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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Reforming school discipline: Too fast?

Is school discipline reform moving too fast? asks Wayne D’Orio in The Atlantic.

In the Highline district south of Seattle, suspensions are way down, while the graduation rate is up. But teacher turnover has increased.

Kimmie Marton, a special-education teacher at Mount Rainier High School, said students became more disrespectful after the threat of out-of-school suspensions diminished. “Kids will cuss you out, there’s stealing and disobedience,” she said.

Los Angeles, which banned suspensions for “defiance” in 2013 also has cut suspensions sharply, writes D’Orio.  However, “many teachers, and even some administrators, felt the changes were rushed through without proper training—and teachers and union officials complained about classroom-discipline issues.”

In New York City, which also shrank suspensions, teachers’ union officials complain “the city hasn’t given teachers sufficient training in how to defuse conflicts or provided other necessary support,” he writes.

Banning suspensions for classroom misbehavior has made Philadelphia schools less safe, writes Max Eden on The 74. Several studies found that “truancy skyrocketed, achievement plummeted, and, in a perverse twist, the racial suspension gap actually grew.

Using school climate surveys, Eden and a Manhattan Institute colleague created a safety map for Philadelphia schools, which are coded red (less safe), yellow (somewhat safe) and green (safe). It shows a “school climate catastrophe,” he writes.

There are 119 red schools, 101 yellow schools and only 13 green ( more than three-quarters of students feel safe).

Results also were bleak on the “sense of belonging” question with only one school, a special school for students with disabilities, scoring green.

When it comes to maintaining a respectful environment, fewer than half of teachers at 73 schools report good news, 50 to 74.9 percent of teachers give positive answers at 154 schools, and more than 75 percent of teachers answer favorably at only five schools (all of which are charters).

Charter students feel safer, the climate survey showed.

Nora Gordon analyzes the research on disparities in suspensions: How much is due to discrimination?

Let schools choose their own discipline policies argue David Osborne and Emily Langhorne in U.S. News.

Fordham is sponsoring School Discipline Reform: Hard Lessons from the Front Lines on Jan. 25. (Follow on Twitter using @educationgadfly and #DisciplineReform.)

Panelists and audience members will discuss the question, “Should districts ban out-of-school suspensions for low-level offenses?”

California’s school accountability system gives suspension rates the same weight as test scores. Schools where students aren’t learning escape accountability, if they’re not suspending too many students and graduation rates aren’t terrible, writes Jessica Calefati for CALMatters. She notes that it’s easy for schools to manipulate suspension and graduation rates.

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