1. Ross G
A new Mother Jones magazine article is entitled "What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?"
I asked Ben Marcovitz for this thoughts here. Ben is one of the most thoughtful educators I know. Here is a recent story about his New Orleans charter schools, called Collegiate Academies, and their efforts to launch programs to serve students with severe special needs.
Ben's organization recently went from a suspension rate of 50+% annually to one below 5% annually. They did this all through restorative programs (which he says costs 'a boatload of money'). So I asked him for his thoughts on the article.
3. My thoughts (just speaking for myself, not Match)
It's hard to use public policy to tell teachers what to do -- that goes for everything, not just discipline. It just seems like the Law of Unintended Consequences tends to win most of the time, when you regulate from afar.
I tend to like the combination of: school choice for teachers, school choice for parents, transparency on the policies (stated rules and consequences), transparency on the outcomes.
The last one seems quite problematic right now. We're in a period where discipline outcomes are measured by suspensions and expulsions. That drives the public narrative. Because that data is available! Wow, that is a huge problem.
Measuring just on suspensions is like measuring football entirely on turnovers. Yes, you would like to avoid them. But at what price? You can avoid fumbles by handing it to a sure-handed beefy runner....but maybe one who is slow not very good at helping your team score. You can avoid interceptions by never passing, etc. That's not a recipe for success. If you cut suspensions, but teacher departure rises, student enrollment falls, and achievement falls -- is that a good outcome?
I would think most people would agree: we care about "total climate." That would include - what's the typical class like? How many minutes are lost to misbehavior? How much authentic positive stuff happens? Is there legit joy, smiling, laughter (that doesn't come from teasing other kids, or being rude to the teacher, etc)? How often does the teacher make what Ted Sizer called the compromise -- give easy academic work in exchange for no flagrant misbehavior? What about the hallways between class, or the lunchroom, or the bathroom -- what are they like? Are some kids scared? Bullied?
I like the NYC approach to measuring school climate. Multiple measures. They survey parents, teachers, and kids each year. Here, take a look at this snapshot from Bayside High, a big school in Queens. These are student responses.
You can read the whole Bayside High report here.
Unfortunately, my sense is: this wonderful NYC data is too buried to drive the policy conversation. Maybe I'm wrong.
Is anyone aware of scholars and reporters digging deep into this data set? Is there any other data set in the USA just as good?
I think it'd be hugely productive to identify NYC schools which have made progress in "Total Climate" -- and then study why. Sometimes you'll just find good old-fashioned leadership and teamwork, without any fancy new policies.
And to study the "low tail" as well -- which NYC schools have culture which plummeted. I suspect sometimes you'd find that a few key staff departed, and it turned out "They were the glue that held it all together."