Public Schools With Community Support Can Solve Problems

woman-1172721_1280Some problems that seem too big to solve, may get better when communities work together.

In 2012, the Gainesville Police Department uncovered some disturbing facts, black youth were four times more likely to be referred to the juvenile justice system than white youth for similar offenses.  GPD developed:







  • alternatives to arrests with the help of Meridian Behavioral Services and the Corner Drug Store.
  • options other than arrest for officers and supervisors to use.
  • demanded Civil Citations rather than arrests for first time misdemeanor offenses

In order to intervene early before bad behavior becomes chronic, GPD:

  • engaged in officer training
  • coordinated meetings to improve mental health services delivered to students and schools
  • developed a System of Care to provide resources to families (mental health, outreach, tutoring etc.)
  • tracked progress through data collection
The Center for Children’s Law and Policy gave GPD a grant (only one of two awarded in 2012); the initiative grew and arrests plummeted.  On campus arrests dropped 31%.  Total black juvenile arrests decreased 44%.  Teen courts were used for many offenses.
Dozens of agencies had stepped up.  Then the program had to be institutionalized to ensure it would continue.  Alachua County Schools stepped up.  The System of Care began in seven schools–4 elementary and 3 middle.  Ten percent of the students with serious disciplinary problems were identified.  Fifty-three parents agreed to participate.   Each school had a social worker to coordinate care.  After only eight months, some children are thriving.  Others are making progress.
Now the challenge is to scale up the program to serve more families.  The League held a Hot Topic last week to help spread the word.  We learned about ways communities can work together to help children with traumatic life events find ways to cope.  The school is the center of a community hub.  Bringing services in to the center may be a more efficient and effective way to help children.  Helping some children helps all children feel safe and secure.  In the long run, suspending children leads nowhere good.


Fla. High Impact Charter Network Bill Advances



The devil is often in the details, and this bill HB 830 Stargel has many provisions.   In a nutshell, it requires better background checks and more transparency for charter providers.  This is good, right?  It also gives the State Board of Education the ability to authorize High Impact Charter Networks.  Maybe this is not so good.

Charter providers in approved networks apply to districts, but if they are already authorized, is this simply smoke and mirrors?  In a way, this is a mini version of the bill to amend the constitution to create a separate charter system.  It takes away local control.  The constitutional amendment will not make it to the ballot, but the High Impact Charter Networks are likely to become law.  If I were a betting person, I would think this is another effort to attract and expand KIPP schools.

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Charter School Bubble to Burst?

hands-982121_1280Are charter schools an emotional response by inner city low income families to long standing state funding inequities?  A University of Virginia Law Review article  addresses concerns that school funding inequities in Black urban areas lead to a tolerance of unfettered growth in charter schools. 

The federal government support for charters also feeds the expansion without sufficient regulation.  The net result may be a bubble and crash much like the recent financial crisis.  What should be done to avoid a cataclysmic fall that could destroy communities?

Mother Jones summarizes the three practices that lead to serious mismanagement.  I add a summary of the status Florida’s legislation to address these concerns.

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Charter ‘Got to Go’ Lists in New York Success Schools

Since expelling students is difficult in New York City, Success charters drive parents to withdraw their children.  The suspension rates are reported to be between 4 and 23 percent at least once.  Most schools suspend at least ten percent while public schools have a three percent suspension rate within a school year.  Suspensions start as early as kindergarten.

The charters use other strategies to encourage some parents to withdraw children who find it difficult to adapt to rigid rules.  Schools repeatedly call parents  to pick up their children early.  They may be counseled that the school is not a ‘good fit’ for their child.  Staff may tell parents that students needed special education that the school could not provide.  Some schools use 911 calls as a threat for children who misbehaves.  One mother whose child was on the list said she did not know about it.  She said, “He doesn’t hit kids, he doesn’t  knock kids over, he doesn’t scream, he just talks too much.”

This whole notion that parents should be able to choose schools that ‘fit their children’ has serious consequences.  The whole idea of a school where some children do not belong does not sound like a ‘public’ school.  When schools become exclusionary communities, the sense of community is lost.  With that loss, the problem is not contained just in a school.


Failure Factories: The Children Tell Their Stories

whistle-149678_1280The latest feature on the Pinellas County Schools neglect of low-income minority schools lets the children tell their stories.  Anyone who thinks that these children do not know better and can not do better should listen carefully to what these children say.  Promises for help from the district were not kept.  Teachers gave up.  

What will be done to fix a problem the district helped create.  Charters are not to blame; they are nowhere near.

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Schools Within School: Approaches to Discipline

whistle-149678_1280No excuses discipline policies create as many problems as they solve.  Students are suspended, hit the streets and create more trouble.  When they return to school, it is a downward cycle.

School districts are adopting new strategies for managing bad behavior management strategies.  Just as in law enforcement, schools are reevaluating who is being targeted and why.

The Miami Herald reports that a new approach to discipline in Miami-Dade schools will require extensive retraining and a massive culture change.  The district has 36,000 suspensions.  They have taken a multi-pronged strategy.

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