Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Creating a Sense of Family in Urban Schools Using the "Sport for Peace" Curriculum

Academic journal article Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport

Creating a Sense of Family in Urban Schools Using the "Sport for Peace" Curriculum

Article excerpt

Advocates and designers of school reform initiatives focus their efforts on enhancing student achievement and improving the social environment in schools. Wentzel (1994) suggested that these two goals work concomitantly to help students engage in learning in a socially satisfying setting. Students are encouraged and motivated to aspire to goals that benefit both their career opportunities and school achievement standards (Ladson-Billings, 1994). School reform initiatives also incorporate practical applications of educational theories such as social constructivism and personal and social identity (Blasi & Glodis, 1995). Curricula designed using these underlying concepts emphasize the importance of a socially supportive atmosphere in which students work collaboratively with others to construct knowledge consistent with their personal and cultural perceptions of self (Miller, Leinhardt, & Zigmond, 1988). Essential to these endeavors are scheduling and curricular structures that permit students to interact respectfully over an extended time period (Powell, 1997).

Although urban schools are involved in numerous reform efforts, the report, Urban Schools: The Challenge o/'Location and Poverty, suggested that their location and population present particular challenges to developing social affiliation and achievement (Lippman, Burns, & McArthur, 1996). Specifically, the report indicated that when variables of population, income, and school location were disaggregated, children in urban schools were more likely to represent transient, single-parent families. Students changed schools frequently throughout their school careers, limiting opportunities to master content and affiliate with peers. School principals in these distriers reported more difficulty hiring teachers and often employed teachers who did not hold certifications in the subjects they had been contracted to teach. These teachers experienced difficulty in organizing and conveying content and in their ability to maintain order and discipline in the classroom. Darling-Hammond (1997) emphasized the impact of this problem, arguing that teacher certification is a primary correlate of student achievement.

Additionally, teachers in urban schools reported low control over curriculum content (Lippman et al., 1996). Curricula in many subject areas were defined by the textbook contents. Administrators adhered to tight managerial guidelines in an effort to enhance achievement and content coverage necessary to comply with externally defined testing standards. Further, teachers and principals reported that more frequent weapons possessions were increasingly disrupting the school day, and student pregnancies negatively affected girls' abilities to focus academically (National School Boards Association, 1994; Lippman et al., 1996). Finally, student awareness of lower school completion rates and the poverty and unemployment experienced by young adults, many of whom represented minorities, negatively influenced their effort optimism (Ogbu, 1994) and willingness to engage academically. They reportedly held little hope that education would improve their life chances or career opportunities (Lippman et al., 1996).

In physical education, Ennis and her colleagues (Cothran & Ennis, 1997; Ennis 1995, 1996, 1998; Ennis et al., 1997) described urban school contexts that limited educational experiences for students who wanted to learn. These included limited facilities, equipment, and instructional time; disruptive and disengaged students; and unsupportive administrators. Successful curricular reform efforts, such as the Self and Social Responsibility model proposed by Hellison (1995), represent powerful, comprehensive approaches to address some of these concerns and assist physical educators and students in connecting meaningfully with relevant curricula. Other initiatives that focus on creating a positive social community are needed to address the diversity of teacher beliefs and student definitions of meaningful physical education. …

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