Friday, February 7, 2014

Don't Let Me Down...

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Donna St. George wrote an article for The Washington Post of January 8, 2014, in which she says: 
Duncan said that students should be removed from classrooms “as a last resort,” and only for serious infractions such as endangering the safety of other students or teachers.
 Today's Albany Times Union  has an editorial which states:
Studies show that suspensions lower academic performance, increase the dropout rate, decrease graduation rates and increase crime and prison time.
I find both these statements indicative of a mindset that fails to consider the impact on the students who are not suspended: the rest of the class, in other words. 
In my tears in the classroom there were numerous times when a class's best and most productive days were when a troublemaker (sometimes two) was absent, for whatever reason.  I know that some feel that the good students are a positive influence on the bad students, but I am not talking about a bad students.  I am talking about troublemakers. Before politicians discuss impacts on those suspended, they should discuss impacts on those not suspended. Good students can help bad students in many ways, if by "bad student" we mean one for whom the studies are harder, but those good students should not have to suffer because of the presence of disruptive troublemakers.
I also have problems with the Times Union editorial praising community service as an alternative to suspension. I would hate to see community service viewed as a punishment.
The Post article ends like this:
Duncan noted Wednesday that South Carolina suspended 12.7 percent of its students — at the high end of the spectrum — while North Dakota suspended just 2.2 percent.
“That huge disparity is not caused by differences in children,” he said. “It is caused by differences in training, professional development and discipline policies.”
The implication here is that the training, professional development, and discipline policies are that much "better" in North Dakota than in South Carolina. Perhaps, rather than giving speeches and pontificating his opinions, he should be up in Minot or Bismarck taking notes.
Just in passing, he might also want to take note that North Dakota's largest school district, in Bismarck, has about 11,000 students (see here), while South Carolina's largest district, Greenville, has over 70,000 and is one of the 50 largest in the country (see here). For that matter, North Dakota is almost 90% "non-Hispanic white" whereas South Carolina is under 65% "non-Hispanic white" (see here). Further, as of 2012 North Dakota had about 95,000 students and South Carolina had about 725,000 (see here). There are indeed vast differences in the makeup of school populations between North Dakota and South Carolina.
Many people will say that my last paragraph is a sign of bias on my part, despite the fact that I am only quoting statistics. Many of those same people will praise Arne Duncan's words, even though they are unsupported and, if true, describe knowledge upon which he is not acting.

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