Given that a review of the available literature suggests links between the problems of school safety (both physical and emotional) and low student achievement, effective school reform needs to address both issues simultaneously. Most education reformers, though doubtless concerned about safety, have, in the wake of the outcomes-based movement in American education, focused mainly on raising student test scores through increasingly standardization of school curricula and teaching. As well intentioned as outcomes-based reformers may be, they are only seeing part of the puzzle of student achievement. There exists a wealth of programs and curricula that have been shown through research to reduce school violence and to increase feelings of student security; precious little research has been done, however, on the effects of these programs on students' academic attainment. Social Constructivist theory provides a framework to suggest that school environments that encourage peace would also encourage student academic achievement.
This study examined the potential impact of three "peaceable schools" programs (Get Real About Violence, Teaching Students to Be Peacemakers and Conflict Resolution in the Middle School) on 37 eighth grade students in an urban middle school in Eastern Massachusetts. The into two cohorts. Both cohorts shared the same Math and English Language Arts teacher; in a pseudo-experimental model, one cohort received the peaceable schools treatment while the other did not. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected via a variety of measures over the full school year. The treatment class, while starting behind the comparison class on all indicators, showed a greater rate of academic attainment and essentially caught up to the comparison class by year's end. Analysis showed that in the Math class, some of these gains were significantly correlated with being in the treatment group, most notably a correlation at the .041 level of significance in regards to percentage gains in bimonthly standardized exams.
The dissertation also offers a typology for categorizing peaceable schools/conflict resolution/anti-violence type interventions, and includes a lengthy appendix on the importance of the academic study of peace studies/nonviolence in conjunction with these interventions.
|Subjects||Peace studies; Curriculum development; Philosophy of education|
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