Too much or too little school discipline? Data often at odds with teacher, parent experiences.

Nothing brings out the blog skeptics as reports on disparities in how schools dole out student discipline, the focus a new report released this morning.

The disparity in school discipline is an important issue and one that needs to be better understood.

downeyart0309It’s also a complex issue because many parents and teachers contend they are seeing increased discipline problems in their schools and feel little is being done about it. My own teens complain of time lost to kids acting up in their classes.

The conflicting views of student discipline – too much or too little — explain why a five-member Senate study committee led by Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, could not come to consensus on recommended policy changes.

Among the research discussed by the committee at its fall hearings: Georgia third-graders and eighth-graders who’ve been suspended for 10 days or more are less likely to earn a high school diploma. An AJC investigation a year ago found 57 percent of students expelled and 67 percent of students given out-of-school suspensions were black. Thirty-seven percent of Georgia public school students are black.

A new analysis released today seeks to enlarge the discussion of those disparities. The report by the  Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the UCLA Civil Rights Project found Florida had the highest suspension rates for all students at both the elementary and secondary levels, suspending 5.1% of all elementary students and 19% of all secondary students in 2011-12.

Several states had high elementary school suspension rates, including Georgia. The report notes. “At the elementary level, the runner-up states were Mississippi and Delaware, each at 4.8%. At the secondary level, Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina tied for second with a suspension rate of 16%.”

The report states: “The state rankings raise important questions about educational inequity at the state level that are well beyond the scope of this report, such as: Why are American Indian students suspended at such high rates in North Carolina? Are there deficiencies in policies or education resources in Rhode Island that lead to more frequent suspensions? Why are 19% of English learners suspended from Montana’s schools?”

The report makes three chief recommendations:

  • Data: Mine the discipline data for lessons about what works, as well as to expose what isn’t working, including annual and public review of discipline data disaggregated by race, disability, and gender, down to the school level.
  • Support: Give districts and schools the resources they need to provide effective training and professional development for teachers and leaders. Educators need adequate training to ensure that they can meet their legal and professional responsibility and thus avoid unjustifiable use of disciplinary exclusion. This includes access to information and training in implementing practical alternative strategies. All schools must be given the capacity and skills to provide effective behavioral supports for students who need such help to stay in school and to be successful academically and socially.
  • Accountability: Make school climate an equal factor among those used to evaluate school and district performance and for accountability measures. Protect the civil rights of children and ensure that all schools provide equal educational opportunity.

The analysis goes deep on 24 districts including Atlanta to chronicle the trend in suspension rates.

The report found:

    • Atlanta City Schools suspended nearly four out of every 10 Black male secondary students with disabilities (38%) at least once in 2011- 12.
    • Nearly three out of every ten (29.2%) of Black female secondary school students with disabilities were suspended as well.
    • Overall suspension rates at the elementary level more than doubled for all students, increasing from 2.5% in 2009-10 to 5.3% in 2011-2012. That means approximately 1,570 elementary school students were suspended at least once in 2011-12.
    • Overall suspension rates at the secondary level increased even more, from 19.5% in 2009-10 to 28.7% in 2011-12, a jump of more than 9 percentage points. That means nearly 29 of every 100 secondary students were suspended, at least once that year.
    • With one exception, the racial gaps in the Atlanta City Schools suspension rates widened between 2009-10 and 2011-12. Suspension rates for Black students at the elementary level increased by 3.7 percentage points, from 3.2% to 6.9%. Rates increased by about one-half a percentage point for Latino students, from 0.4% to 0.9%, and by one-third of a percentage point for White students, from 0.1% to 0.4%. The increases for both Black and Latino students outpaced those for Whites, thus the Black-White discipline gap at the elementary level increased by 3.4 percentage points, while the Latino-White gap increased by 0.2 percentage points.

Here is the official release:

The reliance on student suspensions to maintain discipline in public schools varies dramatically across the 50 states, but a new statistical analysis has identified the individual districts with the most egregious records, while finding American children are losing almost 18 million days of instruction due to suspensions.

The new analysis, Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap?, for the first time breaks out federal data by elementary and secondary schools, and combines all out-of-school suspensions to calculate comparative suspension rates for every district in the nation.  It found the highest suspending state for all students at both elementary and secondary levels was Florida.

The overall numbers, however, mask huge racial disparities that exist in a relatively small number of school districts across the country.  For example, schools in the area in and around St. Louis, Mo., which erupted in racial riots following the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white policeman last year, are among the worst in the country when it comes to the unequal treatment of black and white students.

Indeed, the state of Missouri now ranks No. 1 in the nation for having the largest gap in the way its elementary schools suspend black students compared to white students and 4th in the nation at the secondary level.

The analysis was conducted by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the UCLA Civil Rights Project.  While K-12 data reported by the nation’s more than 12,000 school districts was released last year, the U.S. Department of Education has never attempted the type of statistical breakout made possible by the UCLA center.

“The question we’re asking here is, ‘Are we closing the school discipline gap?’” said Daniel J. Losen, the director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies.  “For the first time, we can answer that question in a really meaningful way.  And the answer is, ‘A lot of school districts are closing the gap in a profound way, but not enough to swing the national numbers.’”

According to Losen, the data clearly show that more than half of the nation’s school districts treat removal from the classroom as a last resort and have relatively low suspension rates.  But many of the higher-suspending districts literally are off the chart, he added.

“The fact that 14 percent of districts suspended more than one of every 10 black elementary students, and 21 percent of the districts suspended one of every four black secondary students, is shocking when compared to the Latino and white distribution,” Losen said.  “The Normandy school district in Missouri, where Michael Brown attended, is among the highest suspending districts in the entire nation with an overall suspension rate for black students of just under 50 percent.  This type of large disparity impacts both the academic achievement and life outcomes of millions of historically disadvantaged children, inflicting upon them a legacy of despair rather than opportunity.”

The suspension rates are important to calculate and study, the analysis adds, because the latest research clearly demonstrates that high suspension rates do not produce a better learning climate for the other students in a school.

The new report provides a companion spreadsheet enabling anyone to compare or analyze data from every district in the nation. Further, there is a simplified web tool available that allows visitors to compare — through graphic depictions — the elementary and secondary suspension rates for any two districts and to discover whether the rates and disparities in a given district have increased or declined since the 2009-10 school year. The report, 24 district profiles and companion spreadsheet can be found here.

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

51 comments
Common Sense Committee
Common Sense Committee

Data does not take a side in any event.  It simply tells what is actually going on.  The spin we put on that data is where a lot of issues come from.  

The rules cannot change, nor can the way we enforce them for any who break them.   Kids respond to structure and boundaries if they are consistently enforced regardless of the reason they are broken or regardless of who it is that breaks them.  If we value attendance in schools, then a strict attendance policy must be put in place.  After "x" amount of days missed, you simply get no credit for that class and repeat.  Once the word gets out, kids will get in line and realize what they can and cannot get away with doing.  Any and all absences should count towards this hypothetical policy - excused absences, unexcused absences and even suspension days, too.  The message should be sent in a clear and resounding way to our students: we need the best you have, and negative behaviors will not help you be successful, so get in line!  The same principle could be applied to behavioral issues, as well.

This topic is a major issue for the education world, and we need to worry about solutions more than anything else.  So, where do we go from here?

ShawnCarter
ShawnCarter

Parents also need to step up, especially in the African American community. Discipline starts at home. As an African American male, the main problem for black males is there is no active father involvement. There was a time when in the African American community, it was very rare you heard of single parent households.Today that is the norm, about 70%. Maybe this is because we  (African Americans) were more disicplined ourselves. We had a mroal standard in our community and family structure. When are we (African Americans) as a group, going to get seriously involved in our children's education and stop relying on the schools to be mommy and daddy.

Common Sense Committee
Common Sense Committee

@ShawnCarter - Well said, sir.  

We at the schools get asked to do far more than we ever expected.  Social training begins at home, and it cannot fall to the teachers, counselors, and administrators to pick up the slack.  

ChicagoBJ
ChicagoBJ

I have placed my son in a private military school and he is soaring.  I asked the commander his thoughts on why he thinks this work and he told me the boys need to know you care about them. Even though military schools implement harsher punishments he told me the boys know you do it because you care about them.  They are still getting their education and not being put out of school and falling behind.  CNN did a documentary on why Hispanics and Black males have a high dropout rate and it was determined that many of them felt that no one cared about them.  I am originally from Chicago and most kids who are in gangs will tell you the same.

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

Classroom management is the hill that many new teachers die on, and student misconduct is frequently cited by veteran teachers as an issue.


Funny, though - military drill instructors are able to whip all manner of recruits into shape without suffering from "platoon management" issues or burnout.  What do drill instructors know/have that teachers don't?  What features of their environment should schools duplicate?

newsphile
newsphile

@AlreadySheared  Discipline is the difference.  Mama doesn't come flying down to the military drill instructor and his boss and have a hissy fit because her son or daughter doesn't get to do whatever they want to do at the expense of others.  The only time some parents show up at school is to demand their children have no consequences for their bad behaviors.  When teachers are supposed to work miracles without resorting to discipline, this is what you get.


class80olddog
class80olddog

The only tools left in the bucket for schools to use for discipline are ISS and OSS (and expulsion).  All other tools have been removed as being non-PC (paddling, writing on the board, staying after school).  The two left (ISS and OSS) are totally useless, being exactly what the perpetrator WANTS.


I am flabbergasted that anyone would think we have TOO MUCH discipline!

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

So, for the past forty years, the do-gooders have been eliminating corporal punishment from our schools and are now "surprised" at the level of suspensions.

ROFLMAO.  What the hell did you expect?

redweather
redweather

Once again, do any of these studies ever document the race/ethnicity of the teachers/administrators vis-a-vis the race/ethnicity of the students being disciplined?  It might be an interesting data point.

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

"The conflicting views of student discipline – too much or too little — explain why a five-member Senate study committee led by Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, could not come to consensus on recommended policy changes"


No one, absolutely no one, from the dysfunctional county of DeKalb should be on any committee involving education in this state.

advocateforchange
advocateforchange

As a teacher for over 35 years I see discipline getting worse and worse in our schools. Students today do not have the home training they did.  Students think it is ok to yell at there teachers and not follow simple directions.  Cell phones are a major issue and are definitely causing students to not focus on the state standards but instead spent time communication with their friends and even a bigger surprise is that parents feel it is acceptable to text their children back and forth during the day.  We are not talking about emergency situations either.

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

@advocateforchange 


You were a teacher for 35 years and you post with numerous grammatical errors???  May God help those students who had the misfortune of having you as a teacher.

ProHumanitate
ProHumanitate

@advocateforchange

the cell phone issue could be handled at the school level. Our middle school mandates that all cell phones are powered off and stored during school hours. A phone that rings or is used is confiscated. Your school could do that, too.

mensa_dropout
mensa_dropout

@MiltonMan @mensa_dropout 


It's, "Go ahead, moron."  When addressing someone, there is a comma after the command and before the person's name who is being addressed.  Sheesh, <140.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

If you are interested in this issue, take a look at a great piece in the Hechinger Report on the high rate of preschool expulsions. The story begins with a 4-year-old boy about to be expelled. In a last-ditch effort, the school called in early childhood mental health consultant Laura Wiley to help.


Here is a short excerpt of the story: 


She met with the boy’s teacher, who thought he needed to be medicated for attention deficit disorder. But as Wiley listened, the teacher admitted she was angry at Danny, whose name has been changed to protect his identity. Her job was to keep her students safe, she said, and the boy’s aggression made her feel like a failure. Next, Wiley and the teacher met with Danny’s mom. As the teacher dropped her judgmental attitude, it came out that Danny had watched his father beat his mother and get taken away in handcuffs. No one had ever talked to the child about what he saw. He did not have ADD. He was reeling from trauma, and he needed his teacher to like him and want to help him, not to be rid of him. That began to happen when she heard his story.



http://hechingerreport.org/expelled-preschool/

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@MaureenDowney


"No one had ever talked to the child about what he saw. He did not have ADD. He was reeling from trauma, and he needed his teacher to like him and want to help him, not to be rid of him. That began to happen when she heard his story."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


Compassion and care go so much further in fostering positive outcomes in educational matters than most are willing to acknowledge.  This is what I have tried share so often on this blog.  Unfortunately, we live in both a cynical and data driven society but, hopefully, the pendulum will swing back to balance by again realizing how effective compassion toward students and their parents can be, in the near future.

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

@MaureenDowney It's quite possible that trauma is a significant lurking variable in some districts, among other lurking variables.  If there's a difference between racial groups in the trauma rate, that difference might explain much of the disparate racial impact in suspension rates.  


Schools are probably being asked to do more for many kids than they are capable of doing absent a longer school day and far more resources.


The wife-beating that the mother shared with the teacher may, itself, carry consequences beyond the fact of the trauma.   I could be wrong, but I'm fairly sure that in GA, one parent physically abusing another in front of a child is, itself, a species of child abuse subject to MANDATORY reporting by the teacher and the consultant.  In this instance, I believe that the Department of Family and Children's Services (DFCS)  would remove the boy and other children who witnessed the violence from the residence, pending an investigation.


Removal from the home doesn't necessarily help behavior in school or with the kid's feelings about the beating he witnessed.


Did Laura Wiley and the teacher report the child abuse?


My point here is that these situations are complicated,  Drawing the conclusion that a difference in suspension rates among racial groups is driven by racial bias among teachers and administrators may well be true in some areas, but may indicate racially embedded problems that don't originate in the school disciplinary process in others.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Carlos_Castillo


"Schools are probably being asked to do more for many kids than they are capable of doing absent a longer school day and far more resources."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


Check out the recent Democratic plan in Georgia's legislature for struggling schools based on a total "community school" concept with after school resources such as counselors, mentors, tutors, activities, even social workers working in satellite buildings, such as church/public facilities near the school.  You are correct that the trauma is the reason for most discipline problems, but I as a retired educator, I believe neighborhood public schools, with these resources, are critical to lifting not only the students but the community-at-large.

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

@MaryElizabethSings @Carlos_Castillo That approach may well be a good one, but but I would want a pretty thorough exploration of the alternatives because of the open-ended nature of the proposed spending,  


In particular, I think that church/public joint approaches to some of these issues would be useful to explore, including in the area of general advice to school administrators on student discipline programs. 


The parents whose kids would be on the receiving end of all the programs will also need to understand, agree and cooperate.  Minority parents will probably need to feel that the schools are "theirs" before many of the proposed initiatives can actually work.  That will mean some meaningful input on how the programs are structured and run.


Experts are needed to help shape the programs and recommend spending, but we all need to understand that those receiving the largess are ultimately responsible for the programs' success and must, therefore, be full participants from the earliest stages of planning. 


Personally, my guess is that Senator Carter's program would have been too "top-down."


ATLPeach
ATLPeach

Schools rely too heavily on school suspensions.  APS is actually attempting to decrease those numbers by holding administrators accountable for EVERY suspension given.  This means that teachers are expected to handle all class disruptions.  Until someone implements a program that addresses discipline, test scores won't increase and those "failing" schools will continue to fail.  Suspension doesn't work because it's the only solution.  You would think that anyone that has spent time in the classroom would recognize the problem and face it head on. It's really disappointing.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

You cannot tell if a group is unequally suspended unless you enter ALL the variables.  This has not been done.


I am surprised that SWD are suspended anywhere at all.  Around here, EVERYTHING is considered to be a "manifestation of the disability, " and thus a free pass is given.


Based on MY experience only, too many severe discipline problems are just not handled; teachers are told to "get with it" and grin and bear it.  They are forced to "teach around" those children, on pain of a poor evaluation.  Children who are consistently disruptive SHOULD be dismissed from school, rather than allowed to have a negative impact on hundreds of other students.


Judges don't seem to do anything, either.  They ask the PARENT "Is he doing better?" rather than talking to the school!

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

I am curious about the suspension figures for APS.  They are given here for black disabled males and black disabled  females.Why is there this subclass of those with disabilities?  Is the discipline problem due to their race or their disability? If they have documented disabilities, shouldn't they be given differentiated discipline? What sort of disabilities? A psychological disability is quite different from dyslexia or MD, also disabilities.  What are the figures for the able-bodied black males and females, and why not focus on them in the first place?

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

@OriginalProf Are these recognizable physical disabilities like blindness or are they diagnosed learning disabilities?  


If the latter, then we may be looking at disruptive kids who are labelled and pushed into special education.  Those are often minorities.

bu22
bu22

@OriginalProf 

Their parents have to ask for differentiated discipline.


And in some cases the issue may not fall within the plan, even if it is somewhat related to the disability.

Starik
Starik

The adult jails and prisons have even larger statistical differences between blacks and whites, as do the juvenile courts. Why is there an expectation that school stats should be equal?  Are we pressuring administrators in mixed districts to suspend more white kids to try to even out the disparity?  Read "The Bonfire of the Vanities."

ChicagoBJ
ChicagoBJ

@Starik  I believe that schools should be consistent in how they discipline all student whether it is a predominately black school or mix.  For example:  there is a stereotype when the child comes from a home with a single parent who is black to assume she is uneducated and low income.   When a child comes from a affluent, 2 parent non-African American home the schools will work with those parents to avoid suspensions. They don't want the backlash they will get when the white parent will threaten to sue them.   I have friends who taught on the north side of ATL and they have told me if the students have a beef with another kid, the parents meet and work out a remedy.  Our blacks schools don't even do that, the would rather send a student home over a lot of "he said" and "she said" crap.  In most cases, an administrator was not even present to witness the incidents and these kids are put out for 3-10 days over stupid stuff.    

Starik
Starik

@ChicagoBJ @Starik Exactly. If you have a fight, and in DeKalb there are a lot of fights, both parties get suspended regardless of fault. The schools are therefore relieved of the burden of determining which kid started it, or if it was a mutual combat.  If it's a 2-race fight you punish all the parties and can't get accused of racism.

SGAMOD
SGAMOD

Charter Schools and Opportunity District Schools are the answer (sarcasm font inserted here)

waltbellamy
waltbellamy

"

  • With one exception, the racial gaps in the Atlanta City Schools suspension rates widened between 2009-10 and 2011-12. Suspension rates for Black students at the elementary level increased by 3.7 percentage points, from 3.2% to 6.9%. Rates increased by about one-half a percentage point for Latino students, from 0.4% to 0.9%, and by one-third of a percentage point for White students, from 0.1% to 0.4%. The increases for both Black and Latino students outpaced those for Whites, thus the Black-White discipline gap at the elementary level increased by 3.4 percentage points, while the Latino-White gap increased by 0.2 percentage points."

Thank goodness the  individual who provided this analysis is not doing something important like teaching elementary school students addition and percentages.  Did anyone review or proofread this foolishness?

Looking4truth
Looking4truth

In the classroom for the last twelve years, I've noticed two things.


1.  Kids who don't want to learn have ineffective parents.  The parents don't care what the kid does in school and that is a direct link to misbehaving.


2.  Parents who are involved and in touch with the teacher have kids who do not act up or out in class.


This is true no matter what the ethnic background of the student. 

ChicagoBJ
ChicagoBJ

@Looking4truth I will have to disagree with your second point. I am a very involved parent and the school always mentioned that I was involved but my son was seeking attention.  I was always seeking ways to partner with my son's school to find a remedy.   I am a single parent but very well established. I placed my son in a couple of mentoring programs and removed him from the public school and now he is in a private school thriving.   I know of many 2 parent households who are very involved with their kids education and try to work with the schools for a solution.   I just had this discussion with my neighbors and we have often said "if this is what we get when we are involved what happens to the kids who parents are not involved?'    "Dislike the behavior but don't hate the kid" is what I say.  I do believe that some educators  make it "personal" in terms of how they treat certain students and forget that they are kids.   For a matter-of-fact, I have had educators who have admitted to me this happens in schools. 

Looking4truth
Looking4truth

@ChicagoBJ @Looking4truth  When I have to discipline a student, I'm always careful to let them know that while I love them and they are "my kids", their behavior is not acceptable and must stop.  I point out how their behavior interferes with their learning and the learning of others in the room.  It seems to stop it before it accelerates to ISS or OSS. 

ChicagoBJ
ChicagoBJ

@Looking4truth @ChicagoBJ I like what you said and what you do.  I have placed my son in a private military school and he is soaring.  I asked the commander his thoughts on why he thinks this work and he told me the boys need to know you care about them. Even though military schools implement harsher punishments he told me the boys know you do it because you care about them.  They are still getting their education and not being put out of school and falling behind.  CNN did a documentary on why Hispanics and Black males have a high dropout rate and it was determined that many of them felt that no one cared about them.  I am originally from Chicago and most kids who are in gangs will tell you the same.

ChicagoBJ
ChicagoBJ

I attended a forum this past weekend to discuss the issues of school suspensions. Many of the  offenses I was told are for  "non-contact" incidents.   Keeping a kid at home when most parents have to work is non-effective.   When a child is old enough to stay home even if you have put restrictions on your kid but you cannot monitor them because you have to keep your job.  I know of many parents who would sign waivers with the schools and make their kids do volunteer work at a shelter, clean-up a cemetery, shadow a funeral home director and work for free.    I was told that in some schools that the kids are listening to their iphones in ISS.   The current system does not work.   Michigan is currently overhauling their suspension policies.   School administrators, students and parents went to the State Capitol to mandate changes.   I was told that the state is considering sending  monitors in the schools.   Their are decent black parents who want their kids to "learn their lessons" for bad behavior.  Schools are only doing what is easy but not effective. 

BKB
BKB

I'm curious about the statement: "the latest research clearly demonstrates that high suspension rates do not produce a better learning climate for the other students in a school."


Belligerent students absolutely do affect the learning climate in a class.  


However, I do believe we need more alternative school options - bringing back the technical diploma would be a terrific start.  We do not need everyone either going to or being prepared for college.  Much of our discipline problem stems from students not having success where they're at, so they find "success" and "approval" in acting out in front of their peers. 

bu2
bu2

I don't think out of school suspension is really a punishment for many.  And it clearly hampers that student's learning.


It should really be limited to violence and drug issues.  In school suspensions can be a true punishment, but there is a cost to the schools to do that.

gactzn2
gactzn2

@bu2 I am sorry to tell you- usually those students are not working anyway and they are often disruptive of others who are trying to learn.  I believe they should beef up the consequences for out of school suspensions and add some type of parental sanction.  Only then will parents manage their children.

bu2
bu2

@gactzn2 @bu2 

If they aren't doing work, then out of school suspension is a REWARD, not a punishment.  That's not effective.

And they are often at home unsupervised.  ISS, if they aren't doing work, is pretty boring and that is not a reward.


What type of parental sanction would you propose and on what basis?  IMO, that is just totally unrealistic.  Sometimes there's nothing the parents can do.  Its the kid or it may be something from the kids past, but there's nothing the parents can do at this point to significantly change the behavior in school.  Certainly not on a short term basis. 

Starik
Starik

@bu2 @gactzn2 If you have a single parent, or two working parents who supervises the suspended child?  Sometimes nobody, and the child winds up in juvenile court.  In school suspension is better.

Mr_B
Mr_B

"1) Is what we are doing effective; and

2) Why are so many, especially African Americans, getting suspended?"


Answer to 1) "No, it is only creating more problems."

Answer to 2) Teachers and administrators typically come from relatively advantaged backgrounds with closely defined ideas of what constitutes acceptable behavior. "Problem students" frequently (not always)  come from less advantaged backgrounds, with much less rigid ideas of acceptable behavior patterns.

EdUktr
EdUktr

It's certainly not news to the average reader, nor to Maureen, that there's a racial grievance industry

And it pays extremely attractive salaries to any who can spin data and race-bait with the best of them. It's funded largely by the taxpayers and corporations shaken down for protection money.


bu2
bu2

And Maureen's data says the "gap" in APS is increasing.  In absolute terms, yes, but Black and Hispanic suspension rates went up just more than double.  White rates quadrupled.