Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman announced the results of a $60 million anti-violence campaign, which he described as "very positive."
Pilot programs for the initiative have been in place at six high schools around the city for the past year. And data released by CPS today shows that violent behavior is down 77 percent at those schools.
"The news is very good year-over-year for these schools in terms of the outcomes we're observing," Huberman told WBEZ.
Behind the results, says Huberman, is a multifaceted initiative designed to prevent violence among at-risk students. The program is centered on developing so-called "cultures of calm" at troubled district schools.
One aspect of the initiative includes pairing troubled students with advocates, who "act as part mentor, part truant officer and part role model to the youths," according to the Tribune. So far, 200 students are receiving the intensive mentoring; that number will rise as the program expands.
It also supports the development of "culture of calm" plans at the schools participating in the program, and funds the hiring of a "culture of calm" coordinator. The Sun-Times reports that such plans include elements like "creating contests that reward positive behavior; establishing 'non-negotiable' school rules, such as 'no cursing;' replacing out of-school suspensions with in-school ones or community service," and others.
But the initiative is still quite new. The coordinators arrived at their schools only three months ago, and much of the $60 million has not yet been spent.
This leads some to believe that the downturn in violence is due to other factors.
Joshua Gray, CPS Violence Prevention Initiative deputy, told the
that the Hawthorne effect might be in play. The effect is a phenomenon where people in studies behave better than they otherwise would simply by virtue of being studied.
And the sense of importance surrounding the initiatives has likely prompted schools to be more attentive to issues of violence. From the Sun-Times:
[S]taff and students at the six schools have known for months that Huberman has made a "culture of calm'' a priority and have been talking endlessly about it. That [discussion] alone has yielded reduced behavior problems.
Still, whatever the causes, less violence is less violence. Attendance also improved by 7 percent at the six schools, and there were 46 percent fewer student-involved shootings.
"Getting a huge buy-in is making a difference," Gray said.
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