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Education

A Trust Gap May Hinder Academic Success for Minorities

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AUSTIN, Texas — Middle school students of color who lose trust in their teachers due to perceptions of mistreatment from school authorities are less likely to attend college even if they generally had good grades, according to psychology research at The University of Texas at Austin published in the journal Child Development.

Low expectations from teachers and extreme disparities in discipline for misbehavior contribute to the disproportionate mistreatment of African American and Latino youths in schools across the United States, and can lead to a growing mistrust for authority by students who perceive and experience such biases, researchers said.

“When students have lost trust, they may be deprived of the benefits of engaging with an institution, such as positive relationships and access to resources and opportunities for advancement,” said UT Austin assistant professor of psychology David Yeager. “Thus, minority youth may be twice harmed by institutional injustices.”

In their study, Yeager and researchers from UT Austin, Columbia University and Stanford University examined 483 U.S. middle school students’ perceptions of their teachers’ impartiality and how those attitudes related to any disciplinary treatment they received and to the likelihood of on-time enrollment at a four-year college.

Data were drawn from twice-yearly surveys, from sixth grade until college entry, by 277 white and African American middle- and lower-middle-class students in the northeastern U.S., and compared with a one-year study of 206 white and Latino middle schoolers in rural Colorado. Trust was measured based on how students identified with statements such as: “I am treated fairly by my teachers and other adults at my school.”

The researchers found that trust decreased for all students from sixth to eighth grade but declined faster for African American and Latino students than it did for their white peers. Furthermore, students who lost more trust than expected in seventh grade were less likely to fulfill on-time enrollment at a four-year college six years later.

“Prior research shows that people trust an institution more when they perceive that it is procedurally just and that its authorities have personal regard for individuals served by the institution,” Yeager said. In the study, minorities also reported more racial disparities than white students in decisions involving school discipline, with fewer than 55 percent of African American students expecting equal treatment after the first semester of sixth grade.

Official school records indicated that African Americans were disciplined more throughout middle school, particularly in regards to more grey-area incidents involving “defiance” and “disobedience” where African American students outnumbered their white peers nearly 3-to-1. Still, the largest race gap in school discipline was in sixth grade, fueling a perceived bias and predicting future disciplinary incidents, researchers said.

“Perceived bias and mistrust reinforce each other. And like a stone rolling down a hill that triggers an avalanche, the loss of trust could accumulate behavioral consequences over time,” Yeager said. “Seeing and expecting injustice and disrespect, negatively stereotyped ethnic minority adolescents may disengage, defy authorities, underperform and act out.”

To combat this vicious cycle, researchers tested the efficacy of a “wise feedback” intervention on improving students’ trust in a small experimental sub-sample of 88 white and African American seventh-graders. In the experiment, half of the students received critiques and a hand-written note from their teacher on a first-draft essay, stating: “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations, and I know that you can reach them.” While this intervention did not influence white students, African American students had fewer disciplinary incidents the following year (about half) and were 30 percentage points more likely to attend college than those in the control group.

The researchers caution that the one-time note is not an intervention that is designed for wide-scale use, but it highlights that teachers can work more systematically to create a classroom climate that boosts the trust of students who may have to contend with discrimination.

Social Work Helper is a news, information, resources, and entertainment website related to social good, social work, and social justice. To submit news and press releases email [email protected]

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Education

Discussing Current Events with Students and Children: If, When, and How?

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Photo Credit: @Reuters

The unfortunate reality for children growing up right now is the prevalence of senseless tragedies. I myself, even as a grown adult, struggle time and time again to make sense of the catastrophic violence that pervades our day-to-day. For my students, I cannot fathom the panicked bewilderment and anxious uncertainties that events such as the Las Vegas attack bring to their frightened, yet curious, minds.

During these formative years, how can we mediate the thin line between informing and frightening our students and children? If we decide that information is power, how do we present such heart-rending topics to young people in a way that equips them to do better for the world? Conversely, if we instead choose to shelter our innocent young people by preserving their naïveté, how can we expect to bring up the next generation to be culturally responsive and informed citizens?

When considering conversations with young people involving tragic current events, such as this week’s Las Vegas mass shooting, adults must be extremely cautious. From the educator’s perspective, I am personally conflicted about my exact role as the adult in the classroom when it comes to conversations of a sensitive nature. Even as a middle school teacher, where my students assert themselves as “informed” or “aware” community members, I find it irresponsible of me to take on the role of informant for other people’s children.

Yes, our students are privy to infinite amounts of and avenues for any and all information, thanks in great part to the 1:1 ratio of school-aged children to smartphones. However, I firmly believe that the family (parents and guardians) know that child best. Therefore, as a teacher, my obligation begins and ends with parental consent. I can, and have, encouraged curious students to speak specifically with their parents about current events and the questions they have regarding those events.

Additionally, as an English teacher, I have provided students with criteria for credible sources, smart searches, and strategies to detect bias and objectivity. But that is where my responsibility ends. This is not because I don’t want to hear their opinions or thoughts on the world’s happenings, but rather because it is not my place to open such an emotional or sensitive topic up to discussion.

Suggestions for parents regarding if, when, and how to broach these types of discussions with your children vary from family to family. Obviously, you know your children better than anyone else. Parents are also in control of the extent of info to which children are exposed. Parents are the gatekeepers of information, charged with filtering, limiting, and explaining the events that you deem appropriate for your children.

If families decide to discuss emotionally-charged current events, such as terrorism or mass acts of violence with their school-aged children, parents should consider multiple factors, including age, social and emotional maturity, and peer influence. Let your children do the talking first. Take the temperature of their background knowledge on the topic before you begin.

Ask if they have heard or seen anything about the specific news story. It is likely that, if your child has a smartphone, she has some level of prior knowledge. Between social media and other communicative platforms, preteens and teenagers are presented with a deluge of news stories, photos, and videos.

Once you’ve gauged their level of prior knowledge, plan to direct the conversation with the goal to inform on a broad scope—do not necessarily delve into specific details, as details rarely serve to comfort or answer questions. A curious teen will inevitably stumble upon more details, but remind your teen to check the validity of the source before forming opinions or drawing conclusions.

Furthermore, be prepared to some answer questions, while leaving other questions unanswered. Especially with unanswerable questions like “how?” it is more than okay to respond with “I don’t know” or “we may never know.” Find some security in the fact that a senseless act will never make sense—and share that important realization with your teen.

Finally, encourage your teen to focus on the heroic deeds of bystanders, first responders, survivors, etc. Tragedies cannot be explained or reconciled, but the focus of the aftermath should always center on taking measures to lift up, help out, and affect change for the better. Always!

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Education

UMSSW’s Financial Social Work Initiative Celebrates 10 Years

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The University of Maryland School of Social Work (UMSSW) is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Financial Social Work Initiative (FSWI) during the 2017-2018 academic year with a new Financial Social Work (FSW) Certification Program and numerous activities that honor its achievements over the past 10 years and lay the groundwork for ongoing work in this important, emerging area within social work.

In celebration of this milestone, the FSWI received a leadership grant of $100,000 from The Woodside Foundation, whose trustee, Meg Woodside, MBA, MSW, UMSSW alumna, is a co-founder of the FSWI. The Woodside Foundation is a private family foundation focusing on program development, outreach, and advocacy in the areas of family financial security and asset building in Maryland. “Social workers have been on the front lines of stabilizing vulnerable families and communities for decades,” notes Woodside. “Today’s challenges necessitate integrating new tools, skills, and evidence-based practices to strengthen the profession’s ability to address financial stressors and economic disparities. As FSWI’s 10th anniversary unfolds, we will be able to offer several new opportunities to engage even more social workers in financial social work.”

This generous grant will underwrite several planned educational and community events during the anniversary year. In the spring of 2018, a new Financial Social Work (FSW) Certificate Program will be launched, which in addition to financial support from the Woodside Foundation, has received a notable $23,600 grant from the Calvin K. Kazanjian Economics Foundation, Inc.

“For more than 60 years, the Calvin K. Kazanjian Economics Foundation has provided economics and personal-finance education to various audiences, most particularly to teachers,” says Michael MacDowell, the foundation’s managing director. “We are now also investing in social service providers. We see social workers as having an immediate impact on improving the financial well-being of their clients. The foundation applauds the work at the University of Maryland’s School of Social Work and its innovative new certificate program. We are pleased to be part of this important undertaking.” OneMain Financial also contributed $3,000 toward the certificate program, and it has sponsored other programming offered through UMSSW; OneMain Financial provides support and sponsorship of community financial education programs and activities, in addition to offering financial services to individuals nationwide.

FSWI will offer the certificate program through UMSSW’s Continuing Professional Education (CPE) Office. The Certificate Program will run from April to December 2018 and will meet an identified need for greater knowledge and skills in financial capability, stability, and empowerment on the part of social workers who practice in nonprofit and other social service agencies, as well as in schools, medical settings, and justice and court settings. This is especially critical for social workers who work with individuals, families, and communities facing complex financial and psychosocial issues.

In large part due to the efforts of the FSWI and its partners over the last 10 years, social workers and human service organizations are seeking additional FSW education and training, in addition to skill-building strategies to enable them to intervene more effectively with financially distressed individuals, families, and communities. Beyond providing resources, social workers must have sophisticated knowledge about issues in typical daily financial life, such as credit, debt, budgeting, financial struggles, and how these intersect with other stressors, and they must be knowledgeable about and familiar with financial issues and barriers, and feel comfortable in addressing such issues directly and effectively with people and communities they serve. Also, social workers who work in FSW must be well-versed in historical and current policy issues that influence and affect people’s paths toward greater financial stability, as well as those policies that hinder financial stability or perpetuate economic injustice.

More information about the FSW Certificate Program is available online at www.ssw.umaryland.edu/fsw/education. It will span seven full-day sessions from April to December 2018. The in-person classroom style of the FSW Certificate Program will enable rich class discussion and learning through interaction among the macro and clinical practitioners.

FSWI’s 10th anniversary year officially kicked off with the 2017 Daniel Thursz Social Justice Lecture in April, featuring noted economist, author, and commentator Julianne Malveaux, PhD, who provided incisive commentary on the topic of “Economics, Race, and Justice in the 21st Century: Perspective on Our Nation’s Future.”

In addition to the FSW Certificate Program, the FSWI will host the following:

  • The third Financial Capability and Asset Building (FCAB) Convening on Jan. 10-11, 2018, to be held just prior to the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) annual conference (Jan. 10-14, 2018, in Washington, D.C.). The third convening is titled “Using Evidence to Influence Policy and Practice” and will feature managers of widely used databases in FCAB work, along with social work researchers who are using these sources to further the FCAB research agenda.
  • UMSSW’s Homecoming 2018, slated for March 9, 2018, will focus on family financial stability and  feature influential advocate Jonathan Mintz, executive director of the New York City-based Cities for Financial Empowerment, who will speak on “Strengthening Family Health: Advancing Economic Stability.”
  • Increased infusion of FSW and its role within psychosocial assessment in the Practice 1 courses offered in the MSW curricula.
  • Development of an FSW alumni network at UMSSW.
  • Increased financial support through scholarship opportunities to support MSW students who have an interest in financial social work: The Woodside Foundation Scholarship Endowment in Financial Social Work is available to all MSW students who would like to apply, and The SunTrust Foundation Scholarship Endowment in Financial Social Work is available to incoming first-year students.

“It is hoped that through these events and offerings, and especially with the launch of our FSW Certificate Program, the UMSSW FSWI will continue to advance and lead the field as financial stability plays an increasingly important role in social work education, research, and practice,” states FSWI Chair Jodi Frey, PhD, LCSW-C, CEAP.

UMSSW Dean Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW, lauds the efforts of the Financial Social Work Initiative. “I am thrilled by the rapid development of the FSWI from a kernel of an idea and a few active participants to a wide array of services and educational programs that now appear destined to become central to much of what social work accomplishes.”

For information on these and other FSWI activities, visit www.ssw.umaryland.edu/fsw.

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Education

The Best Arizona Social Work Degree Programs

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The state of Arizona offers several social work programs. Arizona students may study for the BSW, MSW or Ph.D. Arizona State University and the University of Northern Arizona are among the two top schools for social work degree programs in Arizona. Read on for information concerning degree program requirements.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University is a research university with over 50,000 students on several campuses. Because of the school’s size, reputation and resources, ASU is able to offer the bachelor of social work (BSW), the master of social work (MSW) and the Ph.D. degree. These degree programs are offered in Phoenix and Tucson.

The BSW at ASU requires students to complete courses in government and politics, economics, philosophy and ethics. The BSW prepares students to work with underserved and at-risk communities. For instance, upon graduation students may eventually work in the areas of adoption, HIV/AIDS services, child welfare, mental health and/or substance abuse services. ASU also prepares students to work for practical solutions to problems commonly seen in the American southwest. For instance, some graduates choose to work as advocates for immigrant rights.

Most ASU students receive some form of financial aid. Many scholarships are offered based on academic performance and degree program. For students who would like to live in Phoenix or Tucson a Phoenix moving company might be your best bet. Living in a metro area could also provide students with social work internship opportunities.

ASU Advanced Degree Programs

ASU offers several MSW programs, one of which can be completed online. Each of the master’s degree programs requires 60 hours of coursework as well as a fieldwork component. The university’s field education office helps place students in an internship where the student completes over 900 hours of work in at least one area of social services. For instance, a student might complete their fieldwork in disability services if it’s an area in which he or she is interested.

University Northern Arizona

The Department of Sociology and Social Work at the University of Northern Arizona offers a bachelor’s degree program in social work. The BSW degree prepares students to:

  • Help victims of domestic violence, child abuse and/or homelessness
  • Assist people with substance abuse problems
  • Provide support to those struggling with disabilities, mental problems and behavioral problems
  • Advocate for social change
  • Become a licensed generalist social worker

Graduates of the program work as case managers, victim advocates, disability services workers, family support services workers and child and youth services workers. In these fields, UNA graduates advocate for underserved groups and even become involved with politics and policy.

At the University of Northern Arizona, students first complete their core courses, and afterwards, they must apply separately to the social work program. Once accepted into the BSW program, a student must successfully complete courses in human behavior, crisis intervention and research. Students complete at least 120 coursework hours for the degree, which typically takes about four years.

In addition to classroom work, the BSW program also has a fieldwork requirement, which allows students to get work experience by completing an internship. Students may intern in the public or private sector. In the past, students have worked for both the state and federal government. Students may dedicate several months of full-time work to satisfy their field placement requirement, or they may work part-time while completing coursework. The university has a field placement director to assist students with selecting a suitable position.

The social work programs at Arizona State and Northern Arizona offer some of the best social work degree programs in the state. Students can earn a bachelor’s or advanced degree in 2-4 years, depending on the program of study. The field placement requirements also allow students the opportunity to gain practical experience and networking opportunities.

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