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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: discipline

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April 16, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Suspensions and expulsions: A close look at nine districts

Screen grab

Screen grab of Washington Appleseed’s preliminary analysis for Seattle Public Schools. Go here for a full resolution version.

Last year, the nonprofit Washington Appleseed had a difficult time finding out exactly how many students are suspended or expelled each year in Washington state.

This year, with more data available from the state, it is putting together a still-incomplete, but much fuller picture, looking at patterns among the roughly 47,500 students suspended or expelled at least once in the 2012-13 school year.

This week, the group released an analysis of discipline data from nine school districts: Bellevue, Edmonds, Federal Way, Marysville, Olympia, Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma and Yakima.

Appleseed warns that the numbers are preliminary, so they might contain errors. It also cautions against reading too much into district-by-district comparisons because some districts report differently than others.

One salient example: Federal Way counts all the days expelled students are absent, and other districts do not. That’s why it looks like students in Federal Way miss much more school due to suspensions and expulsions than much bigger districts such as Seattle and Spokane.

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April 10, 2014 at 5:00 AM

New rules for school discipline: Time for the public to weigh in

Illustration by Paul Tong / Op Art

Illustration by Paul Tong / Op Art

State lawmakers passed a new law last year that, for the first time, puts a one-year limit on how long students can be suspended or expelled from school, with exceptions for those who pose a risk to public safety.

The new law also requires school districts to work with students and their parents on a plan to get students back in school.

Some of the provisions are pretty clear-cut, though many details have yet to be finalized — including just what those reentry plans should look like and what role students and parents might have in developing them.

The state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has come up with its proposals, and is now soliciting the public’s views. Comments and recommendations can be submitted by mail, email or fax — see details below. A public hearing is scheduled for May 5, from 10 a.m. to noon at OSPI’s offices, 234 8th Ave. in Olympia.

Some of the groups that lobbied for the law are expected to lobby for changes they’d like to see. The League of Education Voters, for example, would like districts to be required to meet with students and their parents as part of drawing up a plan to return to school. OSPI’s proposed rules say districts should do that, but not that they must.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: discipline, expulsions, League of Education Voters

March 27, 2014 at 5:00 AM

A year later: What’s up with school discipline case in Seattle?

Illustration by Paul Tong / Op Art

Illustration by Paul Tong / Op Art

A year ago this month, the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education publicly acknowledged it was investigating racial disparities in student discipline in Seattle’s public schools.

So is the investigation close to completion?

No clue. The silence from the federal education department remains as thick as it was a year ago.

“About all we can tell you is that the compliance review remains under investigation,” a spokesman said Wednesday.

Seattle Public Schools officials say they don’t know the status of the investigation, either.    But they also say they are working to  reduce the number of suspensions in their schools.

Federal investigators last visited some Seattle schools late last year, saying they wanted to do more interviews, said Pat Sander, a district  administrator. But they have not called to set those interviews up, she said.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: discipline, race, Seattle Public Schools

January 27, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Highline schools cut suspensions, expulsions in half

Screenshot of a graph from Highline School District

Screenshot of a graph from the Highline School District

The Highline School District recently set a goal of ending expulsions and out-of-school suspensions by 2015, except in cases of student or school safety.

It’s already well on the way to reaching that target.  

As of the end of November, the district was projecting about 847 out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for this school year, which would be just a little more than half of last year’s total, and less than a third of the 3,193 in 2007-08.

In some schools, the decrease has been even more dramatic. Cascade Middle, for example, suspended just three students from September through November this school year, compared with 41 the year before.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: discipline, expulsions, Highline School District

January 8, 2014 at 5:00 AM

School discipline: State may track it better but ponders how and why

The state Board of Education today will discuss whether discipline should be monitored as a measure of public school health and/or accountability.

That conversation is yet another sign that school discipline policies — not just in Seattle or even Washington state — are facing increasing scrutiny.

Nationally, the Obama Administration today urged schools to seek alternatives to suspensions and expulsions, especially for nonviolent offenses. Those recommendations were part of a lengthy set of new guidelines for school districts on how to ensure their discipline policies don’t discriminate against students on the basis of race, color or national origin.

In a statement, Deborah J. Vagins, senior legislative counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, called the new guidelines “groundbreaking.”

This guidance makes it crystal clear for schools what their obligations are under our civil rights laws and provides examples of best practices so that they can easily implement positive alternative practices. This is a victory for all who care about creating environments where students can thrive.”

Closer to home, Chris Korsmo of the League of Education Voters, said:

These recommendations come at a critical time for our state and students. Students can’t learn if they aren’t in the classroom. If we are serious about closing our state’s opportunity and achievement gaps, we need to find ways to keep kids in school and learning.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: discipline, League of Education Voters, State Board of Education

November 19, 2013 at 1:30 PM

Guest: Baltimore provides model for school-discipline reform

Andaiye Qaasim

Andaiye Qaasim

Students can’t learn if they aren’t in school. Yet, in Seattle, one in four black middle-school students is suspended each year. In March, racial disparities in student suspension and expulsion rates prompted the U.S. Department of Education to launch a civil rights investigation into Seattle Public Schools.

The League of Education Voters recently traveled with community and education leaders to Baltimore to learn about best practices in discipline. Since 2008, Baltimore City Public Schools decreased suspensions from one in five students per year to one in eight; a similar drop occurred in expulsions.

Baltimore school administrators and education advocates were clear: the decrease was due to the importance of culture and policy; relationships and practice.

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Comments | More in Guest opinion | Topics: discipline, guest opinion, League of Education Voters