In my 12-plus years as an urban superintendent in California, parents often spent more time talking to me about school safety than about teaching and learning. Perhaps that’s just common-sense recognition that the latter can’t take place without the former.

School suspensions and expulsions are falling at dramatic rates in California – a 20 percent decline in expulsions and a 15 percent decrease in suspensions in the last school year. What should parents and taxpayers make of this seemingly good news that suggests there has been an outbreak of good decorum among students in our state’s public schools? Has someone provided a new vaccine that has inoculated our children against bad behavior?

Without suggesting some mysterious new version of the science fiction classic “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” let me offer a plausible explanation for what might be going on.

Leaders of California public schools are seriously re-examining discipline practices and questioning the value of practices that are ineffective and counterproductive – measures that may put youngsters at greater risk for dropping out and for involvement with the juvenile justice system.

These leaders are listening carefully and responding appropriately to the long-standing accusation in the civil rights and advocacy community that some of our schools are, in fact, “pipelines to prison.” Nothing better represents this point of view than the thousands of students suspended each year for willful defiance, which could include behaviors such as eye rolling, talking loudly or standing in a menacing way. While these behaviors can’t be ignored by responsible educators, youngsters should not lose their right to attend school because of them. Finding the appropriate response without overreacting is where our schools need to be.

As a first step toward ending this practice, Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed AB 420, which bans suspending students in the K-3 grades for willful defiance.

In order to sustain this momentum, EdSource has convened the Educators Network for Effective School Discipline, with support from The California Endowment. The idea is to bring together principals, teachers, superintendents and others to look at ways to keep youngsters in school and to share best practices and model programs that are especially effective at accomplishing that goal while also making sure that schools are safer as a result of the effort. It’s not just about bringing the numbers of suspensions and expulsions down; it’s also about creating a school climate that contributes to positive relationships among students and staff.

In our discussions with educators, both Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (evidence-based interventions that work) and “restorative justice” (where students are called on to repair the harm caused by bad behavior) have emerged as just two effective routes toward creating a school climate that helps keep kids in school and maintaining a safer school environment overall. Like most ambitious school reforms, issuing directives from district headquarters will probably not yield the best results. These are changes that must be owned by principals, teachers, assistant principals and school counselors – those closest to meting out school discipline.

Having worked in urban schools for more than 40 years, I’ve seen positive changes sometimes undermined by school leaders who do respond to what they see as the latest fads in school change – without believing in them. One Los Angeles administrator said to me: “Look, I’ve got a mortgage and a family to feed. If the superintendent wants these numbers (of suspensions and expulsions) down and his goals and evaluation are tied to that, I know how to get them down, but I doubt that my school will be safer for it.”

Another challenge is an uninformed public that doubts that schools will be safer after new approaches designed to reduce suspensions and expulsions are adopted.

I’m a glutton for punishment because I not only read every story that I can find on this subject, but also all of the comments that follow the story. The vast majority of those who choose to comment suggest that emerging approaches are all about political correctness and make schools less safe for the kids who come to school to learn.

I believe that California educators are actually getting it right on this issue by recognizing that our schools can become safer places for students and staff. By working harder and smarter to keep kids in school, we can avoid both the costs and the ruined lives associated with the so-called school “pipeline to prison.”

Carl Cohn is Director of the Urban Leadership Program at Claremont Graduate University, a former member of the State Board of Education, a former school superintendent in Long Beach and San Diego, and chairman of the Educators Network for Effective School Discipline. For more information on the network, go here.

The opinions expressed in this commentary represent solely those of the author. EdSource welcomes commentaries representing diverse points of view. If you would like to submit a commentary, please contact us.

 

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  1. Mother of SFUSD student 3 years ago3 years ago

    And what of the victims of bullying and "willful defiance"? Great that the offenders are being rehabilitated, but why should my child who is the victim be forced to endure an environment where the perpetrator's rights are protected more than hers? And why should bullying be allowed to persist in the lower grades (K-3) with little consequence to the offender? Why does the victim have to suffer 3 years of abuse while … Read More

    And what of the victims of bullying and “willful defiance”? Great that the offenders are being rehabilitated, but why should my child who is the victim be forced to endure an environment where the perpetrator’s rights are protected more than hers? And why should bullying be allowed to persist in the lower grades (K-3) with little consequence to the offender? Why does the victim have to suffer 3 years of abuse while the offender is “counseled” before any real action can be taken? Abuse is abuse, regardless of the age of the offender. What of the long term effects on the victim of having to watch the perpetrator “get away with it” for years?

  2. Gary Ravani 3 years ago3 years ago

    A statement from today's post on research done by the UCLA Civil Rights Center on national statistics on school suspension rates by ethnicity kind of clears up some misstatements made in this comment string about what and what is not legal in CA when suspending students: "However, the report noted that the data do not reflect the recent change in California’s law that makes it illegal to suspend a K-3 student for willful defiance – the … Read More

    A statement from today’s post on research done by the UCLA Civil Rights Center on national statistics on school suspension rates by ethnicity kind of clears up some misstatements made in this comment string about what and what is not legal in CA when suspending students:

    “However, the report noted that the data do not reflect the recent change in California’s law that makes it illegal to suspend a K-3 student for willful defiance – the most common reason for out-of-school suspensions in this state. The law took effect in January.”

    There are a number of reasons in Ed Code for legitimately suspending student, “willful defiance” being the one that is no longer legitimate under the new law. Other reasons for suspending students remain in place.

  3. Don 3 years ago3 years ago

    Mr. Cohn, you said, ” Another challenge is an uninformed public that doubts that schools will be safer after new approaches designed to reduce suspensions and expulsions are adopted.”

    Do you have any quantifiable data to indicate schools in general are safer with the reforms? And how do we define safer?

    Has the discussion devolved to the point where anyone who doesn’t automatically accept these reform as effective is necessarily “uniformed”?

    Replies

    • Carl Cohn 3 years ago3 years ago

      I hope not…The purpose of the piece and the new network is all about fostering a new conversation with the folks in schools who are tasked with doing a tough job under very difficult circumstances. I think we’ll have some data on exemplar school sites by the end of this school year. I’m hoping that practitioners will define what “safer” means.

  4. Don 3 years ago3 years ago

    Sorry about the triple posted comment.

  5. Don 3 years ago3 years ago

    Consider the case of Mission High School in San Francisco. In the link below, “To Improve School Discipline, Change Teacher Behavior”, Slate magazine spotlighted the school in its Jan. 22, 2015 article on the subject of discussion here. slate.com/blogs/schooled/2015/01/22/school_discipline_bay_area_schools_cut_down_on_suspensions_by_targeting.html It said, ” Mission High’s leaders recognized nearly a decade ago that re-educating educators was crucial to ending racial disparities in school discipline. The shift in their approach to discipline was part of a larger school reorganization that … Read More

    Consider the case of Mission High School in San Francisco.

    In the link below, “To Improve School Discipline, Change Teacher Behavior”, Slate magazine spotlighted the school in its Jan. 22, 2015 article on the subject of discussion here.

    slate.com/blogs/schooled/2015/01/22/school_discipline_bay_area_schools_cut_down_on_suspensions_by_targeting.html

    It said, ” Mission High’s leaders recognized nearly a decade ago that re-educating educators was crucial to ending racial disparities in school discipline. The shift in their approach to discipline was part of a larger school reorganization that included adopting anti-racist curriculum (including lessons and readings that are relevant to students from a diverse range of cultures and backgrounds) and creating small learning communities throughout the school…”

    The article’s author, Dan McClain, didn’t mention that Mission High was a recipient of over $5 million in School Improvement Grants during the 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years and that during that time, despite the massive SIG cash windfall and other funding benefits as a Superintendent Zone school, Mission’s abysmal API dropped even more during those 3 years, the only one of nine SFUSD SIG schools to actually post a negative showing from the first to last SIG year.

    By keeping more students in school who might have possibly dropped out, a larger number of lower performing students participated in STAR and likely lowered the API school index – an unintended consequence of lower suspensions.
    There’s reason why few people want to associate the benefits of keeping kids in school with higher achievement. Yes, being in school is a prerequisite to higher achievement, but there’s more to it than showing up, as Mission High School illustrates.

    Then there’s also the worry over the possibility that classroom climate and learning suffered as a result of these discipline reforms where Mission is apparently in the vanguard.

  6. Don 3 years ago3 years ago

    Consider the case of Mission High School in San Francisco. Slate magazine in the article linked below, “To Improve School Discipline, Change Teacher Behavior”, highlighted the school in its Jan 22, 2015 article on the subject of discussion here. slate.com/blogs/schooled/2015/01/22/school_discipline_bay_area_schools_cut_down_on_suspensions_by_targeting.html It said, ” Mission High’s leaders recognized nearly a decade ago that re-educating educators was crucial to ending racial disparities in school discipline. The shift in their approach to discipline was part of a larger school reorganization that … Read More

    Consider the case of Mission High School in San Francisco.

    Slate magazine in the article linked below, “To Improve School Discipline, Change Teacher Behavior”, highlighted the school in its Jan 22, 2015 article on the subject of discussion here.

    slate.com/blogs/schooled/2015/01/22/school_discipline_bay_area_schools_cut_down_on_suspensions_by_targeting.html

    It said, ” Mission High’s leaders recognized nearly a decade ago that re-educating educators was crucial to ending racial disparities in school discipline. The shift in their approach to discipline was part of a larger school reorganization that included adopting anti-racist curriculum (including lessons and readings that are relevant to students from a diverse range of cultures and backgrounds) and creating small learning communities throughout the school…”

    Dan McClain, the article’s author, didn’t mention that Mission High was a recipient of over $5 million in School Improvement Grants during the 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years and that during that time, despite the massive SIG cash windfall and other funding benefits as a Superintendent Zone school, Mission’s API dropped during that time, the only one of nine SIG schools to actually post a negative showing.

    By keeping more students in school who might have otherwise dropped out, more lower performing student participated in STAR lowering the API school index.

    There’s reason why few people want to associate the benefits of keeping kids in school with higher achievement. Being in school is a prerequisite to higher achievement, but that’s the funny thing about learning – there’s more to it than showing up, as Mission High School proves.

    There’s also the possibility that classroom climate and learning suffered as a result of these discipline reforms where Mission is in the vanguard.

  7. Don 3 years ago3 years ago

    Consider the case of Mission High School in San Francisco. Slate magazine in the article linked below, "To Improve School Discipline, Change Teacher Behavior", highlighted the school in its Jan 22, 2015 article on the subject of discussion here. http://www.slate.com/blogs/schooled/2015/01/22/school_discipline_bay_area_schools_cut_down_on_suspensions_by_targeting.html It said, " Mission High’s leaders recognized nearly a decade ago that re-educating educators was crucial to ending racial disparities in school discipline. The shift in their approach to discipline was part of a larger school … Read More

    Consider the case of Mission High School in San Francisco.

    Slate magazine in the article linked below, “To Improve School Discipline, Change Teacher Behavior”, highlighted the school in its Jan 22, 2015 article on the subject of discussion here.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/schooled/2015/01/22/school_discipline_bay_area_schools_cut_down_on_suspensions_by_targeting.html

    It said, ” Mission High’s leaders recognized nearly a decade ago that re-educating educators was crucial to ending racial disparities in school discipline. The shift in their approach to discipline was part of a larger school reorganization that included adopting anti-racist curriculum (including lessons and readings that are relevant to students from a diverse range of cultures and backgrounds) and creating small learning communities throughout the school…”

    Dan McClain, the article’s author, didn’t mention that Mission High was a recipient of over $5 million in School Improvement Grants during the 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years and that during that time, despite the massive SIG cash windfall and other funding benefits as a Superintendent Zone school, Mission’s API dropped during that time, the only one of nine SIG schools to actually post a negative showing.

    By keeping more students in school who might have otherwise dropped out, more lower performing student participated in STAR lowering the API school index.

    There’s reason why few people want to associate the benefits of keeping kids in school with higher achievement. Being in school is a prerequisite to higher achievement, but that’s the funny thing about learning – there’s more to it than showing up, as Mission High School proves.

    There’s also the possibility that classroom climate and learning suffered as a result of these discipline reforms where Mission is in the vanguard.

  8. el 3 years ago3 years ago

    This is a really interesting article that maybe illuminates a different point of reference than most of us have: Empathy, not Expulsion, for Preschoolers at Risk (NY Times) This is about a four year old: Her job was to keep her students safe, she said, and the boy’s aggression made her feel like a failure. And it goes on to detail the actual source of the child's problem and how it was resolved. I think this is a key statement … Read More

    This is a really interesting article that maybe illuminates a different point of reference than most of us have:

    Empathy, not Expulsion, for Preschoolers at Risk (NY Times)

    This is about a four year old:

    Her job was to keep her students safe, she said, and the boy’s aggression made her feel like a failure.

    And it goes on to detail the actual source of the child’s problem and how it was resolved.

    I think this is a key statement also:

    Gilliam said it’s extremely rare for a child to be expelled from preschool when the teacher and parent know and like each other.

    What’s clear, though, is that this approach requires time and training that most K-3 teachers and support staff don’t have on hand. It also seems likely that this is an investment that would pay off, if we allowed it to be made.

    Replies

    • Carl Cohn 3 years ago3 years ago

      Thanks, El…These new approaches are a major part of what our new discipline network wants to highlight…

  9. Don 3 years ago3 years ago

    The article's title suggests a drop in suspensions due to changes in disciplinary strategies. The reality is that suspensions and expulsions have fallen because they've largely been prohibited by law. There's no reason to conclude from anything in Mr. Cohn's article a drop in suspensions is the result of successful alternative practices, practices when and if employed are woefully underfunded and understaffed. Much of what I hear through the grapevine tells another story, … Read More

    The article’s title suggests a drop in suspensions due to changes in disciplinary strategies. The reality is that suspensions and expulsions have fallen because they’ve largely been prohibited by law. There’s no reason to conclude from anything in Mr. Cohn’s article a drop in suspensions is the result of successful alternative practices, practices when and if employed are woefully underfunded and understaffed. Much of what I hear through the grapevine tells another story, one of declining school discipline, morale and behavior that’s tearing away at the fabric of public education and coming down hardest upon teachers who are ill-equipped to deal with the ban. The end result is more discipline problems, less learning, and a declining respect for the institution of public education. Gail Monohan’s comment said it all.

    As Mr. Cohn points out the suspension debate stems from civil rights organizations and, more specifically, complaints of racial disproportionality of suspensions and correlations between dropouts and inmates. Keeping potential dropouts locked up in school is not the answer unless the goal is to successfully warehouse students. Without figuring out how to engage certain recalcitrant students the net result of the suspension ban will be worsening achievement numbers and declining interest in middle class public school participation as order implodes. That and a commensurate growing interest in charter schools that can demonstrate a positive classroom learning environment.

    The fundamental mistake that Mr. Cohn makes is to assume that reduced suspensions in itself somehow magically correlates to better school climate and the prize, higher achievement – the all important endgame that didn’t even warrant mention in the article. If Mr.Cohn has any documentation to link the two, let’s see it. In the meantime, characterizing willful defiance suspensions as overreaction to students rolling their eyeballs left me, well… rolling my eyeballs.

    Replies

    • Carl Cohn 3 years ago3 years ago

      The overwhelming majority of suspensions and expulsions are at the middle and high school levels. There are NO new laws prohibiting suspensions and expulsions.

      • Don 3 years ago3 years ago

        There’s the K3 statewide ban and the K12 ban implemented locally by several large California school districts.

        • Carl Cohn 3 years ago3 years ago

          The numbers in my piece are all from the year before the recent K-3 ban, and the educators in our network are truthfully reporting decreases based on these new strategies.

          • Don 3 years ago3 years ago

            Mr. Cohn, I'm not betting against good news. I'm all in favor of the intervention reforms as long as teachers are not left with on-going classroom conflicts because schools cannot implement RP for lack of adequate staffing and training. What I've seen is a cadre of the same students hanging around the counseling office everyday because they aren't allowed in class and can't get be sent home. What schools have extra personnel to conduct conflict … Read More

            Mr. Cohn, I’m not betting against good news. I’m all in favor of the intervention reforms as long as teachers are not left with on-going classroom conflicts because schools cannot implement RP for lack of adequate staffing and training. What I’ve seen is a cadre of the same students hanging around the counseling office everyday because they aren’t allowed in class and can’t get be sent home. What schools have extra personnel to conduct conflict resolution sessions and provide instruction while waiting for this counseling to transpire?

            • Carl Cohn 3 years ago3 years ago

              Don, please join the network and find out how some schools are addressing the challenges that you’re raising…

            • Don 3 years ago3 years ago

              Mr.Cohn, thanks for the invitation to join, but apparently I don’t qualify. Member or not, are the ways in which schools address the challenges a secret? Do you have to be a member of a society to know what goes on in the public schools via-a-vis discipline, behavior and counseling reforms? Instead could you simply provide a summary?

    • Mr Tree 3 years ago3 years ago

      Don, What, then, is your alternative to the discipline reforms promoted by this article? LA Unified banned zero-tolerance policies. That is not the same as banning suspensions and expulsions. I don't know of any elementary or high schools that have banned suspensions and expulsions. The ban on zero-tolerance policies forces schools to look at individually before issuing consequences. Programs like restorative justice individualize consequences, but suspensions and expulsions are still on the table. Expulsions can have … Read More

      Don,
      What, then, is your alternative to the discipline reforms promoted by this article?

      LA Unified banned zero-tolerance policies. That is not the same as banning suspensions and expulsions. I don’t know of any elementary or high schools that have banned suspensions and expulsions. The ban on zero-tolerance policies forces schools to look at individually before issuing consequences. Programs like restorative justice individualize consequences, but suspensions and expulsions are still on the table. Expulsions can have extreme effects on the rest of the life of a child. It should be reserved for extreme cases where student safety is a real issue.

      I was shocked to hear CA banned suspensions for k-3, not because I am opposed to the ban, but because there was actually a need based on the absurd number of k-3 students being suspended for non-violent acts, like defiance. Are you calling these k-3 students, who are disproportionately African American boys, “potential dropouts” by age 5? Please say that is not what you meant, because it is that type of early labeling that is creating a racist discipline system.

      You said, “The fundamental mistake that Mr. Cohn makes is to assume that reduced suspensions in itself somehow magically correlates to better school climate and the prize, higher achievement – the all important endgame that didn’t even warrant mention in the article.”

      In light of the discipline reforms promoted in the article, I disagree that the article assumes that reduced suspensions correlate to better school climates. It’s the reforms that will create better school climates, and there is ample evidence positively correlating school climate with student achievement. And you don’t need a scientific study to conclude that a student who is not in school will likely not not do well on an achievement test. So if student achievement is the prize, schools need to improve their climate and reduce suspensions and expulsions.

      • Don 3 years ago3 years ago

        You say " IF student achievement is the prize...". Is there are any question that it is? Not in my mind there isn't, but I believe achievement isn't paramount in the minds of some players. Politicians are under pressure to keep kids in school and off the streets. Achievement as a function of attendance is not a foregone conclusion. Education may start by showing up, but good attendance is a long way from good … Read More

        You say ” IF student achievement is the prize…”. Is there are any question that it is? Not in my mind there isn’t, but I believe achievement isn’t paramount in the minds of some players. Politicians are under pressure to keep kids in school and off the streets. Achievement as a function of attendance is not a foregone conclusion. Education may start by showing up, but good attendance is a long way from good achievement.

        I’d like to see the scholarly data on some of the interventions that are promoted as effective alternatives to suspension. Are classroom conflicts and outbursts down? Are teachers reporting better classroom climate and increasing achievement? Are schools getting the necessary funding for personnel and training? How are the days managed to include RP sessions with a full class load and staffing/student ratios at or near all time highs? How are teachers polling on the implementation and do they feel supported or abandoned? How are these extra duties parsed out to teachers and administrators and how do union contracts provide for counseling time w/o removing instructional time? How and when will teachers receive the extensive training needed to become qualified practitioners of PBIS or RP? Has the State offered to pay for this or are state and local bans just more expectations piled atop the mountain of existing teacher expectations?

        Mr. Tree, no where did I refer to 5 y.o. as dropouts or label any race. Your accusation is disrespectful and unwarranted. Is it possible to question the implementation of a discipline/behavior model without being called a racist in effect? Sir, please explain yourself.

        Mr.Tree, you said, “And you don’t need a scientific study to conclude that a student who is not in school will likely not not do well on an achievement test. So if student achievement is the prize, schools need to improve their climate and reduce suspensions and expulsions.

        Students not in school don’t take achievement tests period. About half the students in school are not proficient and most of those score very poorly. The gap between proficiency and dropping out constitutes far more than improved climate and reduced suspensions.

        There a crucial point lost in this discussion. There’s a large gap between not dropping out and taking advantage of one’s constitutionally protected educational opportunity. Keeping disciplinary suspensions to a minimum is not tantamount to educating potential dropouts. In the meantime disciplinary problems can bleed into the classroom climate and stymie learning among others. That said, you can bring a horse to water…

        When students are systematically deprived of equal educational opportunity they deserve redress. But the law does not provide students unlimited opportunity to deprive other students of their educational opportunity and its an insult added to injury to expect students to pay with their money and learning time for the failures of others to utilize their constitutional opportunity.

        • Mr Tree 3 years ago3 years ago

          I didn't mean to disrespect; my question was not rhetorical. I asked you to elaborate because I was unclear whether you were still speaking about the k-3 ban on suspension. But I still claim that labeling students (i.e. potential dropout) results in racial inequalities in discipline practice. There are numerous goals for education, but I do not view academic achievement as the end prize. My goal is a student graduating with opportunities for a fulfilling life … Read More

          I didn’t mean to disrespect; my question was not rhetorical. I asked you to elaborate because I was unclear whether you were still speaking about the k-3 ban on suspension. But I still claim that labeling students (i.e. potential dropout) results in racial inequalities in discipline practice.

          There are numerous goals for education, but I do not view academic achievement as the end prize. My goal is a student graduating with opportunities for a fulfilling life and the tools to take advantage of those opportunities. Academic achievement is absolutely essential for many opportunities. But so are collaboration skills, leadership skills, being able to think creativity to solve a problem, and a myriad of other lessons that cannot be assessed with a multiple choice test. A two day suspension does not teach these skills either. But these skills are taught within a discipline program that incorporates counseling, consequences that remedy whatever specific harm was caused, and a rebuilding of relationships. It is much more work than zero-tolerance policies, and it requires teachers to do more than just teach academic content, but it’s better for the education of the student, and it’s better for the culture of the school.

        • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

          Mr Tree doesnt need to apologize. Neither need you feel slighted. If you'd like people to perceive you differently, you should say different things. When you attempt to characterize yourself as the only person who cares about achievement you are trying to confuse the issue. The concerns brought up in the comment were explicitly about the impact of suspensions on students suspended. Your concerns are, instead, about the achievement of the rest of the students due … Read More

          Mr Tree doesnt need to apologize. Neither need you feel slighted. If you’d like people to perceive you differently, you should say different things.

          When you attempt to characterize yourself as the only person who cares about achievement you are trying to confuse the issue. The concerns brought up in the comment were explicitly about the impact of suspensions on students suspended. Your concerns are, instead, about the achievement of the rest of the students due to failure to suspend. These are very different things, and more importantly, from your perspective, they are mutually exclusive. (a Lakoffian disconnect that I think is the basis for the level of disagreement on this issue)

          Not sure why you are surprised enough to feel slighted about the perception of your take on younger students and this issue’s demographics. You based your entire initial argument on k-3 state law. You are also very familiar with the disproportionality issues that exist in the discipline and classification realms, and their intersection.

          I’m glad you brought up the laundry list of data items, though not so much that you presented them as conditionals for your approval of methods offered here. Glad because the ability to do these things does matter, and demanding them can even be an effective lever in the fight for adequate funding at the legislative level. However, you’ll have to accept readers for perceiving you as less than sincere in your offer for conditional approval based on these measures when elsewhere you argue against LCFF’s attempt to direct additional funding to support just such measures; saying instead the money would be better used directly for more affluent students. Denying resources then arguing to shutter programs because they cannot work properly due to lack of resources is perverse and absurd; well, unless you’re a ‘reformer’ or a secretary of education.

          I would like to point out that your list is a tacit recognition that improving school environment requires real resources and that if these things were in fact able to happen, it would not only improve the opportunities for the at-risk groups, but in the process would also improve the environment to the benefit of ‘non-offending’ groups!! (Yes, the interests of at-risk students don’t have to be mutually exclusive of everyone else’s; thanks for making that case even if unintentionally). This point is of course the segue to a real discussion, but I expect that opportunity to be dismissed in favor of sound-bites and pie wrestling.

          I agree with you that attendance is not a sufficient condition for achievement, but, once again, that was not the point. Rather, it was that attendance is a (virtually) necessary condition for it. While you may truly believe (and may even be right) that ‘keeping disciplinary suspensions to a minimum is not tantamount to educating potential dropouts’, one would be hard-pressed to align that belief with a world in which even a ninth grader with one suspension drops out at twice the rate of one with none. Not to mention the (not obvious?) subsequent impact of disproportionate suspension rates at lower grades.

          This is not even to broach the deep and thorny subject of culturally-specific discipline triggers.

          • Don 3 years ago3 years ago

            Navigio, Mission High is a good example of a school that implemented the discipline/behavioral reforms but continues it's bottom of the barrel standing. (See my Mission High comment at the top.) We can applaud the fact of more students in school who might not be without these reforms. At the same time what exactly is going on there with these horrendous achievement numbers if school climate is up, small learning communities are effective and … Read More

            Navigio, Mission High is a good example of a school that implemented the discipline/behavioral reforms but continues it’s bottom of the barrel standing. (See my Mission High comment at the top.) We can applaud the fact of more students in school who might not be without these reforms. At the same time what exactly is going on there with these horrendous achievement numbers if school climate is up, small learning communities are effective and students are feeling better about themselves, particularly after 10 plus years and millions of extra dollars, what you called “real resources” ? Some may not take any stock in the relationship between suspension/expulsion/ discipline reform and actual student achievement. That strikes me as compartmentalization gone awry. There is a reason we have the institution of public education and I don’t doubt that others besides myself view achievement as paramount, though more “deniers” are popping up nowadays. The anti-achievement crowd wants to shift the Overton Window away from standard expectations. I can’t deny the benefits of school socialization, though I do question why such “joyful learners”, as SFUSD likes to say, can’t actually demonstrate a little more learning given their new found behavioral reformation.

            Regarding your comment above, perhaps the term at-risk suits you better rather than “potential dropout.” I can appreciate that. FYI, I might have clarified that I was thinking in terms of the K12 bans by some large districts like my own or yours. Mea culpa. I think Mr. Tree caught onto the idea that the mere mention of a potential dropout is not some sort of racist slur and certainly not in the context in which it was pesented, even if you disagree with my point. I should add that my own son was for many years a student identified as at-risk according to the 3rd grade to prison pipeline.

            Skipping over your other baseless accusations and wrong assertions as to my intent in an effort to focus on the issue at hand, I don’t know how anyone involved in education from the student, to the teacher, the administrator or parent, can honestly say that the achievement of the students as a whole or in part is a function separate of the effects of suspensions, school discipline and the general school behavioral issues. In fact, a recent Ed Source article claimed the opposite to be true – that overall climate is directly related. To the extent these reforms elicit an ameliorative effect on the student body as a whole is probably very school-specific. But I’m reluctant to see teachers striped of their ability to safeguard learning for the majority unless real proven and supported reforms can replace the less than ideal rules of the past. I don’t downplay the effect that classroom chaos plays on the ability of my at-risk son to learn.

            • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

              Hi Don. To repeat, my concern is that 'safeguarding learning for the majority' is presented as something that comes with the expense of destroying it for the minority. Although I understand the drivers of more general societal policy are usually concerned (at least in theory) with the interests of the majority (even if it comes at the expense of the minority), public education is (and should be) different in two important ways: by definition it's … Read More

              Hi Don.

              To repeat, my concern is that ‘safeguarding learning for the majority’ is presented as something that comes with the expense of destroying it for the minority.

              Although I understand the drivers of more general societal policy are usually concerned (at least in theory) with the interests of the majority (even if it comes at the expense of the minority), public education is (and should be) different in two important ways: by definition it’s supposed to serve everyone; and it deals with children.

              We can’t have public policy that intentionally excludes some children from that opportunity at a point in their lives that largely determines their future (yes I understand you’re saying the alternative also does that, just for a different group). Especially when it does so based on convenience and cultural specificity. If the latter is true, and suspensions are a recursive force when paired with their impact on achievement, then such a policy is actually creating the problem we’re ostensibly trying to solve with other policies.

              Although I understand the pragmatic basis for the notion that we may just have to ‘cut our losses’ with some kids. I don’t think we should accept that as a solution. But if/when we do, I don’t think we should try to candy coat it to give the impression we are not doing that. Note that it’s possible the impact of the two perspectives are not mutually exclusive (your most recent comment touches on this point). This is exactly where the discussion needs to happen.

              I didn’t accuse you of anything, nor did I try to divine your intent. I pointed out things you said and highlighted why others would interpret them the way they did. That said, thanks for the recognition that your use of the term ‘law’ misleading.

              One quick point on ‘mission’. It should be clear that keeping lower performers in school would have a depressing impact on API (so what?). But that shouldn’t be confused with lower achievement of ‘not-at-risk’ students (to be fair, I’m not even sure that’s why you mentioned it tho).

            • Don 3 years ago3 years ago

              Navigio, If you're going to attribute ideas to me. I'd appreciate it if you would actually tell me to which comments you are referring. For example, you say- "you’ll have to accept readers for perceiving you as less than sincere in your offer for conditional approval based on these measures when elsewhere you argue against LCFF’s attempt to direct additional funding to support just such measures; saying instead the money would be better used … Read More

              Navigio, If you’re going to attribute ideas to me. I’d appreciate it if you would actually tell me to which comments you are referring. For example, you say- “you’ll have to accept readers for perceiving you as less than sincere in your offer for conditional approval based on these measures when elsewhere you argue against LCFF’s attempt to direct additional funding to support just such measures; saying instead the money would be better used directly for more affluent students.”

              I’m not familiar with those views you attribute to me. BTW, you claim to speak on behalf of others. Who would those be?But more to the point, my concerns about SC grants have to do with using SES as a proxy and a principled disagreement with the idea of throwing money at a problem with no basis to evaluate its efficacy. Currently, with SES as the basis, success would not result in lower payments. SC grants are in perpetuity regardless of efficacy and outcome. Additionally too many underperformers are left unsupported with this standard and too many of those proficient and above get extra funding unnecessarily. We know some significant minority of minority students do function at proficient and above by previous STAR standards. We can identify underperformers (K1 excepted) and allocate billions on a per pupil basis without resorting to such crude measures. And I can understand this proxy mechanism is generally accepted while I disagreeing with its use as a thoughtful, prudent and efficient funding mechanism.

              I noticed you made no comment about the case history of Mission High in SFUSD. You have spoken in support of the Cruz case, as have I, but you have no comment when a school is heaped with funding and shows no academic gains over years.

              To keep my comment length minimized I’ll only add that Richard Carranza, SFUSD Supe and a leading advocate of social justice, is on videotape record saying, in a few words, that it is disrespectful to staff to ban suspensions, though he subsequently reversed himself. Somehow it was no longer disrespectful to trust in the good judgement of his administrators on the ground. If RP and PBIS work, why the need for a ban? Could it be as commenter Gail Monohan said “we have the cart before the horse”?

            • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

              I see. So are you now claiming that your desire to increase base grants was founded on the belief that sc grants are a waste of money? What is there to comment on mission regarding 'academic gains'? The link you provided had nothing to do with that topic, rather it was a story about how things might be done differently regarding dealing with students, and training and supporting teachers. Forgive me for not immediately going … Read More

              I see. So are you now claiming that your desire to increase base grants was founded on the belief that sc grants are a waste of money?
              What is there to comment on mission regarding ‘academic gains’? The link you provided had nothing to do with that topic, rather it was a story about how things might be done differently regarding dealing with students, and training and supporting teachers. Forgive me for not immediately going to research every time you repeat your criticism of SIG.
              In addition, API by itself is essentially meaningless. If there is something to be gleaned from that, it must be when paired with other information.
              For example, I took a quick look at their cst results. It looks anyone would be hard-pressed to argue anything about mission’s performance given its size and variations in enrollment and testing in those years. Note that the percentage of sed students increased in the third year over the previous two, and that algebra I was taken by a about half of ninth graders in the first two years, but by no one in the third. It looks instead like those students took geometry, doubling the geometry cst test taking rate in 9th grade. In addition, clearly something happened at the school in 2012 that impacted proficiency rates. But it’s not possible to say what that was from the scores, nor why the following year seemed to reverse the trend. There is clearly a lot more to the story there than just the performance numbers.
              In any case, you can interpret my lack of comment on that issue to the apathy that occurs in the face of repetitive superficial claims, not to a ‘denial and hope it goes away’ mentality. (this is not to say I am not interested in discussing such things, just that there has to be something worth discussing).
              As for ignoring things, what about this idea of cutting losses? Can we admit this is what we do when we adopt simplistic discipline policies aimed at protecting the majority?

            • Don 3 years ago3 years ago

              I return to SIG because it is noteworthy when massive dollar infusions at schools with cutting edge disciplinary practices cannot manage to turn the outsized federal investment into a win/win. If you are going to discount the value of STAR tests as they figure importantly in the API, then there's no point in further discussion on that count, though SIG authorities deemed the STAR tests of primary importance.in program accountability. Other similar schools experienced … Read More

              I return to SIG because it is noteworthy when massive dollar infusions at schools with cutting edge disciplinary practices cannot manage to turn the outsized federal investment into a win/win. If you are going to discount the value of STAR tests as they figure importantly in the API, then there’s no point in further discussion on that count, though SIG authorities deemed the STAR tests of primary importance.in program accountability. Other similar schools experienced program changes that confound the numbers, but only Mission with its long history of discipline reform was dead last.

              As you put it,”are you now claiming that your desire to increase base grants was founded on the belief that sc grants are a waste of money? Well, no. Citation, please. But the possibility exist. Indeed they could be a waste of money as could be the base grant. How will it be determined or is that even a consideration? I think it isn’t. The funding scheme is based is based upon the widely accepted view that schools are underfunded and particularly schools with low performers. So we are going to move those numbers and results are not needed. That the LCFF way.

              Again, I don’t recall saying anything about cutting losses by suspending students. Maybe you’re thinking of someone else. I am in favor of piloting reform measures that are scalable and fundable.

      • FloydThursby1941 3 years ago3 years ago

        Mr. Tree, it's important African American males and all kids learn to follow authority at a young age. You see all the protests over the deaths of African American males who get used to getting away with willful defiance in school and soon are disregarding police orders to stop and stay still and stop resisting and assaulting police officers or arguing and ending up dead. African American males are overrepresented in prison. … Read More

        Mr. Tree, it’s important African American males and all kids learn to follow authority at a young age. You see all the protests over the deaths of African American males who get used to getting away with willful defiance in school and soon are disregarding police orders to stop and stay still and stop resisting and assaulting police officers or arguing and ending up dead. African American males are overrepresented in prison. The defiant, angry, look at me showy attitude ruins their entire future if it is not stopped early. You have to teach these kids to be humble and obedient and spend long hours studying at a young age or they end up in prison or killed by police or poor and miserable. Not only that, but they damage the education of other, better behaved kids.

        In the ’50s some of these behaviors were literally unheard of. We shouldn’t accept this type of behavior, yelling back at teachers, disobeying direct orders, trying to get attention. At my kid’ middle school Presidio in SF, I asked what happened to the front bell. I went to a PTSA meeting the other day. I was told by the Vice Principal there was a boy who is African American who destroyed the bell. The school is 6% African American but over half the referrals to the office are of African American kids. I asked why wouldn’t a kid who intentionally destroyed a bell be expelled. He told me they won’t fix it because the boy will destroy it again and has done so multiple times, and no matter how many times he does it, they can’t expel him. They have decided not to fix it until he graduates in a year and a half.

        Why should all the parents and kids live without a bell because they don’t want to tell a kid don’t destroy the bell or you will be expelled? Is letting this boy permanently destroy a bell multiple times liberal? Is it a step towards racial equality, or will this boy end up in prison?

        The defiant attitude really held back the African American community. If you look at the direction things were headed before Martin Luther King died, we would have had much more equality now. It was still taboo to divorce or have kids out of wedlock and courtesy and peace were paramount. Drugs were considered destructive. When African Americans started that whole defiant is cool, marriage is bullshit, police are scum, white people should be rebelled against, let’s talk slang all the time attitude, it was the first step towards the misery that is the ghetto today. If Martin Luther King’s attitude had been continued, we wouldn’t have all these problems. It was a huge mistake. Schools should try to train this attitude out as soon as they see it. If a small number of kids get expelled so most learn a better way to live, so be it. Many of other races follow this defiant attitude which was unheard of before 1965 or so.

        Did you ever see The Principal with Morgan Freeman? He is black and very, very liberal and very, very smart. The first thing he did was kick out all the kids who had no interest in changing. Then he turned around the school. That was based on a true story.

      • FloydThursby1941 3 years ago3 years ago

        You need to train out willful defiance early or it ends up being related to going to prison and living in poverty. Remember 'The Principal' with Morgan Freeman? He turned the school in Oakland around by kicking out all the persistent troublemakers. It was based on a true story. Now he would be forced to keep them in the school. If you don't learn to obey teachers, pretty soon police … Read More

        You need to train out willful defiance early or it ends up being related to going to prison and living in poverty. Remember ‘The Principal’ with Morgan Freeman? He turned the school in Oakland around by kicking out all the persistent troublemakers. It was based on a true story. Now he would be forced to keep them in the school. If you don’t learn to obey teachers, pretty soon police offers tell you to freeze and you run up and slap them and get killed or go to prison. The defiant attitude has been horrible for society. What right does that child have to hurt the education of other kids who want to learn?

  10. Gail Monohon 3 years ago3 years ago

    Mr. Cohn, I regularly view SBE meetings online and have appreciated your contributions to Board discussions and your very obvious dedication to making schools good places for our children. I must submit a different view from yours here, however. As ideal as are the goals for using PBIS and Restorative Justice as alternatives to suspension/expulsion, the problem is in the implementation. Due to great pressure to produce data showing decreased suspensions, but … Read More

    Mr. Cohn, I regularly view SBE meetings online and have appreciated your contributions to Board discussions and your very obvious dedication to making schools good places for our children. I must submit a different view from yours here, however. As ideal as are the goals for using PBIS and Restorative Justice as alternatives to suspension/expulsion, the problem is in the implementation. Due to great pressure to produce data showing decreased suspensions, but without effective training for staff in providing needed support to students who are disruptive, these students often simply remain in classrooms and very negatively affect the quality of learning for all. Many individuals are paying a high price for an ideal that is still far from a reality. The provision of qualified personnel, staff training, and family engagement must precede the change in handling of student misbehavior. In my district, teachers who send students to the office are harshly reprimanded as “bad teachers,” and students saunter back into their classes to gloat! We have the cart before the horse. Good ideas, bad actual practice.

    Replies

    • Carl Cohn 3 years ago3 years ago

      Your concern is a big one, Gail…We need to hear from that part of the field that isn’t declaring victory just yet…Thank you!

  11. Mr Tree 3 years ago3 years ago

    I'm a firm believer in restorative justice. Breaking the school-to-prison pipeline will have a profound effects not only for urban families, but for our society as a whole. But restorative justice is a lot of work. Zero-tolerance policies and once-size-fits-all punitive consequences are much easier to implement. Working restoratively with students with aggressive behaviors or emotional disturbances requires sensitive training as well as increased access to personal counselors and increased time allotted to individualizing restorative … Read More

    I’m a firm believer in restorative justice. Breaking the school-to-prison pipeline will have a profound effects not only for urban families, but for our society as a whole. But restorative justice is a lot of work. Zero-tolerance policies and once-size-fits-all punitive consequences are much easier to implement. Working restoratively with students with aggressive behaviors or emotional disturbances requires sensitive training as well as increased access to personal counselors and increased time allotted to individualizing restorative consequences. I really hope schools take the time and make the investments needed for systemic change.

  12. Lisa Keith, Psy.D. 3 years ago3 years ago

    I've worked with students with emotional disturbance for more than ten years - most of that time in a self-contained classroom - and never had to do a hold, or had a fight in my classroom. I believe this is primarily the result of Restorative Discipline and a positive affective teacher disposition. In addition to restorative discipline, I received intensive schooling in the field of mental health. Teachers are woefully undereducated with regard to students … Read More

    I’ve worked with students with emotional disturbance for more than ten years – most of that time in a self-contained classroom – and never had to do a hold, or had a fight in my classroom. I believe this is primarily the result of Restorative Discipline and a positive affective teacher disposition. In addition to restorative discipline, I received intensive schooling in the field of mental health. Teachers are woefully undereducated with regard to students with extreme needs and this, in turn, disrupts their rapport and relationships with students. There is too much emphasis placed on teachers’ professional disposition and not nearly enough on their affective disposition. We at Fresno Pacific University are committed to a positive and restorative climate in our sphere of influence and encourage the inclusion of teacher disposition in any restorative discipline program.