Friday, January 2, 2009

Fixing the Schools, in Five Easy Steps! Step Two--Enforce Discipline

Despite announcing my candidacy for the chancellor's job in yesterday's post, I have yet to hear from Mayor Bloomberg. I suspect he is just being coy. Or perhaps he's waiting for Governor Patterson to appoint Caroline Kennedy to the vacant US Senate seat, which is now apparently a done deal. The mayor knows I am a strong proponent of Ms. Kennedy, and waiting for her to take office would give him the political cover necessary to make the bold decision to appoint someone who actually knows something about education as chancellor.

Whatever the case, it's time to shore up my candidacy by introducing step two of my plan to fix the schools: Enforce discipline.

Now, the mayor might argue that the schools already have an elaborate disciplinary code (by which I mean it weighs more than a Harry Potter novel). But the enforcement system is so convoluted that the only way the code would have any real effect on discipline is if you rolled it up and threatened to strike a student over the head with it.

My proposal is much simpler: Put the needs of the many ahead of the needs of the few. The vast majority of students have at least the basic skills needed to function in a classroom. Yet there are always a few who simply can not control themselves. Our traditional method of dealing with these kids is to give a phone call home, a referral to the AP or dean, or in extreme cases, an in-school suspension, during which they can pal around with their miscreant friends. Then, they are returned to the classroom where they can start the process of disrupting the education of the rest of their classmates all over again.

I don't propose a sea change in handling discipline. Teachers should handle all of the problems they can through traditional methods, and then send the problem up the ladder. But when it becomes clear that one or two students are preventing the others from learning, we need to begin--drumroll--suspending them out of school.

Yeah, yeah, I know. These students have rights. Unfortunately, these students also trample all over the rights of kids who come to school to learn. When rights come into conflict, someone has to win and someone has to lose. I propose that the losers should be the rule-breakers for a change. Send them home and let their parents deal with them. Trust me, when parents have to start missing work or other activities, you'll see their children straighten up and fly right pronto.

I'm not unsympathetic to children who have ADD, ADHD, CCCP, or any of the other acrostic maladies that prevent them from functioning in a regular classroom. But if they have such issues, they should be helped in an appropriate environment, and not be allowed to use their problems as an excuse to run rampant in a classroom.

This could all take place easily if we did one simple thing--stop punishing schools who suspend students. The number of suspensions shows up on those idiotic school report cards, giving principals a disincentive to suspend anyone for anything less than class A felonies. As things stand now, we actually reward principals for NOT reporting serious incidents. Whoever thought up that idea should be battered about the head and neck with a rolled up copy of the discipline code.


newell said...

Ok , question: Does your county/school give climate surveys towards the end of the year? We do and everyone (parents , teachers and even students) gets to give their opinion on how the school is going . There are PUBLIC RECORD thus everyone can see how folks feel about many issues, including discipline. We all gave a scathing report last year, so discipline problems are somewhat better this year. Still, we still had a student w/ a gun on campus and did NOT lock down :(

Mr. Talk said...

In NYC, they give schools "Report Cards". A lot of the grade given is determined by an outside group from England who, I believe, were let go from there and so naturally they had to be given millions by NYC. Some percentage of the grade is determined by teacher input, but it is a small percentage considering that we run the place. The pressure put on teachers to perform for the evaluators so we can get a grade of A is unreal.

Teachers here are often discouraged from filing police reports as it negatively affects the grade. Still, I think even most principals here would call the police over a gun.

newell said...

England??? How odd considering they have a completely different school system than the states ( my parents are British). I have only been teaching for 6 years but still nothing really surprises me! ( shocks perhaps but not surprises...)
Love the blog BTW. I look forward to the next 3 steps!

ed notes online said...

I think calling for suspension where they run the streets is too drastic and would instead call for there to be adequate settings preferably within the school with lots of resources to deal with them. I know, I know,that will never happen but we should demand it.

Just passing them on to another school is not the solution. Getting them out of the building is just about the only solution in most cases but at least we should demand the right thing be done.

On the other hand, if everyone chipped in and bought them tickets to move to another city ....

Anonymous said...

Heck, send them to my city. Our administration has chosen a rubric by which to judge principal bonus worthiness. One of the 4 areas for which they can get money (up to 5K I believe, with 20K total up for grabs) is to...decrease their suspension rate.

Let it sink in for a minute. Yup. There you go.

Fortunately one or two schools have principals that are old and close to retirement and they still suspend based on educational and safety needs rather than their bonus.

Curmudgeon said...

Suspending them out for any amount of time longer than a day or two exacerbates the problem - they aren't going to be better at academics if the rest of the group gets ahead.

Keeping them in sends the message that self-discipline isn't necessary.

Expelling them isn't an option - usually. What do they do then? Since truancy laws are on the books in almost every state, something academic MUST be arranged for the kid. Online learning is a joke for any of these kids.

Expulsion is a tough sell as well if the kid is just a loud aswipe - he is bound to have apologists among faculty, staff, parent groups. This is controversy and lawsuit waiting to happen.

In-school suspension with work sent down to the ISS teacher is the only real option in my mind but the school has to be committed to the idea.

It includes a Public Shame aspect that I feel is beneficial, though the school can't be overt about it.

Michael Dunn said...

I'm sorry for being so late to comment, but I just discovered your blog and really liked it.

My comment is that yeh, there are some kids that really have no business being in the school they are attending because they lack the requisite academic and often social skills. This results from a combination of social promotion and social class. Kicking them out is a band aid: it makes the learning environment better for the kids who are performing at grade level. But we also need to address the socioeconomic factors that cause so many kids to move through the system without acquiring the social and academic skills to succeed in school.

Unknown said...

YJ Draiman officially running for mayor of LA - 2013
"I want to fight for a better future for all the people of Los Angeles, and that's why today I'm announcing my candidacy for mayor," Draiman said.
I decided to run for Mayor of Los Angeles. Before I could make that commitment, I needed to free up the time required to do the job right. Therefore, I decided to devote full time to the job of Mayor.
I am motivated by the wish to serve the Los Angeles community and protect our quality of life. I have the skill, experience, long time community involvement and personal commitment to lead the city. I will work hard to preserve residents’ priorities and the city’s coffers, during the difficult financial times ahead. Some of my more specific goals are encouraging economic vitality, preserving and improving the City infrastructure, protecting the quality of our neighborhoods, supporting our open space and bicycle trails programs, working with the Neighborhood Councils and the Chamber to encourage local, innovative green businesses, and proper Urban Planning for Los Angeles, among others.
I previously ran for City Council in District 12.
I decided that to do the job right I must run for Mayor.
I am an Energy/Utility Auditor/Consultant for over 20 years.
I am married to a darling wife, we have two grown children – my oldest son is David Draiman a famous Rock Star with a Band by the name Disturbed, my younger son is a Psychologist doing research.
I am looking forward to being elected and serving the people of the City of Los Angeles.
We must work together as a cohesive force to improve our city.
“Transparency and accountability is my motto”

YJ Draiman for Mayor – 2013

Unknown said...

Do we need an ethical bailout to go along with the financial one?

Let us discuss the need for honesty and integrity as the basic principle of leadership. Defines quality leadership as a process beyond technical competence. Successful leaders continually demonstrate honesty and integrity as an essential element of their professional fabric; a lack of commitment to the principle renders all other skills meaningless. Depicts honesty and integrity as essential elements of human behavior that promote and support quality relationships. Defines honesty and integrity in the context of building trust and maintaining credibility. Provides a sound philosophy that increases the probability for long-term success and professional fulfillment.
The matter raised "legitimate and genuine concerns", adding: "My concern ... is that without integrity and legitimacy and honesty, and then Government cannot function. This must now be settled, otherwise it saps at the very heart of what is the highest office – and the highest office-holder."
Is honesty for suckers?
— A worldwide recession sets in when it turns out that a vast subprime mortgage system was built on a foundation of fraud.
— Government officials are convicted of fraud and misappropriation of funds and backdoor deals.
— Cheating is rampant in high schools and colleges.

— And in sports? The same deal. Doping scandals, cheating, chemical and otherwise, pervades football, baseball and other sports.
— Wall Street is being manipulated by corporate America bilking investors out of billions of dollars.

If so many people are cheating, how can honest people play by the rules and not be at a disadvantage — in school, at work, in sports, in business?
Do we need an ethical bailout to go along with the financial one?
Are you a chump if you play by the rules?
Compiled by: YJ Draiman for Mayor

Le Revolutionnaire said...

Good one Mr. T,  one could make a persuasive argument  that even a "mediocre" teacher would achieve good results with most students who were in class to learn.

Wouldn't it be great to be able to notify the parents of the serious students that their children lost out on instructional time today because of a few students in class who were causing disruptive behavior.

I'm sure that plenty of pissed off parents would have the clout with bloomberg to remove the "bad apples" who are ruining it for everyone.