Juking the suspension stats

Maryland educrats are “juking” the stats on school suspensions, writes BaltoNorth. (“Juking” was popularized by The Wire, which showed Baltimore police officials manipulating crime statistics to make themselves look better.) Suspensions have dropped by 12 percent in the last year, reports the Baltimore Sun, which calls it “good news.” But it’s not necessarily because students are behaving better.

The reductions follow years of work by school systems to put programs in place that will reward good behavior. In addition, school superintendents, such as Andres Alonso in the city, have simply ordered principals to lower suspensions for certain offenses.

School systems have stopped suspending students for being truant, for instance.

Suspending students for truancy is counterintuitive: If you don’t come to school, you can’t come to school! But BaltoNorth has a point about the meaninglessness of the decline in suspensions.

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  1. Suspending students for truancy doesn’t make sense, except in a couple of ways. When students come to school but do not go to class, their truancy becomes a threat to the school. Also, a parent conference suspension may be grasping at straws, or it may be the last outreach effort that works. Of course, if we had invested in data-systems for fighting truancy and counselors for interventions, perhaps we’d be seeing some progress and not be needing to juke the stats so much.

  2. I’m glad I now have a new verb to describe what goes on my school!
    They juke the hell out of our discupline stats…and it is putting teachers in harm’s way (literally) and making the students with behavioral problems even worse.
    They know they are untouchable.

  3. Margo/Mom says:

    My district reported on a successful program to reduce unexcused absences. The first thing they did was to increase the number of excused absences by hounding parents to send in notes.

    There always has to be first step in any improvement program which entails cleaning up the data to ensure that the problem being looked at is accurately reflected in the data. It is the heighth of cynicism, however, to attack a problem by sending out edicts to change the numbers. Seconded only by “juking” as described.

  4. Margo/mom,

    Finally we agree. In my experience, a lot of unexcused absences should have been excused, and part of the problem was the parents not phoning in. But part of the reason why parents long ago stopped phoning in was:
    a) the lousy phone system, and
    b) nonenforcement of rules until the end of the semester when blanket amesty was given.

    So, each teacher and each principal had to worry about failing kids for factors beyond their control. So, some just gave amnesty to everyone, others just bent the rules (like I did, drawing the line at eight unexcused absences per semester rather than six unexcused absences)and most drew lines in between.

    The same applies to juking the discipline stats. I’ve never seen a neighborhood school where there wasn’t a fullcourt press to keep teachers from writing referrals. But I’ve seen principals who were constructive in the juking. For instance, we probably all could agree that schools need many more parental conference suspensions. The principal who has generally been seen as the best principal in years in our district made his own parental conference referral form. So, his people could assess as many as needed and it didn’t count against his quota.

    As I’ve written I have had the opportunity to both study an entire year’s of paper referrals, and study a decade’s worth of the districts discipliary stats. No matter how much pressure is exerted from up top, suspension stats in our district always revert to a basic norm. What changes is:
    a) the referrals that just don’t get worked, and
    b) the referrals that teachers get bullied out of writing.

    If we could be honest abbout discipline stats, however, think of the opportunity. Why not assign a social worker/counselor to every asst. principal? Whenever a kid is suspended, there could be a before and after intervention. And if the intervention doesn’t work, that situation would be addressed immediately. It would be the most effective way of reaching out to kids when they need it most. And they make our stats look great! We could demonstrate how hard we’re working!

    Seriously, all types of teachers, administrators, counselors, social workers etc. need to cover each others’ rear ends as well as work together to help kids.

  5. Margo/Mom says:

    John–speaking here as a social worker, I am not opposed to the use of social workers in schools. However, it is all too easy to rearrange deck chairs. Unless there is some willingness to allow social workers such opportunities as observing in classrooms on a regular basis in order to get a feel for the conditions under which problems occur, and the ability to call conferences between students and teachers, as well as between students and other students in order to mediate solutions, don’t look for much more than another paper pusher.

    An effective SOCIAL worker (emphasis on social) must work with an environment. School is an environment. So long as problems are regarded as residing exclusively within individual students, you can bring in a busload of social workers (and believe me, you will certainly keep them busy), but not much will change.

  6. Odd thing with suspensions due to truancy is that you give students what they want. What needs to be done is that parents and students have real consequences for the infraction. In the state of New Mexico it is against the law not to attend school as I am sure it is in many other places. However, there are no teeth in the law and therefore children do not attend. As a school administrator I have seen just about every excuse in the book for why children do not attend school. My most recent one was: I was walking behind a woman who was on the phone calling the school stating that her child would not be in school due to the weather (a few snow flakes and a little rain, oh yes you did have to wear a coat) being to cold for her child to leave her home and besides that they did not have a car to drive. I was not in her home but out in public and she had her child in tow. Go figure sitting in a doctor’s waiting room watching a younger child was more important than being in a school learning. What are parents teaching their children? This is one of many stories I have heard just since January 5, 2010.

    Suspension is not the answer, we then have free babysitting and child labor. But a short time in some type of lock up or required community service for both the parent and child might just help with curbing the problem and cleaning up our community.


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  2. […] on the assessments they bring. Mix up all of the assessments in a big pile and hand them back out.Juking the suspension stats Joanne Jacobs Maryland educrats are “juking” the stats on school suspensions, […]