Thursday Reading List: Stop Suspending Little Kids, Don't Handcuff Older Ones, and Some Other Stuff

Sarah Gonser of The Hechinger Report tries to determine why schools suspend so many younger children:

Last school year, the School District of Philadelphia suspended 5,667 children under the age of 10, including kindergarteners through third graders. Of the district’s 134,041 students, 50 percent are black and 20 percent Hispanic. Acknowledging the long-term harmful impact of kicking young children out of school, the district revised its Student Code of Conduct last summer to ban suspending kindergarteners unless their actions resulted in serious bodily injury. Since then, however, some say the needle hasn’t moved much. “It’s fair to say that young kids are still suspended in Philadelphia in violation of the policy,” said Harold Jordan, senior policy advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. “The district administrators have not come through with implementing the new policy, even when it comes to kindergarten.”

Gonser looks for districts where the changes are more promising and finds a glimmer of hope in Connecticut, where schools in the state's "Commissioner's Network" are seeing significant reductions in suspensions and expulsions (Full Disclosure: in my last job, I advised the state of Connecticut on the design of that network). Teaching kids with behavior challenges is more difficult than just throwing them out of school, which is why we have this problem in the first place. Schools need to set hard, non-negotiable targets for reducing suspensions and expulsions.

Otherwise, you end up with this, from Raquel Reichard of Latinx:

Black and Latinx students are severely more likely to be handcuffed by police officers in New York Public Schools. In fact, according to a report from the New York Civil Liberties Union, 99 perecent of the students placed in handcuffs in 2016 were Black or Latinx. To break that down further, 262 young people were shackled while on campus last year, and only three of those incidents involved white students. With Black and brown students making up two-thirds of the city’s more than 1 million public school students, the percentage of them who have been restrained is clearly disproportionate.


Not. Okay. At. All.

The disproportionality is stunning. Police and school-based security personnel should be treating children of color as the people they serve, but instead they treat them as a threat. There's a short, direct line from suspending kids in kindergarten to cuffing them in middle school.

In other news, Matt Barnum of Chalkbeat looks at how public schools in suburban Ohio segregate themselves by not accepting students from neighboring cities:

Suburbs might close their doors to city students simply because their schools are at capacity and accepting more students would place a strain on the system. But the study authors say that’s not the case: enrollment in the districts that don’t participate in the program actually declined on average. On average, districts that refused open enrollment had higher achievement levels and lower poverty rates. While the largest eight cities in the state were composed of more than 70 percent students of color, the surrounding districts that declined transfers had fewer than 30 percent non-white students. This suggests that the suburbs’ decision not to take students from other districts may perpetuate school segregation.

Let's be clear: the primary reason that the suburbs exist in their current form is that during the latter half of the 20th century, White families abandoned cities and their public systems. We can debate all day long whether those decisions were rooted racial animus, class prejudice, neither, or all of the above. The downstream effect of those decisions, though, has been the perpetuation of socioeconomic and racial segregation in schools, not through school policy, but through real estate purchasing behavior and wealth accumulation. That's why I'm 0% surprised that the denizens of the Ohio suburbs are continuing to hoard their wealth and privilege.

Finally today, Christina Samuels of Education Week looks at how states are measuring progress among special education students:

The Education Department has long been responsible for evaluating how well states were meeting the mandates spelled out in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The law and its accompanying regulations can be exacting: For example, states have 60 calendar days to evaluate a child once a disability is suspected. Over time, states have been meeting such procedural compliance provisions of the law. But when it comes to standards connected to how well students are doing academically—test scores and graduation rates, to name two—the performance of students with disabilities has been stagnant. That was the impetus for results-driven accountability: States would still be responsible for meeting the procedural aspects of the federal special education law, but they were also prompted to create a "state systemic improvement plan" that would focus on improving academic results.

The embedded chart, reproduced here, describes the various ways in which states are measuring progress. The vast majority of students who receive special education have mild disabilities that, when accounted for and understood, should have little impact on academic achievement. Even students with the most severe kind of disabilities can achieve at high levels. Unfortunately, most special education policy since the 1970s has focused on compliance and not results, so the stagnation of progress shouldn't surprise us. Here's hoping that the next generation of special education policy doubles-down on helping students to reach their full potential. Have a great day ...