Moral Education Research Proposal

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Moral Education and Its Impact on Peer Bullying Proposal

Established in 2005, KIPP Valley Charter School (hereinafter alternatively "KIPP" and "the school") is a tuition-free, open-enrollment college-preparatory charter middle school serving grades five through seven that is located in Albany, New York. The school seeks to provide its students with the education they will need to achieve outstanding academic outcomes during their attendance at KIPP and to prepare them for the transition to achieving comparable results in college and beyond. In its short 4-year history, the school has accomplished its fundamental mission of delivering high-quality educational services to its 200 students who have consistently scored above national averages on high-stakes tests such as Terra Nova.

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These academic outcomes are all the more significant in view of the lower socioeconomic and minority demographic stratum being served by KIPP since these students have historically performed at lower levels than their more affluent white counterparts attending suburban middle schools (Adelabu, 2007). In spite of these laudable accomplishments, the school is not free of many of the same problems that plague other middle schools throughout the country and staff members and faculty have identified a problem with peer bullying on campus in recent months. Because it is the responsibility of KIPP to provide its students with a learning environment that is free of violence and intimidation, this issue has assumed new relevance and importance today and this issue is also the focus of the study proposed herein which is discussed further below.

Statement of the Problem

Peer bullying has a number of adverse consequences for both the victims as well as the perpetrators. For example, Leff, Power, Costigan and Manz (2003) report that, "Bullies and victims experience a wide range of academic, social, behavioral, and emotional difficulties as they get older" (p. 418). In addition, the growing instances of high-profile episodes of school violence and shootings have been closely related to problems of peer bullying (Brendto, Mitchell & Mccall, 2007).

TOPIC: Research Proposal on Moral Education Assignment

Objectives of the Study

The primary objective of the proposed study is to identify best practices for reducing the incidence of peer bullying being experienced at KIPP in sustainable ways.

Literature Review

By any measure, peer-bullying and other types of aggression in the nation's schools are of increasing concern for students, educators and parents alike, with almost 30% of young people being estimated to experience frequent involvement in bullying behaviors (Nansel, Overpeck, Pilla, Ruan, Simons-Morton & Scheidt, 2001). According to Bradshaw, Sawyer and O'Brennan, "Bullying is broadly defined as a class of intentional and repeated acts that occur through physical, verbal, and relational forms in situations where a power difference is present" (p. 361). From a strictly pragmatic perspective, the potential for peer bullying based on racial differences is particularly acute at KIPP. In this regard, current statistics and enrollment figures for KIPP Valley Charter School are provided in Table 1 below.

Table 1

Current statistics for KIPP Valley Charter School

Metric

Current Levels

Student enrollment

Total Number of Students 196

Total Number of 5th Grade Students 81

Total Number of 6th Grade Students 71

Total Number of 7th Grade Students 44

Student demographics

78% of students are eligible for free or reduced meals

Race/Ethnicity

87% African-American

6% Caucasian

7% Hispanic

Gender

48% female

52% male

Financial information

2006 -- 07 Per-Pupil Funding $10,176

Source: Local and state revenue

Facility Type

Commercial

Lease Type Lease

Size (sq ft) 30,000

Source: KIPP Valley Charter School, 2009

The classroom environment at KIPP is comparable to other middle schools in the region and country, though, with many of the same features that characterize more affluent suburban schools in place. For the purposes of the study proposed herein, school classrooms represent a valuable context for developing insights into how and why peer bullying occur because most of these activities take place among classmates (Salmivalli, Lagerspetz, Bjorkqvist, Osterman, & Kaukiainen, 1996). Two aspects classroom environments are especially relevant to developing insights into peer bullying:

1. The quality of social relationships in the classroom including relationships among students, between students and teachers, and between families and the classroom; and,

2. The support for human agency in the classroom including support for students' self-control, self-efficacy, and self-determination (Espelage & Swearer, 2004).

An examination of the manner in which characteristics of the classroom relate to peer bullying will also provide the context in which to develop initiatives targeted at reducing such behaviors that can be integrated into classroom routines and practices (Espelage & Swearer, 2004). Students who bully or students who are victims are presumed to have the potential to interact effectively with peers, given the proper social context. Creating classroom contexts that discourage all aggression can reduce the frequency and the severity of bullying interactions that occur there (Espelage & Swearer, 2004).

While it is clear that much of the peer bullying that takes place in middle school occurs in the classroom because that is where students spend the majority of their time during the school day, there are perhaps more opportunities for students to engage in these behaviors when they are in less restrictive environments such as playgrounds and school cafeterias where they may be unobserved by adult staff and faculty members. For example, Leff and his associates note that, "In many schools across the nation, teachers do not supervise children during the lunch-recess period. Instead, paraprofessionals, who are typically community members and/or parents of children in the school, are hired as playground/lunchroom assistants to supervise children" (p. 418). Despite the numerous studies that have supported the use of a recess period as being conducive to the learning and socialization process, Leff and his associates (2003) emphasize that there are several reasons to eliminate a recess period altogether as well. For instance, Leff et al. note that, "Arguments against recess include that it takes valuable time away from academics and interrupts children's focus on academic work" (p. 419).

Although these arguments lack strong empirical support, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests recess periods are primetime for peer bullying and many students report feeling unsafe and afraid during this part of the school day because of their experiences with peer bullying (Leff et al., 2003). In this regard, Leff and his associates point out, "In addition, the majority of aggressive actions, bullying, and/or school injuries occur on the playground during the recess or lunch-recess period" (p. 419). As a result, while the school playground is an important element in helping young people develop social competence and engage in physical activities that they may not otherwise receive by virtue of an increasingly sedentary lifestyle at home, playgrounds also represent a time in which students may experience peer bullying and victimization (Leff et al., 2003).

Wherever it takes place, the studies to date have shown that bullies are frequently confrontational, aggressive, oppositional, and routinely hostile towards their peers; these students also tend to experience inordinately high levels of academic difficulties and represent challenges for their teachers (Leff, 2007). According to Leff (2007), "Research examining victimization profiles suggest that youth who are frequently victimized by their peers are often more sad, anxious, and withdrawn, and have lower self-esteem than their peers, and they experience increasing school maladjustment and avoidance over time" (p. 406). Students who engage in peer bullying activities may themselves be suffering from a wide range of psychological or emotional problems that are the result of underachievement at school or from stressors in their home. For instance, Peterson (2003) reports that it is common for students to react negatively in school as a result of the following stressors:

1. Their parents may separate, divorce, remarry, and produce blended families with altered roles, adjusted family hierarchies, and new "birth order."

2. People close to them die, are terminally ill, move away, or turn away.

3. Their families relocate.

4. Their parents may abuse substances, be workaholics, be depressed, or abandon them in still other ways.

5. They may have violent parents and difficult sibling relationships as well as a negative peer group and a difficult environment.

6. They may experience trauma, including sexual and other kinds of abuse, debilitating accidents and illnesses, and other troubling events.

7. Their race, culture, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation may contribute to intrapersonal and interpersonal difficulties.

8. Personality factors may interfere with ease in school. They also may have a biochemical predisposition to a psychological disorder. Predisposed or not, they may be depressed (Peterson, 2003, p. 63).

Taken together, the foregoing suggests that students who engage in peer bullying activities may themselves be victims of such abusive behaviors either at home or in school as well as suffer from a wide range of negative stressors that interact in predictable ways as they lash out at others around them. Based on their analysis of reviews of peer bullying, Hyman and Snook (2001) note that an increasing number of students in schools across the country have reported being the victims of ongoing ridicule and rejection by their peers and even adult educators; not surprisingly, victims of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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