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6 Hoffman Miller - www.nationalforum.com - Dr. Kritsonis

6 Hoffman Miller - www.nationalforum.com - Dr. Kritsonis

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Published by: William Allan Kritsonis, PhD on Sep 10, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Patricia Hoffman-MillerPrairie View A&M University
ABSTRACTThe overrepresentation of African American students in suspensions and expulsions isnot a new phenomenon. Frequent disciplinary practices in public schools result inbehavioral and cognitive problems as early as kindergarten. In the current era of accountability and testing, school districts cannot afford to exclude significant groups of children. Urban districts are the losers in this accountability paradigm, with repeatedout of school suspensions disproportionately affecting student achievement. There isirrefutable congruence between student attendance and academic performance. Previousresearchers established a positive correlation between suspension rates and studentethnicity. Research is vague as to the ethnicity and gender of principals responsible forsuspensions. This research sought to determine if there were relationships between theethnicity and gender of principals and student suspensions in a small urban schooldistrict in Pennsylvania.
he exclusion of African American students, through legalmeans such as suspension and expulsion, presents aninteresting paradox as school districts across the countryattempt to meet the mandates of No Child Left Behind. Thislegislation mandates accountability in instruction through standards- based curricular reform, with clearly delineated expectations for allstudent achievement. Student and student sub-groups attendingschools in urban and rural areas must master proficiency across allcurricular areas, irrespective of ethnicity, gender, language, or handicapping condition. Although all District and State Boards of Education must adhere to the requirements of this legislation, studentachievement in Title I Schools must meet Average Yearly progress(AYP) or risk substantive sanctions from the State and Federalgovernments.
Of particular concern to educational policy makers is the perceived inability of African American and Hispanic students toachieve parity on standardized tests. Closing the achievement gap is arequirement of all school districts irrespective of boundaries or wealth. No Child Left Behind Requires that districts report all data, withstudent test scores disaggregated according to a set of predeterminedvariables. Variables such as socio-economic status (SES), race andgender, represent a portion of the assessment, and contribute to thedistrict’s report card. Nationally, a number of affluent suburban andsuburban-fringe school districts were unable to improve studentachievement, as reflected through State assessment measures.For urban districts dependent upon the receipt of Title I funds,the consequences of this inability is complete loss of local control,State takeover of district operations, and/or re-structuring. Publiclyelected policy makers, facing increased criticism and scrutiny from the public acquiesced to school administrators looking for a quick fix,through the adoption of “research-based” programs that failed to offer  prescriptive solut8ions to the district’s problem. Many districts, indesperation, substituted curricular solutions aimed at instantaneousreform, despite the fact that these solutions were incapable of addressing contextual inertia and dysfunction. The problem of inertia,coupled with an inordinately high rate of suspensions among African-American students, presents a complex set of problems for manyschool districts. Unfortunately, as the number of African Americanstudent suspensions increases in many districts, the goal of closing theachievement gap and improving student achievement becomes lessand less attainable.Inherent in the No Child Left Behind statute is the safe schoolrequirement, a product of zero-tolerance legislation enacted inresponse to school violence. After the first school shooting in 1988,the American public demanded safe school initiatives designed to punish and remove offenders. Harsh disciplinary sanctions were theresults of this public outcry, as the Congress passed the Safe and DrugFree Schools Act in 1994. The images of Columbine further solidified
Patricia Hoffman-Miller 
the public and elected official’s perception of school based violence in public education. These perceptions resulted in an over-reaction tominor student misconduct with little if any differentiation betweenviolent and non-violent student actions by district administrators.Student suspensions increased dramatically during this period.The burden of suspensions rested primarily on AfricanAmerican students. Research determined that African Americanstudents consistently received more severe school discipline for lessserious behavior (MacFadden, 1992) with a strong correlation betweenracial disparities in student discipline and perceived studentinfractions.African American students are continually subjected todisproportionate out of school suspensions (Boyd, 2000; Casella,2003; Costenbader & Markson, 1998; Gadlin & Morales, 1999;Garibaldi, 1992; Garibaldi, Blanchard & Brooks, 1997; Hall, 2000;Morrison & D’Incau, 1997; Richart, Brooks & Soler, 2003; Short,1994; Skiba, Michale & Nardo, 2000; Skiba, Peterson & Williams,1997; Townsend, 2000). Zero tolerance policies adopted by schooldistricts appear to have exacerbated minority overrepresentation in theapplication of discipline. While these policies initially focused onthose egregious actions considered dangerous, recent application of these policies by administrators demonstrates little congruence between serious violent actions embodied in the initial legislation andless serious offenses. Less serious offenses, such as defiance,disrespect and chronic lateness, certainly do not constitute actionswarranting out of school suspension (Townsend, 2000). Many publicized reports suggest that the majority of African Americanstudents receive suspensions for actions that are subjective in nature.In contrast,
 serialized school violence
embodies the breadthand intent of the original zero tolerance legislation.
Serialized school violence
occurs primarily at rural, suburban and suburban-fringedistricts, committed by White adolescent males. One may differentiate
 serialized school violence
from school based violence in that it

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