How many school suspensions is that?

Article on whether we have an epidemic of school suspensions or not. Take a read and comment, please.

When I taught in DCPS there were a lot of kids who acted out. Fights happened, and so on. As the years went by, teachers got less and less support from administrators in case of incidents, to the point that if there was an incident, it seemed like it was the kid and the parent and the administrator breathing the teacher, pretty much always.

I also remember reading an expose some years ago in either WaPo or the Washington City Paper that showed that the suspension rates in DCPS were about one-tenth (iirc) of what they were in the surrounding suburbs , at the time, about 10-20 years ago. The authors said they found that very curious because they doubted that DCPS kids were 10 times better-behaved than suburban public school kids.

More recently, studies have shown that it’s certain DC charter schools that have suspension rates 10 times the rate of regular DC public schools. A teacher at one of those schools told me that after the news got out, their administrators then felt under pressure to reduce suspension rates, so now there are a lot of kids at this well-respected charter school who simply walk the halls instead of going to class.

All of this indicates to me that there is a conscious policy to this day (well after I retired) to NOT hold DCPS kids responsible for bad behavior (or for not studying or for skipping school etc). Nor is there a policy to get kids professional help for those who exhibit serious emotional problems. Or are sick, can’t see properly, are hungry or homeless, or are illiterate but yet enrolled in high school.

With such disparities in disciplinary (etc) policy, it’s as if the regular public schools are becoming not unlike mental asylums turned over to the loudest of the patients. Unless one is at a magnet school.

Suspension is not “the” answer, but teachers need help in managing their classes. If a student is acting out (as I recall doing in 4th and 5th grade because I couldn’t understanwhat was going on in class — I was essentially an immigrant in a French school knowing very little French) the teacher needs the authority to remove the kid (me) from the class and some other adult needs to figure out what to do. In my case, I needed intensive additional French classes at lunchtime and over the summer. It helped a lot.

Right now, in many many schools if a kid is misbehaving and disruptive and is sent out of class by a teacher because the teacher cannot cope with the situation, then an administrator will send the kid right back and admonish the teacher, not the student. Any follow up with parents or anybody else is strictly up to the teacher..,,

Published in: on January 6, 2015 at 2:40 pm  Comments (3)  

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  1. This is very true coming from an educator of both DCPS, as well as DCCPS. Suspension is unheard of these days. A child must go on a rampage before the word is even spoken. Otherwise, children roam halls, are shooed into special classrooms when visitors arrive (where they will never be found)! It is despicable and yes it gives the students the authority they want in our schools. It leaves the educator frustrated and humiliated.


  2. It seems that our leaders and too many parents—but not all parents—think the teacher can somehow teach, help students with the lesson at hand and have time to roll out a couch and be all touchy-feely as if they were a psychiatrist or psychologist with magic powers—like a sorcerer with a magic want—to deal with every trauma a child deals with that is the foundation of their acting out and disrupting the learning environment.

    The realty is totally different. Most lessons and classes run less than an hour and in that hour teachers have to focus on the entire class while teaching and then dealing with students that don’t know what they are doing and won’t ask questions. Teachers don’t have time to be that unlicensed sorcerer who deals with all behavior problems and vanquishes them without breaking sweat.

    Teachers are trained and credentialed to teach and standardized tests usually give them more to teach than there is time to teach in a school year. Once we add in the mix if disrupting children who, for whatever reason, throw a classroom’s learning environment into pandemonium every chance they get, the teacher has even less time to teach and monitor the learning of the other 20 to 40 students—-depending on what state that teacher is in.

    During the 30 years I taught, my class loads were usually 34 students a class for six classes and then five after the local teachers’ unions fought for several years to get a planning period and teach only five periods.

    Five classes equaled about 170 children to work with. Six classes boosts that number to 204, and every time a child disrupts the learning environment of a classroom and the teacher writes a referral before sending the child to the office, that isn’t the end of it. In my district, teachers were required to call the parent of every child that earned a referral for breaking district, school or classroom rules in addition the sabotaging the learning environment.

    Before the fraudulent A National at Risk came out during the darkness of the Reagan years in 1983, most parents that I dealt with were more willing to help but after the Walton family launched its Voucher war against the public schools and spent decades spreading propaganda that teachers were incompetent, lazy buffoons who were paid too much and were responsible for every problem in the United States, that support shrank and continued to shrink at a fast pacer after NCLB, RTTT, and the $5 – $7 billion Bill Gates supported Common Core rank and yank agenda to fire teachers and get rid of the democratic public schools.

    At this point, I don’t know why anyone would want to teach in this country the way teachers are treated and the horrible lack of support from most of our so-called leaders.


  3. One thing about being old is that you have stories about different times and different mores. Two of mine apply here:

    1. At the beginning of my first year teaching in an urban school, the guidance counselor told us newcomers that we should not contact our students’ homes about problems. When I asked the reason for this rule, I was informed that in this community of recent immigrants any indication that their child was not measuring up could lead to that youngster being beaten to the point of serious injury.

    2. Assigned to a play center evenings, I had trouble getting one boy to turn in the basketball he was playing with and leaving. He stood with the ball talking to his friends. I shied a volleyball at him and, much to my surprise, hit him in the back. This embarrassed him before his comrades and he stormed out of the center, slamming the door. The next morning when I walked into the mail room to pick up my mail, my principal motioned me to come into his office as there was a phone call there for me. It was, of course, the boy’s mother, who was calling to complain about my unfair treatment of her son. She did not accept my explanation and warned me that she might have to send the boy’s father after me. Hearing this conversation, the principal grabbed the phone out of my hand and told the woman first that I was one of their best teachers whom he didn’t want disturbed in any way and second that he now had the name of this boy and would keep a careful eye on him for the rest of the time he was in his school: “One more incident like this and your son will find himself on the street.” Needless to say, I was flabbergasted at this and that principal remains to this day (65 years later) my favorite school administrator by far.


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