School Climate, Safety and Discipline Focus of New Report
There’s a wealth of information — and food for thought — in Education Week’s new report Code of Conduct: Safety, Discipline, and School Climate.
These issues are moving to the forefront of the national debate. As the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Pulitzer-winning package made clear last year, when it comes to issues of student safety and discipline, schools are struggling to balance policy against reality.
Ed Week — particularly the project’s lead reporter Nirvi Shah — has assembled an insightful overview including data on student suspensions and expulsions, how some districts have gone to arguably unreasonable extremes in enforcing zero-tolerance policies, and alternative programs that seek to keep kids learning even when they’re removed from their regular school settings due to behavior issues.
I was particularly interested in Sarah D. Spark’s piece on how the school’s climate impacts the overall learning experience and a student’s long-term emotional and academic growth:
“There’s anti-bullying, which is sort of the top, the visible part of an iceberg, and those are the formal policies where we tell kids, ‘OK, don’t bully each other,’ ” said Meagan O’Malley, a research associate at WestEd who specializes in the research group’s middle-school-climate initiative in Los Alamitos, Calif. “But then under that, there’s everything else that happens in that school, the interactions between people every single day that create an atmosphere that’s either supportive of a bullying atmosphere or not. Programmatic interventions have to be one piece of a much larger body of work.”
Given the recent school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., it’s understandable that the safety aspects of Ed Week’s new report will take the spotlight. But there are also the annual state report cards, which consider a number of key elements to the quality of public education including teacher factors, student achievement indicators, school finance and the equity of funding distribution. Maryland was first in the nation for a fifth consecutive year with a grade of B+. Nationally, schools earned a C+, up from a C last year.
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