madison Police Department has just released its Uniform Crime Report for 2006 (the summary of crime statistics that is reported annually to the FBI), there’s no […]

East High Principal Allen Harris Profile

Sandy Cullen: You can tell something’s different at East High School this year without even going inside. Gone is the “smoking wall,” where for generations, students gathered to hang out and smoke cigarettes before and during the school day. “It was intimidating,” said parent Lucy Mathiak, who admits she was uncomfortable walking past the large […]

Local Gang Prevention Task Force

Bill Novak: “Larger numbers of young people are joining gangs, including more girls,” Falk said, highlighting information in a new report by the Dane County Youth Prevention Task Force. “We are renewing our efforts to help keep young people from joining gangs.” Stephen Blue, delinquency services manager and co-chair of the task force, said about […]

Madison Leaders Discuss Gang Issue Saturday

Channel3000: “In the 80s, we had African-American gangs really hit the scene here in Madison,” said Madison Police Chief Noble Wray. “But what we’re looking at today is that we have more young ladies involved in gangs, we have Asian gangs, and a real increase in Latino gangs.” Dane County Executive Assistant Ken Haynes said […]

Wes Daily on the Gang Phenomenon

Wes Daily emailed a few comments on Gangs: Gangs are not a new phenomenon in the United States and were originally formed as social clubs and a means of self-protection. Today, gangs have evolved into violent predators focused on obtaining money and power. According to the National Drug intelligence Center (NDIC), there are at least […]

The Gang Scene in Madison

Doug Erickson takes a useful look around Madison’s gang scene, including the recent events in Oregon. Erickson also mentions this Wednesday’s SIS supported event, lead by Rafael Gomez on Gangs and School Violence (9.21 @ 7:00p.m.): “It sets a watershed mark for the number of individuals involved in one event,” said Stephen Blue, who has […]

Public Education’s Dirty Secret

Mary Hudson: Aside from the history teacher from Texas, other Washington Irving educators stood out as extraordinary, and this in an unimaginably bad learning environment. One was a cheerful Lebanese math teacher who had been felled as a child by polio. He called himself “the million dollar man” because of his handicapped parking permit, quite […]

Why are some D.C. schools underreporting student suspensions?

Washington Post Editorial (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns the Post): AFTER POST reporters raised questions about the accuracy of suspension rates in some D.C. public schools, a warning went out to principals. “Inappropriate, unprofessional and fraudulent” was how the system’s instructional superintendent described failure to accurately record students barred from classes. It’s good that such […]

How The Chicago Public Schools Failed Laquan McDonald

Sarah Karp: The videotaped shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer was a criminal act, according to prosecutors who have charged the cop with the teen’s murder. But the death represented something else: The culmination of a series of failings by other taxpayer-funded systems that are supposed to help at-risk youths. That’s […]

Heroin in the Midwest

The Economist: EVEN street-savvy former gang members are shocked by the spread of heroin to Chicago’s suburbs. Earlier this year, when Roberto Hernández, a Puerto Rican, was in the final stages of preparation of a big push by Gangs to Grace, a church ministry on the west side, to save Latino gang members from lives […]

How Academia Resembles a Drug Gang

Alexandre Afonso: In 2000, economist Steven Levitt and sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh published an article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics about the internal wage structure of a Chicago drug gang. This piece would later serve as a basis for a chapter in Levitt’s (and Dubner’s) best seller Freakonomics. The title of the chapter, “Why drug […]

College Applicants Sanitizing Social Media Profiles

Natasha Singer: Admissions officers at Morehouse College in Atlanta were shocked several years ago when a number of high school seniors submitted applications using email addresses containing provocative language. Some of the addresses made sexual innuendos while others invoked gangster rap songs or drug use, said Darryl D. Isom, Morehouse’s director of admissions and recruitment. […]

2013 in Education

Peter Wood:

A week ago I published my list of top ten stories–highs and lows–in higher education in 2013. I was generously rewarded when Powerline picked it as #2 in its list of top ten top lists. But there are still some minutes left in the season of top ten lists, which ought to extend to January 6, the traditional date of Epiphany. Then we have the (lower case) epiphany that it is time to get on with things.
My new list is mainly about people who did something original, creative, noteworthy, or surprising in 2013 whose accomplishments deserve a little more attention. I set out to list only positive accomplishments, but unfortunately a few infamies sneaked in. What follows are the top ten best surprises: the gifts you didn’t know you wanted until you unwrapped the package. First up:
1. Thug Notes. This YouTube site debuted in June, with Sparky Sweets, Ph.D. explicating Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Since then, Dr. Sweets has offered his taut plot summaries and explications de texte for Hamlet, The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, The Sun Also Rises, The Inferno, Heart of Darkness, Moby Dick, and many more canonical works of literature. The intro to each piece is a pastiche of Masterpiece Theater, the camera scanning across a shelf of beautifully bound volumes accompanied by Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto 3, then cutting to a book-lined study in which Dr. Sweets sits in a comfortable chair, in gold-chained muscle shirt and do-rag, announcing this week’s selection. “What’s happening, yo? This week on Thug Notes we get regal with Hamlet by William Shakespeare.”
This could have been a one-off parody, hitting the two birds of pretentious British TV and mass-marketed cheat sheets with one gangsta, but Dr. Sweets has developed the idea further. His wordplay (Hamlet serves up “Elizabethan hater-ade”) is smart and his rapid-fire analyses delivered in character as a street-smart thug really are smart.
The series has conferred minor celebrity on Dr. Sweets. He takes what he does seriously, telling one interviewer that he created Thug Notes because “literature is enshrouded by a veil of unnecessarily pedantic terminology and intellectual one-upmanship,” and that his calling is to bring it to “people on the opposite side of the social stratum.” Dr. Sweets holds that “the gift of literature is universal.”
2. Leaked! Harvard’s Grading Rubric. A+++ to Nathaniel Stein, who published this satire of Harvard’s grade inflation in The New York Times. Presented as a memorandum from the Dean of Harvard College, Leaked! purports to explain the criteria that qualify a term paper for an A+, including the stipulation that the “The paper contains few, if any, death threats.” Grades of A++ or A+++ are designated “A+ with garlands.”
3. Farewell. College presidents come and go and typically there is there is no reason to celebrate one’s leaving. The next is likely to be as bad or worse. But occasionally one comes and stays. And stays. And stays. In June Gordon Gee announced his retirement as president of Ohio State University. Gee became president of West Virginia University in 1981 at age 37, and then served in succession as president of the University of Colorado, Ohio State University, Brown University, Vanderbilt University, and then back to Ohio State again. He distinguished himself mainly by his soaring remuneration, becoming by 2003 the highest paid university president in the U.S. (and no doubt the world) with compensation of over $1.3 million.
It would difficult to understate Gee’s other accomplishments, though he did manage an uncommonly graceless departure by sneering at Roman Catholics and the University of Notre Dame (“those Damn Catholics”) and mocking other colleges. The remarks didn’t sit well with the Ohio State board of trustees. But let’s let Dr. Gee settle into his well-upholstered retirement. Few men have profited more from higher education than he.

Apocalypse, New Jersey: A Dispatch From America’s Most Desperate Town

Matt Taibbi:

The first thing you notice about Camden, New Jersey, is that pretty much everyone you talk to has just gotten his or her ass kicked.
Detroit’s Debt Crisis: Everything Must Go
Instead of shaking hands, people here are always lifting hats, sleeves, pant legs and shirttails to show you wounds or scars, then pointing in the direction of where the bad thing just happened.
“I been shot six times,” says Raymond, a self-described gangster I meet standing on a downtown corner. He pulls up his pant leg. “The last time I got shot was three years ago, twice in the femur.” He gives an intellectual nod. “The femur, you know, that’s the largest bone in the leg.”
“First they hit me in the head,” says Dwayne “The Wiz” Charbonneau, a junkie who had been robbed the night before. He lifts his wool cap to expose a still-oozing red strawberry and pulls his sweatpants down at the waist, drawing a few passing glances. “After that, they ripped my pockets out. You can see right here. . . .”
Even the cops have their stories: “You can see right here, that’s where he bit me,” says one police officer, lifting his pant leg. “And I’m thinking to myself, ‘I’m going to have to shoot this dog.'”
“I’ve seen people shot and gotten blood on me,” says Thomas Bayard Townsend III, a friendly convicted murderer with a tear tattoo under his eye. “If you turn around here, and your curiosity gets the best of you, it can cost you your life.”

Madison schools look to make discipline about growth, not punishment

Pat Schneider:

But statistics showing African-American students in the district were eight times more likely to get an out-of-school suspension than white students last year raises questions about whether the discipline code works against efforts to close the achievement gap.
Among big school districts reconsidering such measures is Broward County in Florida, where a zero-tolerance policy led to arrests for such infractions as possessing marijuana or spraying graffiti, the New York Times reports. That district, which had more than 1,000 arrests in the 2011 school year, entered into an agreement last month with community organizations to overhaul its policies to de-emphasize punishment. School districts in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Chicago and Denver are undertaking similar reviews of get-tough policies.
“Everybody knows that suspensions don’t always achieve a change in behavior,” says Tim Ritchie, dean of students at Madison Memorial High School. “When we send some kids out of school (on suspension) they don’t have anywhere appropriate to go — their homes can be very chaotic environments.”

Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum.

How Academia Resembles a Drug Gang

Alexandre Afonso:

In 2000, economist Steven Levitt and sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh published an article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics about the internal wage structure of a Chicago drug gang. This piece would later serve as a basis for a chapter in Levitt’s (and Dubner’s) best seller Freakonomics. [1] The title of the chapter, “Why drug dealers still live with their moms”, was based on the finding that the income distribution within gangs was extremely skewed in favor of those at the top, while the rank-and-file street sellers earned even less than employees in legitimate low-skilled activities, let’s say at McDonald’s. They calculated 3.30 dollars as the hourly rate, that is, well below a living wage (that’s why they still live with their moms). [2]
If you take into account the risk of being shot by rival gangs, ending up in jail or being beaten up by your own hierarchy, you might wonder why anybody would work for such a low wage and at such dreadful working conditions instead of seeking employment at Mc Donalds. Yet, gangs have no real difficulty in recruiting new members. The reason for this is that the prospect of future wealth, rather than current income and working conditions, is the main driver for people to stay in the business: low-level drug sellers forgo current income for (uncertain) future wealth. Rank-and file members are ready to face this risk to try to make it to the top, where life is good and money is flowing. It is very unlikely that they will make it (their mortality rate is insanely high, by the way) but they’re ready to “get rich or die trying”.

Madison Schools’ Behavior Report: 2012-2013

Madison School District PDF:

1. Both out-of-school and in-school suspensions were less common in 2012-13 than in 2011-12. In particular, the reduction in out-of-school suspensions led to nearly 600 fewer days of instruction lost to suspensions.
2. Large disproportionalities exist between suspensions and demographics in MMSD. For example, African- American students make up 19% of MMSD’s population but received 60% of out-of-school suspensions. Low- income students make up 48% of MMSD but received 85% of suspensions.
3. There are large disparities in discipline practices between schools. For example, among elementary schools, out-of-school suspensions ranged between 0 and 98, and behavior referrals ranged between 25 and 2,319.

Related: Madison School Board discipline presentation (PDF) and a Wisconsin DPI FAQ (PDF).
Related: Gangs & School Violence Forum (2005) audio & video and Police calls to and near Madison schools: 1996-2006.

Autonomy for schools is producing some remarkable successes. Can others learn from them?

The Economist::

DANIEL RILEY, a young trainee teacher from west London, attended a school so bad that it was shut down while he was there. It was, he recalls with commendable understatement, an “unstructured” place. Fewer than 20% of pupils achieved five good GCSE passes, including mathematics and English (the main benchmark for secondary students, involving exams commonly taken at 16). There were fights. Some, involving knives, ended with arrests. There were drugs–the school drew its pupils from tough housing estates, and gangs prowled at the gates. The teaching was “not inspired,” Mr Riley says, sticking with the understatement. He recalls lessons spent copying texts from books.
As happened to a few dozen failing institutions under the previous Labour government, Mr Riley’s school was turned into an academy–a state school removed from local council control and given new freedoms over staffing and teaching methods. Six years on, Paddington Academy draws its pupils from the same estates. But the school is unrecognisable.

Why You Should Postpone College

Brett Nelson:

Very soon, millions of high-schoolers will run a nerve-rattling gauntlet, perhaps for weeks: They will yank open their mailboxes and flip through the envelopes like one of those rapid-fire, dollar-bill sorting machines in all the gangster movies. Girth–that’s what they’re after. Because the plumper the package, the better the odds it contains that which matters most: a college acceptance letter!
Before triumph and tragedy ensue, I have a modest proposal for the future class of 2016. No matter what happens in the coming weeks, grab some solitude and contemplate one very important question: Am I really ready for college?

Driven off the Road by M.B.A.s

Rana Foroohar:

Bob Lutz, the former Vice Chairman of General Motors, is the most famous also-ran in the auto business. In the course of his 47-year rampage through the industry, he’s been within swiping range of the brass ring at Ford, BMW, Chrysler and, most recently, GM, but he’s never landed the top gig. It’s because he “made the cars too well,” he says. It might also have something to do with the fact that Maximum Bob, who could double as a character on Mad Men, is less an éminence grise than a pithy self-promoter who has a tendency to go off corporate message. That said, his new book, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business, has a message worth hearing. To get the U.S. economy growing again, Lutz says, we need to fire the M.B.A.s and let engineers run the show.
Lutz’s main argument is that companies, shareholders and consumers are best served by product-driven executives. In his book, Lutz wisecracks his way through the 1960s design- and technology-led glory days at GM to the late-1970s takeover by gangs of M.B.A.s. Executives, once largely developed from engineering, began emerging from finance. The results ranged from the sobering (managers signing off on inferior products because customers “had no choice”) to the hilarious (Cadillac ashtrays that wouldn’t open because of corporate mandates that they be designed to function at -40°F). It’s pretty easy to imagine Car Guy Lutz removing his mirrored shades and shouting to the cowering line manager, “Well, customers in North Dakota will be happy. Too bad nobody else will!”

Gangless in Glasgow: The City Famed for Youth Violence Is Keeping the Kids Clean

Jay Newton-Small:

When he was 12, William Palmer joined a gang without even realizing it. To him, he was just hanging out with his big brother and their friends in their Easterhouse neighborhood in Glasgow. At first, he stood and watched as his friends defended their 200-sq-m territory from rivals. Lining up military-style, both sides would lunge and retreat until someone, usually drunk, engaged, and the fight would begin. Soon enough, Palmer was fighting alongside his brethren. By the time he was 20, he was selling drugs — mostly ecstasy — to younger kids in his neighborhood, taking care to avoid other gangs’ territories lest he get jumped.
Now 29, Palmer regards himself as lucky to have survived his youth. One of his brothers, a heroin addict, is in prison. Palmer himself did a two-year term after attacking a rival gang member with a hatchet. That led to an epiphany, and he joined Alcoholics Anonymous to dry out. Today he mentors kids at risk of joining gangs, even though the charity for which he works still has to carefully smuggle him through enemy lines — five years after he left his gang. He is also wanted by the Glasgow police, but in a good way. They regularly ask Palmer to talk with new officers about how to get through to gang members. The role reversal amuses him. “We used to phone them up just to toy with them so we could get a chase off them,” he says of the police. “Now they’re phoning me up for advice.”

Arrests, citations reach lowest level in 10 years at Madison high schools

Matthew DeFour:

The number of arrests and citations for incidents at Madison’s four main high schools dropped last year to the lowest level in more than a decade, according to police data.
But arrests and citations at West and Memorial were twice the number at East and La Follette — a reversal of the situation 10 years earlier when there were more than twice as many at the city’s East Side high schools.
West was the only school with an increase from the previous year.
The Wisconsin State Journal obtained the data from the Madison Police Department amid a debate over whether the Madison School District should use drug-sniffing police dogs in random sweeps of high schools. The School Board was to consider the issue Monday but delayed a vote until late September — in part to review the arrest and citation data.
District officials say an increase in drug-related disciplinary referrals in recent years, and the use of drug dogs in area school districts, support the use of police dogs. Community surveys also have showed strong support.
Luis Yudice, the School District’s security coordinator, who introduced the drug-sniffing dog proposal with the support of Madison police, is concerned drugs in schools can lead to more gang activity, fights and weapons in schools as students arm themselves in self-defense. He views the police dog policy as a possible deterrent that could prevent a crisis.

Related: Madison police calls near local high schools: 1996-2006.
Gangs & School Violence Forum Audio/Video.

Teacher Collaboration Gives Schools Better Results

Melinda Burns:

Five years ago, Sparks Middle School hit bottom. Its test scores were some of the worst in the district. A chain-link fence was locked after hours to prevent gangs from tagging the open-air hallways. Between classes, members of rival tagging crews would fight.
Word came down to the La Puente, Calif., school from the Los Angeles County Office of Education: We may shut you down if you don’t come up with a plan.
Sparks embarked on a makeover. Sherri Franson, the school’s new principal, took down the chain-link fence because she thought it made the school look like a jail. She lengthened the school day by 20 minutes, increased the number of periods from six to seven and hired two literacy coaches. Low-scoring students were required to take double periods of math or English. Every student received a “glory binder” and was taught how to take notes.

The Kapors’ SMASH Academy is filling an education gap

Mike Cassidy:

Give a kid a chance and you’ll be amazed at what happens next.
That thought kept rolling through my mind as I surveyed the controlled chaos that was lunch for 80 teenagers who’d moved onto Stanford’s campus to take five summer weeks of intensive math and science courses.
I know. What’s so different about a passel of brilliant kids studying hard stuff at Stanford?
Well, for one thing, a pessimist might look at these particular kids working their way through hamburgers, chicken and mashed potatoes, and conclude that they are not college material. In fact, the vast majority of them would be the first in their families to go to college. Nearly all of them attend high schools where most students are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch. Some live in tough neighborhoods. Some dodge gangs on the way to and from school — and maybe even at school.
But that’s not what defines them. Not at all. The kids at Stanford, members of the inaugural class of the Silicon Valley version of the Summer Math and Science Honors Academy (SMASH), are energetic, optimistic, determined, resourceful and approaching brilliant.