Morning bell: Report on school discipline prompts legislation and yields some surprises

Ease up on preschoolers: Reacting to a recent report on school discipline from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, DC Councilmember David Grosso introduced a bill that would prohibit DCPS and charter schools from expelling or suspending pre-kindergarteners. (Post)

Photo of child from Shutterstock.

Which sector is more likely to suspend students?: DCPS students get suspended more than charter students, according to the OSSE report. Perhaps less surprising, poor, minority, and learning-disabled students are far more likely to be suspended than others. (Post)

Charter competition an opportunity?: Former DC Councilmember Kevin Chavous argues that the opening of a charter school across the street from a DCPS school is an opportunity rather than a threat. Another charter advocate agrees. (Post, Examiner)

Too rosy a picture?: One member of the Public Charter School Board says Richard Whitmire was a little optimistic in his depiction of the potential for DCPS-charter collaboration in Sunday's Washington Post. (Eduwonk)

Boundary overhaul for Montgomery?: The county council urged school officials to consider redrawing school boundaries to try to address the gap in achievement between the poorer eastern part of the county and the more affluent west. (Post)

The perils of high-stakes testing: A portrait of one school's involvement in the Atlanta test-cheating scandal shows the effect an unrealistic system can have on well-intentioned educators. (New Yorker)

Another teachers' union wants Duncan out: Echoing the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution calling for the Education Secretary's resignation if he doesn't adhere to an "improvement plan." (Politico)

Education elsewhere: Massachusetts exceeds the state average on most education measures, though not on closing the achievement gap (Post) The state is also in the middle of a polarized debate over charter expansion (Boston Globe) California focuses on giving schools funds to meet the needs of foster kids (Huffington Post) And one New Orleans charter school has a special program for kids with mental health needs. (Hechinger Report).

Natalie Wexler blogs at DC Eduphile and is a contributor to the Washington Post. She serves on the boards of DC Scholars Public Charter School and The Writing Revolution and chairs the DC Regional Leadership Council of the Urban Teacher Center. She has also been a volunteer tutor in reading and writing in DC Public Schools. 


The pre-K suspension legislation looks like suspension legislation in search of a problem.

There were 181 pre-K suspensions in 2011-2012 -- 81 of which were by AppleTree. That leaves 100 suspensions for all the PK3 and PK4 throughout the city.

Some of those will be repeat suspensions. My wild-assed-guess is that if we exclude the Apple tree suspensions the number of children suspended is around 50 children and parents.

A PK3/PK4 suspension is often an attempt to capture the attention of the adults, not the child. It is usually not taken without other attempts to address the problem.

This may be an attempt to get the attention of adults at Early Stages, the OSSE/DCPS contractor tasked with evaluating the need for special accommodations for special needs children (or more accurately denying services or slowing as much as possible the delivery of costly services*). Multiple suspensions may be what is needed to document the need for special services to Early Stages for children in desperate need of directed support.

The 81 AppleTree suspensions may be an attempt to get the attention of parents -- Tardiness and biting are mentioned in the Post article. Tardiness is not a problem under the child's control and the child should not be penalized for being tardy. But it is important to identify who does control this costly and disruptive (to the classs) behavior and to influence timely drop-off. A suspension which deprives the parent of free-to-them, day-care is a penalty that hits the parent who controls the arrival time. It shouldn't be a zero-tolerance policy, but it may well be an extremely effective solution to the problem of late arrivals which harms the rest of the children in the class. Repeated tardiness is not 'harmless' and training parents to get their child to school on time has tremendous pay-off for the remainder of the child's schooling.

The simultaneous reporting on Grosso's pre-K suspension bill and the OSSE report on suspensions is unfortunate because it brings two different issues surrounding suspensions to the discussion of Grosso's bill.

The effects of pre-K suspensions on the child should not be conflated with 'suspensions', especially when the conversation then brings up whether they are inappropriately given or 'harm the child'. The vast majority of suspensions happen in 6th-9th grade and do, in fact, lead to bad effects for the child. Ninth grade suspensions were over 2000 and 10th grade suspensions a bit over 800. This is not the result of improved behavior, but instead is caused by changes in the school population, e.g. school drop-outs after 9th grade.

Suspensions at pre-K may well garner additional attention and resources to correct problems leading to improve the child's well being and educational outcomes.

*Catania's bill on special education services drops the time period from 120 days to 60 days.
* Ken Archer's recent experience with OSSE/DCPS on special accommodations highlights how the special services are delivered -- or not.
* Answering the question, "Which sector suspends more students" gives a different result for the pre-K population than it does for the entire population

by SLISOAP on Jul 15, 2014 11:53 am • linkreport

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