September 18, 2020

Dispose of Kids, Visit them in Prison

The July 18th edition of The Washington Post contains the report of an exhaustive education study that is sure to be ignored by the get-tough accountability standardistas who otherwise worship at the alter of educational data.

The conclusions of this lognitudinal study of  nearly one million school students confirms my belief that real teachers don’t need data. That said, the findings of this study need to be presented to every school board and posted in every faculty room in the nation.

Here’s one myth of school debunked: Harsh discipline is not always a reflection of the students in a particular school. It can be driven by those in charge.

In a study of nearly a million Texas children described as an unprecedented look at discipline, researchers found that nearly identical schools suspended and expelled students at very different rates…

“The bottom line is that schools can get different outcomes with very similar student bodies,” he said. “School administrators and school superintendents and teachers can have a dramatic impact.”

The research showed that while some high-poverty schools suspended students at unexpectedly high rates, others with strikingly similar characteristics did not. The same discipline gap was clear for prosperous, suburban schools and small, rural schools; some were harsh, and others with nearly identical qualities were not…

…The study showed that 97 percent of disciplined students got in trouble for “discretionary” offenses, which can include serious fights but often refer to classroom disruption and insubordination. Fewer than 3 percent were ousted for violations with state-mandated punishment, such as bringing weapons or drugs to school.

In an analysis that controlled for 83 variables to isolate the effect of race on discipline, the study found African American students had a 31 percent higher likelihood of being disciplined for a discretionary offense, compared with whites and Hispanics with similar characteristics…

…The results showed that suspension or expulsion greatly increased a student’s risk of being held back a grade, dropping out or landing in the juvenile justice system. Such ideas have been probed in other research, but not with such a large population and across a lengthy period, experts said.

Among the study’s central findings was that 23 percent of students who had been suspended at least once had contact with the juvenile justice system. By comparison, 2 percent of students with no suspensions had juvenile justice involvement…

File that under, Duh! When schools suspend students, they dramatically increase the likelihood that those children will find themselves in the juvenile justice system. This isn’t a matter of bad kids needing extreme discipline, but of educational policies disposing of children, rather than educating them. In my opinion, zero tolerance policies, NCLB, Race-to-the-Top and test score obsession undoubtedly contribute to the increasing animosity between children and educators. Suspending children denies them of an education and fails to address their needs. That is despite being the favorite pedagogical innovation practiced by people like the new Chicago Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard who replaced out-of-school suspensions with new and improved in-school suspensions.

At-risk children need increased learning opportunities, not different forms of banishment.