Competency 12: Multicultural/Diversity Issues

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Related Task: 12.1: Knowledge of multicultural issues and strategies for meeting needs of diverse student populations.

Specific Task: 12.1.7: Analyze suspension and dropout data for your district or another district with a diverse student population. Disaggregate the data by race, gender and disability to ascertain any difference in the rate of exclusion or dropping out. Identify one or more research based strategies to reduce any gap discovered.

Narrative description of specific task: Utilizing district measures and collaboration with district data personnel, I will analyze existing data district wide and specific to VR Tech. This data could then be used as a comparison within district, and against regional/national data. Working with staff, a strategy to reduce district/building gaps that are found related to these populations will be produced. This data will serve as a focus within the school improvement plan and will inform any changes in discipline policy and school culture that may need to occur.

It is now an established fact that there are inherent disproportionalities in suspensions based on race and ethnicity. This is a trend that seems to be increasing in recent years, especially among black and latino students. This is clearly shown in Losen and Martinez’ study entitled: Out of School and Off Track: The Overuse of Suspensions in American Middle and High Schools. Their data show that suspensions have increased by over 12% for blacks since the 1970’s and 6% for hispanics, while only increasing 1% for whites.1 This data is especially alarming considering that the societal view is that the farther we have gone away from the civil rights movement, the more equitable things have become. This study seems to report otherwise, at least in regards to education and suspensions. Using this method I met with Tesha Post,

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http://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/resources/projects/center-for-civil-rights-remedies/school-to-prisonfolder/federal-reports/out-of-school-and-off-track-the-overuse-of-suspensions-in-american-middle-andhigh-schools/Exec_Sum_OutofSchool_OffTrack_UCLA.pdf

Holland Public’s behavior interventionist in order to disaggregate data in regards to Holland Public schools and see if the trend continued.

Results: After looking at data, I found some shocking results in regards to Holland Public Schools. The first glaring disproportionality is that even though black students only make up 7% of the total school population, they represent 21% of the long term suspensions and expulsions 2008-2013. This is in comparison to white counterparts that represent 44% of the population, but only 24% of the total long term suspensions and expulsions. The data show that black students are at a much higher risk of being suspended in comparison to their white counterparts.

In order to further this point, Tesha Post was able to calculate risk factors for suspension. I was interested to see what the percentage chance for being long term suspended or expelled would be based on risk factors. These results were even more shocking. In order to factor out socio-economics, we first looked at a comparison of non-free and reduced lunch students to those that are free and reduced. This data was disproportionate in that students without free and reduced lunch had only a 1.8% chance of long term discipline, in comparison to free/reduced students having a 15.4% chance. Homeless students also saw a

large increase in suspension risk with a risk percentage of 40%. While this does represent a significant risk factor, it is dwarfed in comparison to racial factors. Black males in general at Holland Public have a 47.2% chance of long term discipline, while black males at Holland High School have an incredible 67.2% chance. The data also show one more alarming trend in suspension rates. Students with disabilities represent 14% of total enrollment, yet represent 32% of all long term suspensions and expulsions. All of these data points are above the national average and deserve an incredible amount of attention in order to reverse these trends.

Action plan/suggested actions:

The data seem to suggest more than just a bias in discipline, but rather a disconnect of culture. It could be possible that minority students are committing more high level discipline infractions. If this is the case, the question becomes why is there such a disconnect of community? In order to find these answers, Holland Public has begun to partner with Michigan State University in order to complete an equity survey with students, staff, parents and community members. Hopefully this survey will convey data that will result in further actions plans. While this survey will be dynamic in helping to identify strengths and weaknesses, it is imperative that each building look to several other suggested strategies. They are:

1) Use democratic classroom methods to determine and agree upon classroom rules. 2) Establish alternatives to suspension that keep students in school 3) Work with Student Services in continuing integration of PBIS methods.

VR Tech has begun implementing these methods in light of this data. While the idea of democratic classroom is best implemented at the beginning of the year, we have gone back over existing class rules and allowed for tweaks as negotiated by students. This has given students some sense of ownership over the rules, and has reduced the number of arguments about rules in the short run. The longterm outlook will be to see if a more positive culture within the classroom has been created.

In regards to alternatives to suspension, VR Tech has instituted a Responsible Thinking Process aspect to minor disciplinary events. This process has allowed students to not only have

a voice in negotiating their way back into a classroom, but also to positively think about consequences of actions and solutions to problems. VR has also acquired laptops to allow students to work outside the classroom for short periods in order to “cool off” and re-enter the classroom later.

PBIS strategies have also been implemented in various small ways. Each classroom has been tasked with finding ways to recognize accomplishments of students as well as teach goal setting strategies weekly. These goals are recognized and rewarded with privileges and possible class rewards such as free time or pizza parties. This has proved to be a great motivator for some students in the short run. We will continue to implement different PBS strategies towards the end of the year, and into next year.

Lessons learned: It is imperative that administrators not only look for data that is helpful to the school, but also data that could be injurious. If administrators do not recognize data trends that are negative, there can be little long term growth or success within a building or district. This experience not only helped me gain national perspective on a local problem, but also allowed me to participate in creating some of the remedies for these problems. Participation in a district wide survey, and soon to be initiative, will prove to be incredibly beneficial to the district and to my personal experience with administrative practice. Implementing PBIS strategies at the building level will also help my understanding of making successful disciplinary transitions in the future.