NYT: School Discipline Study Raises Fresh Questions

The Council of State Governments Justice Center, in partnership with the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University, has released an unprecedented statewide study, titled Breaking Schools’ Rules, of nearly 1 million Texas public secondary school students, followed for at least six years.

Alan Schwarz, School Discipline Study Raises Fresh Questions, N.Y. Times, July 19, 2011, at A14:

Raising new questions about the effectiveness of school discipline, a report scheduled for release on Tuesday found that 31 percent of Texas students were suspended off campus or expelled at least once during their years in middle and high school — at an average of almost four times apiece.

When also considering less serious infractions punished by in-school suspensions, the rate climbed to nearly 60 percent, according to the study by the Council of State Governments, with one in seven students facing such disciplinary measures at least 11 times.

The study linked these disciplinary actions to lower rates of graduation and higher rates of later criminal activity and found that minority students were more likely than whites to face the more severe punishments.

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  1. Danger,

    Colorlines: Chicago Schools Plow $51M Into Security for “Zero Tolerance” Rules (7/18/2011)

    There are a lot of kids who don’t think they deserve to be punished. But a lot of kids don’t have a cost-analysis report that details why it’s damaging to students and the public school systems in which they’re taught. Last week, over 75 high school students, parents, teachers and activists rallied at the Chicago Public Schools headquarters to present their findings and call for an end to the district’s overuse of harsh punitive measures.

    The cost-analysis, compiled by the student group Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE), details the harmful effects that the Chicago Public School system’s zero tolerance disciplinary polices have on student achievement and the enormous costs they impose on taxpayers. Despite an estimated $612 million budget shortfall for 2012, last year the city’s public school system allocated $51.4 million for security guards. The report contrasts this with the comparatively meager $3.5 million that was allocated towards school-based college and career coaches.

    … VOYCE and those who rallied last week are demanding to meet with Chicago Public School officials to help create a new student disciplinary policy that would emphasize counselors and prevention-based strategies rather than security officers and punishments. The group points out that last year, CPS’ Office of Safety and Security had a budget 48 times larger than that of the Office of Student Support and Engagement and 84 times larger than what the Office of Teaching and Learning could spend. “Failed Policies, Broken Futures” goes beyond the immediate savings that eliminating harsh punishments can provide. It marks that students who have been arrested are 50 percent more likely to drop out of school, and that based on the cost of each lost graduate, Chicago taxpayers will face around $240 million in long-term costs. It emphasizes that even cutting the annual number of arrests in half could produce huge economic benefits for the city each year.

  2. Danger,

    Colorlines: Eric Holder Calls Texas Suspensions of Black Students A ‘Wake-up Call’ (7/26/2011)

    … On Thursday Attorney General Eric Holder responded to the findings, calling the report a “wake-up call,” Education Week reported…. As a response to the report, Education Week reported, the Departments of Justice and Education are starting the Supportive School Discipline Initiative, a joint program to encourage schools to use alternative measures to deal with disciplinary programs before calling police officers.

    … “Maintaining safe and supportive school climates is absolutely critical, and we are concerned about the rising rates and disparities in discipline in our nation’s schools,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement last week. Duncan said, as many critics of zero-tolerance policies have argued over the years, that harsh school discipline doesn’t deter bad behavior, it discourages students from staying in school and makes the work of educating U.S. kids that much harder.

  3. Danger,

    Michael Thompson, co-author of the study, was interviewed Aug. 8 on Talk of the Nation along with Matt Cregor, assistant counsel of the education practice at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

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