Student Discipline: How much is too much?

Are discipline problems in schools getting worse?  If so, are they due to school discipline policies, increasing poverty, or something more subtle?  We need to think about this issue and understand the different perspectives.

Derek Thomas, a law professor at the University of South Carolina, wrote a book called:  Ending Zero Tolerance.  He makes the case that harsh discipline strategies hurt all students, not just those who are pulled out for behavioral problems.   He also points to the progress in moving away from overly harsh discipline because of federal policies that the court system helps to enforce.  Yet, the change of policies in the new federal administration, he argues, threatens that progress.

It is important to understand the differences in approach and the consequences they engender.

Jennifer Berkshire interviewed Professor Thomas, and his perspective gives voice to those that argue that how schools and communities see discipline policies is not only a racial issue, it is a community problem of long standing.   Even well intentioned communities that promote school integration may assume that schools need to maintain order for ‘good kids’ because ‘bad kids (mostly black??) are disruptive.  Such assumptions may well trigger a culture of ‘us and them’ that creates problems.

The school choice movement exploits these tendencies to label children through their zero tolerance policies implemented in many charter and private schools.  Children who have trouble conforming to any set of arbitrary rules are simply dismissed.  It is a process that instills not only fear but also results in a punitive environment that sends children back to public schools rather than helping children learn the social skills they need to acquire.  Dismissal rates are not publically reported, but public schools feel the impact. They too need to devise better strategies to help students manage their disruptive behavior.

Read the interview here.

 

 

Radical Change Proposed in U.S. Congress

Rep. King, R, IA filed H.R. 610, a bill which is a major assault on public education.  The bill would repeal the Education and Secondary School Act of 1965.  Instead, the U.S. DOE would award block grants to qualified states.  States would then distribute block grants to local education agencies (districts) in a manner that apportions funds to families who elect to home school or send their children to private schools.  In a word, it is a ‘voucher’ bill.

Curiously, the bill also revokes the nutrition standards for school breakfast and lunch programs.

Our public schools are the backbone of our democracy.  This bill undermines an educational system that serves everyone, not just those that private schools chose to accept.  This is just the beginning of an assault on public education.  It is time to push back and keep pushing.

The Network for Public Education has an Action Alert to notify your representatives to oppose this bill.  You can access their site here.

Federal Education Policy Changes Afoot?

creature-1529281_640I have avoided posting all of the speculation about possible changes in education leadership and policy in the new administration.  It is just plain hard on my peace of mind, especially when most of it will not happen.  I firmly believe that the real changes will be through the change in leadership in the Florida legislature.  As you know, I am not sanguine on those.   You can see previous posts.

This morning, however, I ran across an article that helps us think more realistically about what change at the federal level would take.  This Ed Week article reviews legislation that would have to be amended to redirect funding.  It also points toward a likely push for school choice funding in the Congress.  It is worth a read.

 

This Judge Did A Doubletake

FAILED1Passing third grade depends in part on the district a child attends.  Some parents who opted their children out of the Florida State Assessment were dismayed to learn their children would be held back in third grade.  These are not low achieving students based on their grades on report cards.  The federal law requires that states administer annual assessments, and the government can penalize states with fewer than 95% of students participating.

Florida had no problem meeting the federal requirements, but some districts decided not to allow students without test scores to advance to fourth grade.  Parents could send their children to a summer portfolio session, in some districts, or they could sit an alternative assessment.  Parents sued Pasco and Hernando school districts.  The Leon County Circuit court heard the arguments on Friday.  Judge Gievers was troubled but thought any ruled she made would be immediately appealed.

Today Judge Gievers reconsidered.  She will rehear the case next Monday.  The children are now enrolled in third grade classes.  Maybe next week they will be fourth graders.  Something is wrong with this picture.  Whatever the policy may be, it should at least be the same for all children in the state.

 

ESSA: What does Pam Stewart think?

accounting-761599_640The U.S. Department of Education wants input to its rules to implement the Every Student Succeed Act.  State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart wrote them a letter, a long one.  In it she lists her concerns.  Her first concern had a familiar ring; under the proposed timeline, it would not be possible to implement the new rules by the beginning of the 2017-18 year.  One has to smile, Ms. Stewart is right.  She has learned from experience when district superintendents voiced similar complaints about the timeline for  implementing the Florida Student Assessment accountability measures two years ago.  Stewart’s other concerns are more problematic.

I list them below.

 

 

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