Should Oakland track student suspensions by teacher?

A new report calls for school districts to publish student disciplinary statistics by school, race and gender, to help teachers learn how to keep order in their classrooms without kicking kids out, and to create a disciplinary system that doesn’t result in out-of-school suspensions of large numbers of students — particularly black students.

The policy brief, by the University of Colorado’s National Education Policy Center and UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, reminded me to check in with what’s happening in Oakland Unified on the discipline-and-race front.

A plan proposed by the Oakland school district’s African American Male Achievement Task Force would do some of the things suggested in the report — and even go beyond.

One of the task force’s recommendations, listed on page 14, is to identify teachers who refer a certain number of black students for suspension based on “defiance” — the vast majority of cases, according to spokesman Troy Flint — as well as principals at schools high expulsion rates for black males:

3) Identification of principals assigned to schools with historical patterns of Black male expulsion rates that exceed an established baseline for typical expulsion. Identified principals will be required to participate in a district wide program related to Black male suspension reduction.
4) Identification of teachers with historical patterns of Black male suspension referrals for defiance that exceeds an established baseline for typical referral. Identified teacher will be required to participate either in longitudinal study if eligible or a district wide program that trains teachers to improve their classroom relationships with Black male students.

I’ve asked Chris Chatmon, the director of OUSD’s African-American Male Achievement initiative, whether the district is already taking these steps, but he hasn’t yet responded. When he does, I’ll let you know.

What effects do you think such a policy would have? Do you think more training of principals and teachers is a key part of the solution? What else? I imagine that keeping good teachers in the district for longer would be helpful.

The Civil Rights Project report notes that a child’s behavior often varies from classroom to classroom, and argues that students will learn more and act out less when they’re with a teacher who has an engaging teaching practice and good classroom management.

Have you found that to be true? If so, how do you spread those good practices from teacher to teacher and school to school? I’d like to hear of examples in Oakland where that has happened and how.

Cole Middle School in West Oakland is sometimes cited as an example of a school that reduced its suspension rate through an alternative model, Restorative Justice. Cole closed two years ago, but I know other schools are using it.

Lastly, here the crux of the Civil Rights Project’s case for reforming school discipline:

In policy debates, the issue is sometimes mischaracterized as a choice between setting and enforcing clear behavioral expectations or having lax discipline. It is not. Given the connections researchers have established between students’ misbehavior and such factors as teachers’ instructional and management skills, it is reasonable to ask three related questions: At what point should frequent suspension and expulsion raise questions about a school’s disciplinary policies, discrimination, the quality of its school leadership, and the training of its personnel? How do such policies affect the school environment as well as the students who are removed and their families? Can educators instill order in ways that do not rely heavily on disciplinary exclusion, but instead enable the vast majority of students to stay in school and succeed?

I’d love to hear from teachers, parents and students on this subject. Please be respectful of each other and the people you’re writing about.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Makeitgoaway

    Yes. The best discipline occurs “in house” as every good teacher knows. Suspension rates vary because of fear and lack of adequate training, as well as lack of a systemic approach in approaching discipline as a team of educators all on the same page. Let’s face it- Caucasian women suspend more Black males than anyone, and they dominate the teaching profession. But administrators who just let this problem go whether by failing to back up the teacher, train the teacher, or suspend when necessary are clearly part of the problem. I absolutely agree with the restorative justice model as well as use of the McCulllum Youth Court. When will people figure out that a suspension isn’t punishment and that students are acting out because they have no skills to stay in the classroom?

  • Mario

    What about parents, and Politically Correct -PC educrats who feel that Blacks and Latinos should get more excuses and the educators need to heed to their demands? What has happened to good old fashoned respect- no matter the color?

  • Nextset

    This is a complex issue. It’s also a racial differences issue. It’s also a huge issue of students being put in a classroom where they don’t fit in and act out from frustration.

    I don’t think the solution is going to be found anytime soon in urban districts because of PC inability to call a spade a spade.

    It’s a chicken or egg problem. The black boys and girls are the principal discipline problem of the urban schools. What is it the district wants? For more of the blacks to act whiter? For the teachers to normalize black bad behavior so there are fewer black discipline reports?

    The very first issue which the urban schools cannot address without committing heresy is racial differences and class/school/program placement.

    If the CA schools cannot IQ test blacks then they cannot easily place students appropriately. If you mix bright and dull students you are going to have big problems. (for the sake of discussion I’m assumning a hypothetical school here has no Jewish or White students – like LA Unified)

    So we’re not just talking about the White/Jewish students in college prep and the blacks in survey courses in the same district or campus. We’re talking about an all-black school. If the school has to sort or distribute the students between graduation track and bonehead track – how do you sort? If you don’t track the kids – we all know what will happen when Tyrone is stuck in algebra and hates it. Ditto Literature and History. Shinikanika-NeNe isn’t going to be happy about Geometry either. Especially is her man is cheating on her with his baby Momma.

    So what is the teacher supposed to do? If you write them up you are not PC, and if you don’t, their climbing the walls disrupts the class. Especially with those text messages coming fast and furious about what Pumpkin is saying on Facebook and MySpace (Pumpkin has both). A lot of damage can be done by 4th period on smartphones.

    Remember that stat about 23% of the black girls being in puberty by age 9? Im not sure of the puberty onset stats on the black boys. It’s early compared to others.

    I don’t mind keeping stats by race – they will make the nonsense that all people are created equal impossible to maintain – even the Liberals are having trouble keeping the con going.

    But I don’t like teachers of any race being set up to be called “racist” because they (try to) do what has to be done with the black students and it doesn’t match what is done with the White and Jewish students.

    Black students as a group have special needs based on their differences. Sometimes and especially when the districts set them up to go off, or they are placed in situations that promote problems – black students (at a higher rate than other ethnics) act out and in some cases are a danger to themselves and other’s education and school status. This is not a state secret.

    We did not have these problems in 1960. Not like this. We had more or less segregated black schools with tracked students in separate programs taught by black teachers and some white teachers who knew all the issues with their students and had a free hand to place students where they would fit in and to discipline them to keep them in their places and on their tracks.

    Now we have more or less segregated black schools with no (or haphazard) organized tracking, with staff afraid of (deliberately) making the students uncomfortable or stressed, but drop them in classes expecting one size to fit all. Either way we have segregated schools but the segregated schools here don’t produce taxpayers anywhere near the rate they did in the 1960s.

    Except the immigrants are doing better in the same schools side by side with the blacks. See what higher IQ can do.

    My final conclusion – admit openly the black students have group differences and state the Districts have no intention of equalizing discipline by race. Refuse to keep the racial stats unless it’s legally required. Start posting and enforcing performance standards by classroom and make it clear that failure will result in flunking out or removal regardless of race. Openly state that class populations will not be race proportionate. Some races are better at AP and some aren’t (by group average) – no apologies at all for it.

    And start offering non-graduation-track programs for those who are dropping out anyway, to get them ready to make it in the world without a High School diploma. At the same time you can expose them to alternative ways of meeting the requirements for the diploma when and if they want to later. The alternative track programs can do their level best to get some of their students back on track in the graduation programs. But in the meantime they keep their students in school and working at the highest level they are willing to work at for the time being.

    This means the bonehead track will be heavy on the practical skills, social work, basic reading, writing & math, basic history and civics, and all the survey classes their students can be pursuaded to sit for. As far as managing the drama – that would be programmed for in a way not feasible in the normal High School Classes (the social work component, remember?).

    Years ago I taught at a “good” school district. I spent a little time in their alternative school. The students were likely to go to jail and prison or die of drug OD and trauma – Bipolars included. We all knew that, the parent(s) were just happy the students were being kept off the street for a time. We kept the students out of the normal schools, but in our classrooms (they had huge beanbags). We worked on every aspect of their lifestyle problems and did modules of basic everything. I believe we helped those students. Without that program they’d be on the streets during school hours – more then they were anyway. They couldn’t function in any normal HS class.

    Guess what, nearly all of them were white and hispanic.

    I just didn’t see anybody doing much for the at risk black kids. Maybe they were afraid they’d be called racist if they took them in. Easier to just let the black kids drop out.

  • Livegreen

    I don’t know if Edna Brewer still has in place it’s same system of referring discipline issues to a program that works with kids while avoiding suspensions. This helps the kids with issues and the teacher and the rest of the class. But it also costs money & they might have had to cut the program.

    Sometimes OUSD’s answers r right under their nose, but they don’t know it’s there or don’t want to share it with other schools.

  • LK

    Teachers don’t and can’t suspend students (see the ed code). That’s an administrator’s call. Tracking suspensions by teacher is completely meaningless. At my school, teachers have absolutely no say in whether or not a student is suspended. We aren’t consulted at all and we don’t “refer” students for suspension. Also, the suspendable behavior (fighting, threats against students, vandalism) usually occurs at recess, not in the class when children are under a teacher’s supervision. I have never heard of students being suspended for defiance at my school or any other. At most, teachers can and do authorize “in-house” suspensions i.e. a time out in another classroom.

    Whether a child’s behavior changes from teacher to teacher, I don’t know. I haven’t found that to be the case but I’m sure for some children that’s true. Teachers are only human and sometimes a particular teacher isn’t a good match for a particular student. In my experience, children who have behavior issues in my class carry those behaviors on through other classes and grades.

    Training principals and teachers is an excellent idea and classroom management and student engagement have been districtwide areas of focus for PD. There is a lot of talent and experience in OUSD and I would like to see the district look inward for the experts, rather than bring in yet another megabucks consulting outfit. Talking to the folks at Cole about restorative justice seems like a logical place to start.

  • aly

    makeitgoaway: i’m not disputing you, but i am curious where you get the data to back up the statement that “Caucasian women suspend more Black males than anyone”. it’s a pretty big claim, and because, like you say, white women dominate the teaching profession it’s statistically impossible for them to NOT have more suspensions than anyone else if you’re looking at whole numbers. if you could provide normed data that adjusts for the proportions of white teachers and teachers of color (maybe even gender differences, since you point out white women over white men), i’d be very interested in it.

    this is a really difficult request that will make people uncomfortable, but i think in general, more transparency is better. it forces us to be accountable for our actions and to take steps toward improving our practice if we’re struggling. this is a debate we’re having internally where i work, because in order to reduce the rates of referral and suspension, i believe you have to know WHO is writing the referrals/asking for suspensions. sometimes it really is the student, but sometimes it is the teacher who is either unaware of how to interact with their students or has subconscious biases that express themselves through over-referral. unless you can identify patterns, for instance is a student only bounced from one class over and over again, or is one teacher responsible for a disproportionate amount of referrals, then you can’t really begin to solve the problem.

    the complications lie in what you do once you have the numbers and teachers and administrators have been identified as disproportionately disciplining students of color. we have to take time and investigate WHY those adults have such high rates; do they enforce rules to the letter of the law and struggle to flex when the situation calls for it? do they have a different (and perhaps unreasonable) concept of what defiance looks like? are they stuck engaging in power struggles instead of focusing on student learning? are they truly culturally incompetent? once those questions are answered, which i believe take interviewing and observing the teacher from an angle of research not judgment, then you have to decide what steps to take. is it a person that is open and can be taught new strategies for classroom management? are they willing to grow and take on a new perspective on what it means to be truly defiant? are they simply unaware of the imbalance in their practice?

    i’m skeptical that anyone is able to make a teacher with inherent racial biases into a teacher whose classroom is a safe, equitable environment. why teachers with such perspectives would ever even bother coming to oakland, i’m really not sure, but i know it happens. and this is where it gets ugly; if someone is racist at their core, and is unwilling to acknowledge it, where do we go from there? do they get evaluated out of the district? can suspension data be used as ground for dismissal? this is where i am admittedly quite ignorant when it comes to my own contract.

    the bottom line is that in order for this proposal to be successful, the district needs to be extremely thoughtful in how they approach the use of data. if it is used as a way to punish, shame and criticize teachers, then it is doomed to fail. if it can be used to support, grow, and teach teachers, then it has a chance. i see this translating to data that is used at the district level to create professional development plans, but isn’t published in the paper (no offense, katy), discussed at school board meetings, or made a matter of public record. i’m sure it will be resisted and resented, but if you can prove to people that you’re there to help them help their students and not chase them out of the practice, then our kids will get the teachers they deserve and our teachers will become the leaders they want to be.

  • Steven Weinberg

    You cannot look at suspension statistics in isolation. Two schools might have high suspension rates. In one school it might signal a weak administration which is unable control student conduct. Visits to that site would show a school that is not under the control of the adults working there with negative effects on student learning and teacher morale. Another school with the same number of suspensions might have a strong and capable administration that sets firm limits. Someone visiting that school would see an orderly campus and classrooms with students learning and strong faculty morale. Once administrators know that someone is tallying their suspensions you can expect the weak administrators to immediately reduce their suspensions, causing their campus control to decrease even more with greater negative effects on student learning and teacher morale.

    District administrators already have the data they need to decide which administrators are doing a good job. They need to review all of it carefully and not get sidetracked by reports that focus on a single metric.

    I remember a report in the Tribune from about 1999 which pointed out a middle school in East Oakland that had a particularly large number of suspensions. I noticed that Alice Spearman, who was not a school board member at that time, but was a very active parent and community leader, was quoted in the article as saying that those suspensions were a sign that the school was establishing control and that the administration was doing a great job. I was very impressed with that level of community support for a principal, and when I was given an opportunity several years later to work at that school I took it and found that what Ms. Spearman said was true.

  • Nextset

    Aly: While students may get referred and suspended for insubordination – flunking out is a major issue in a real school. In a real school the Fs are fast and furious when a students fails to perform on routine tests or fails to turn in assignments or show up for class.

    This thread may be limited to referrals and suspensions. I see that as part of the flunking out issue. Classroom behavior becomes worse often as the student realizes he or she has no prospect of passing the class and begins to disassociate with the teacher, students and subject matter.

    The root of this problem is students unable to do the work who need to be out of that class and maybe out of that school. Race is not really the issue – it’s used as an excuse.

  • Debora

    The suspensions should be tracked by school, principal, teacher, ethnicity, seriousness of offense, how many other learners are disturbed by the student being suspended and both parents behavior toward the suspension.

    Far too many classroom students learning is disrupted by students who continually misbehave. It is true that some teachers suspend more than others. However, too often in our schools we allow some students to disrupt a whole class.

    Also, I know of many principals who use only three day suspensions for offenses such as knifes and high powered be be guns brought to school because they don’t want their school to get a bad reputation. This builds an environment where the teacher is forced to accept behavior that would be unacceptable in most other school settings.

  • Jim Mordecai

    LK Says:
    October 5th, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    “Teachers don’t and can’t suspend students (see the ed code). That’s an administrator’s call.”

    No. Its the teacher’s call too.

    Ed Code

    48910. “(a) A teacher may suspend any pupil from class, for any of the acts enumerated in Section 48900, for the day of the suspension and the day following. The teacher shall immediately report the
    suspension to the principal of the school and send the pupil to the principal or the designee of the principal for appropriate action. If that action requires the continued presence of the pupil at the
    schoolsite, the pupil shall be under appropriate supervision, as defined in policies and related regulations adopted by the governing board of the school district. As soon as possible, the teacher shall
    ask the parent or guardian of the pupil to attend a parent-teacher conference regarding the suspension. If practicable, a school counselor or a school psychologist may attend the conference. A school administrator shall attend the conference if the teacher or the parent or guardian so requests. The pupil shall not be returned to the class from which he or she was suspended, during the period of
    the suspension, without the concurrence of the teacher of the class and the principal.
    (b) A pupil suspended from a class shall not be placed in another regular class during the period of suspension. However, if the pupil is assigned to more than one class per day this subdivision shall apply only to other regular classes scheduled at the same time as the class from which the pupil was suspended.
    (c) A teacher may also refer a pupil, for any of the acts enumerated in Section 48900, to the principal or the designee of the principal for consideration of a suspension from the school.”

    Many Oakland principals may believe that they are the only one that can suspend teachers and many teachers may believe it too. However, all teachers, including substitute teachers have the power of the Ed Code to suspend students if a student commitments any of the actions listed in Section 48900.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Cranky Teacher

    Hard to make effective technical and/or bureaucratic fixes for what are inherently human problems.

    If a SCHOOl as a whole is out of control, a good teacher may be referring lots of kids because they are trying to hold the line in an untenable situation.

    However, in many cases a bad — or at least overly confrontational one — is referring students they can’t build a successful working relationship with.

    There are many paths to a goal. Some teachers use total dominance to achieve classroom management, figuring you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. Others go a more “positive-reinforcement” route, while some simply tolerate a bit more chaos as long as the outcomes are good (i.e., learning, which is the goal).

    Ultimately, we can’t all teach the same way. I don’t tend to be a screamer or a Rudy Giuliani (enforce the tiniest rules at maximum force), but I also realize that it works for some folks, I guess.

    I have definitely used the two-day teacher suspension power with the exceptionally oppositional or even psychotic student who simply can’t manage their behavior. I have to protect the learning of the other 31 students and the school/district need to take responsibility for getting that kid the help they need. I only use this power 1-2 times a year, though.

  • Livegreen

    This new policy has the potential to further undermine discipline in the classroom. Again, there’s a different, more holistic plan in place at Edna Brewer that supports EVERYBODY.

    This helped Edna Brewer get to similar scores as Montera, with a much higher % free & reduced lunch (FRL). Now, I ask OUSD: what’s wrong with success? Why aren’t you funding it?

    At Edna Brewer & across OUSD!

  • Teaches at Oakland School

    I have been a another teacher’s classroom all this year and was really impressed by how she managed her class. She has been teaching for a long time and is white. She laid down the law from day 1 and most importantly, followed through on her threats to call home and require detention. The number of late kids went from 10-12 in the first week to 0-2 last week and those usually have notes. They dont’ talk out of turn or play with their phones because she is always roaming around and know she will take their phones. She doesn’t have to raise her voice and I bet there won’t be any suspensions. The level of ability in the class is really low for the most part so you might expect worse behavior.
    In contrast, last year I was in a class every day taught by a black woman who wrote referrals like crazy because she said the boys (there was only 1 white boy in class and he was well behaved) were being defiant by using bad language and using phones. She however, had no written explanation of exactly what the kids were supposed to do and basically told them to go home and look at videos and teach themselves the techniques they needed to make their projects, for which there were no detailed expectations.No wonder the kids played on the computer and spent most of their time on the phone. She spent most of the time in her chair and did not circulate. She either needed to find a new job or get help from the administration in how to actually conduct a class. She spent most of the period in her chair so of course they had cell phones out-she never did anything about it until she decided to write them referrals.
    I have sat in many a classroom and in no way is it a majority of white female teachers writing referals for the black students, in fact I have noticied more black female teachers writing referrals. Of course, some of those teachers just let the cell phone, earbud thing go on because I guess they don’t want to have to hassle with it or are afraid to. (I noticed that in a class taught by a young white teacher last year).

  • Nextset

    I wonder how many principals audit or sit in on classes in their schools? I remember administration listening in on the PA system equipment when I was in HS and grade school a lifetime ago.

    What I do remember is that the discipline did not vary much from teacher to teacher. In my memory they were really very uniform and I assumed at the time that’s the way it just was. Now perhaps there must have been teacher-principal meetings to iron out what they collectively wanted done in the classrooms to maintain order. I remember the Nuns in primary school walking the aisles. They really did closely supervise their classrooms. In High School there was not so much of that. But in High School we only had a teacher for that period. In the primary school we had the same Nun for most of the day. There was a floating Nun for the religion class. I suppose they wanted to make sure we got the word from he same source.

    In Primary School referrals to the office were really unheard of. You were in legendary trouble for that. The classroom Nun/teacher handled everything except mortal sins. In High School life was far more complicated. The “Office” was used for a lot of things because that’s where both the boys and girls counselors were as well as the dean of discipline. They also collected the money for various things you had to pay for, and the various forms and permission slips you had to file.

    In my high school defiant, insubordinate or even excessively tardy students were expelled – sent to Continuation School. It happened to a close friend. You went to the counselors for help or for adjustment issues (transfer to a different teacher’s class?). If the principal and Dean got into it you were perhaps on the way out to Continuation School. It was a good system. We didn’t have to put up with criminals, druggies or screw ups. Even if they weren’t expelled, by the time the various teachers got through giving them F’s they would just transfer out voluntarily to Continuation Shool.

    It was a nice system. Every School that wants to be a real school should have it. Real Schools are not running rehab centers, they are not there to fix broken people, they are not there to carry people too dumb to keep up either. If you can’t learn and can’t function you were expected to go elsewhere. And that was an East Bay Public School.

    It was a nice and safe school to go to. It was a nice school for staff to work in. We weren’t Stepford Students – we had an underground paper that gave the administration a fit. There were occasional stunts and TP of the property (better not get caught). We had alternative types around that kept their grades up (they’d better) and plotted to change the world. It was a very good school. But people got expelled from time to time. And people disappeared occasionally – transferred out voluntarily because they didn’t work out.

    There was no using bad language in class. There was no defiance of teachers or staff. We knew we were lucky to be there – and could be sent elsewhere. We had plenty of field trips around CA – to Los Angeles, and to NYC and Washington DC. A student could be blocked from any field trip if the teacher in charge didn’t want to be responsible for them. There were other carrots as well as sticks.

    We didn’t know how good we had it. This was just a normal good school.

  • Lara

    I definitely think that Oakland should track suspensions and disciplinary referrals as a first step in coaching teachers to more effectively manage their classes. I would love to see all teachers offered a non-punitive support program based around observation in their own classrooms.

    As a fifth-year teacher, I am still revising my own disciplinary practices and expectations. I’m still learning when to be rigid in my policies (less and less about the letter of the rules, more and more about the spirit), when to say a firm “no” with a smile, and when to take an angry student to the hall and ask, “What’s going on?” Quality classroom management takes time and practice, especially if a teacher’s sense of appropriate behavior, discipline, and consequences differ from those of her students.

    Unfortunately, many of my students see a suspension as a) beyond their control, and b)a welcome break from school. I have been grateful that this year, my school’s administrators have encouraged us to hold after-school detention; they are backing us up with mandatory Saturday School for students who skip assigned detentions. Detention is a perfect consequence for many of my students’ misbehavior–it gives me time to help them catch up on missed work and to discuss classroom policies. It also allows me talk with the student and her parent or guardian so that the student can have agency in deciding her own next steps.

    Though it’s frustrating for me and many other teachers, I believe that many students really choose to behave and learn almost as a favor for a teacher they like rather than for themselves. Therefore, I think it’s wise to invest time and effort in training teachers to respectfully, productively manage their classrooms.

  • Jim Mordecai


    A students’ ethnic group can be an advantage and provide success that would modify the likelihood of a student falling afoul of suspension.

    Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliners points to the big difference in how Westerners and Chinese Cantonese dialect speakers say aloud numbers. Cantonese having shorter names for counting numbers have an advantage in being able to hold in memory and retain larger number of counting numbers.

    In addition, the organization of numbers in the Cantonese language makes the logic of a ten based system consist and easier to understand.

    Page 228-231: “In English, we say fourteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen and nineteen, so one might expect that we would say oneteen, twoteen, threeteen, and fiveteen. But we don’t. We use a different form eleven, twelve, thirteen, and fifteen. Similarly we have forty and sixty, which sound like words they are related to (four and six). But we also say fifty and thirty and twenty, which sort of sound like five and three and two, but not really. And, for that matter, for numbers above twenty, we put the decade first and the unit number second (twenty-one twenty-two)whereas for the teens, we do it the other way round (fourteen, seventeen, eighteen). The number system in English is highly irregular. Not so in China, Japan, and Korea. They have logical counting system. Eleven is ten-one. Twelve is ten-two…”

    “The regularity of their number system also means that Asian children can perform basic functions, such as addition, far more easily. Ask an English-speaking seven-year-old to add thirty-seven plus twenty-two in her head, and she has to convert the words to numbers (37 + 22). Only then can she do the math: 2 plus 7 is 9 and 30 and 20 is 50, which makes 59. Ask an Asian child to add three-tens-seven and two-tens-two, and then the necessary equation is right there, embedded in the sentence. No number translation is necessary: its five-tens-nine.”

    Jim Mordecai

  • Seenitbefore

    in our school of approximately 450 students, there are 44 who are identified as “white”. Furthermore, there are at least 60 more male students than female students overall. Therefore, yes, statistically we can predict that more african american male students will be disciplined than any other group. How is this the fault of a classroom teacher who happens to be a white woman????

  • Makeitgoaway

    a referral is a last resort and the ultimate breakdown in the student-teacher relationship. since the teacher is a professional, then the burden falls on him/her regardless of skin color.

    Referrals accomplish nothing for the referred student. Lara is correct. a conversation in the hallway is the best way to get to the bottom of something and meet the student where he lives. But Teaches at Oakland is also correct- too many teachers are afraid or unable to establish that relationship. they should not be teaching. identifying by referral would be the first step. I disagree with Cranky Teacher- a “good” teacher is not writing a lot of referrals to “hold the line” because the time it takes to do so detracts from classroom time and simply abrogates the responsibility to teach each student. A good teacher will work with other teachers to establish school-wide standards, not act unilaterally.

  • oak261

    The suspensions, as of a few years ago, ARE tracked by school. I saw them being carefully tracked at Montera 4-5 years ago. Then there was this amazing poster from the district, spelling out the policy objectives. After breaking out the current stats by race and ethnicity, the stated objective was to have equal suspension rates across all groups. A quota.

  • http://close.net Check It Out

    Why hasn’t anyone stated that the disproportionality of suspensions is also caused by the disproportionality of broken homes, incarceration, poverty and other massive challenges that African Americans face?

    Some teachers are indeed ineffective with black students and we need to support these teachers or convince them to leave the profession. It’s also true that African Americans and especially African American men are in crisis nationally. Are more black men in jail than in college, for example? This is not an excuse for more suspensions and bad classroom management. It is simply the truth.

    I applaud the AAMAI’s intentions and think it’s great we are being explicit about this crisis. I think we should be very honest about the crisis that Black Americans are currently in, and also the fact that public schools are built to favor adults, not kids. Last In First Out, Job Protection for all – our education system favors unions over kids.

    From a Joel Klein article in the Atlantic:

    “As Albert Shanker, the late, iconic head of the UFT, once pointedly put it, “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.””


  • Katy Murphy

    I remember that too — back in 2007, right? I wonder if the data were (or are, today) analyzed by classroom as well as by school.

    The authors of this report want the disaggregated school-by-school figures to be made available to the public. Right now you can get annual suspension and expulsion numbers by school from the Department of Education, but not broken down by race or gender (unless there is another report lurking somewhere on the CDE site that I don’t know about!).

    For 2010-11, for example:


  • Nextset

    Check It Out: It’s a chicken or egg thing about Black pathology – does the slum living cause the acting out, or does other issues cause both the acting out and the slum conditions?

    Anyway, you assume people care. Our urban public schools don’t need to tolerate acting out and really don’t need to try to cure it, fix it, or treat it. If a child is not able to perform basic function in the school that child needs to be removed from the school before it interferes with the education of the other students. Remediation, Special Ed, Training, Rehabilitation, Hugs & Kisses and the rest can be despensed in Continuation Schools.

    The black children that are the best potential for upward mobility need to be free of the dregs. Continuing the barrels with bad apples hurts the race and wrecks the brand marketability. And yes, I mean to include the pregnant teenagers and the sexually active children (to the point it’s noticed) in those who are unfit to be in normal/academic schools. Those is a big hurry to grow up and play house need to be segregated into Vocational Schools.

    I believe this is the policy prior to the Great Society programs of the 1960s and it was working. We should return to those policies.

  • T. Earl Nichols

    Some questions to consider:

    What happens when the administration doesn’t back up a teacher by DHPing a student who is consistently disruptive?

    What about the teacher who is teaching a class with a high population of low-performing, highly disruptive students? Is this teacher measured the same was as an AP teacher?

    What about the student who should be in an SDC class for behavioral issues, but has not or will not be appropriately placed for reasons out of the teacher’s control? Does the teacher keep the student in class and compromise the education of the 30-something other students?


    Data collection is definitely a step in the right direction, but we need to look at as many conditions as we can to see why this student is being suspended — not just the teacher.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Those are all excellent questions, Mr. Nichols. I would also add: How will suspensions initiated by teachers when monitoring the halls be counted? Almost all the serious incidents I had to refer to the office for possible suspensions during my career took place outside of my classroom with students I did not teach.

  • Che

    @Livegreen. I’m not sure why you keep bringing up Brewer but the teacher referral rates to On Campus Suspension as well as overall suspension and expulsion rates are consistent with the intent of this recommendation. I am not speaking for the task force but the AAMAI took into account all of the available district information.

    There really is no debate to this issue. Additional teacher and admin training are necessary. However, *I* fault the district for leadership. Exactly how many years does it take to study and implement a reaction to institutionalized racism?

  • ExSanta Fe Teacher

    It’s an impossible situation these poor teachers are being put in…..the behaviors that students are being expelled for are seriously disruptive and often dangerous to the classroom as a whole not to mention the teacher as well.

    Blaming the teachers yet again will no doubt leave the issue unsolved and only drive the wedge farther between what is expected and the reality of the situation. Until we are ready to talk about things in an honest light rather than the smoke and mirrors of the evil boogey man teacher we are never going to solve this problem.

    The fact is there’s a good fraction of students who think that school is set up to turn them against their upbringing, is oppressive, not valuable, gives no compelling reason to comply, and/or is just a plain waste of time. These attitudes lead to very bad behaviors even among the youngest of students. Those actions are not fictitious and they also are not the fault of most teachers. That’s like blaming the battered woman for her husband’s wife beating ways.

    However, it is much simpler to point the guilt at the teachers….o.k. everything is under control here people we have the perpetrator you can move on now nothing to see here.

    We need to identify ways to change those attitudes that lead to such hostile behaviors. We should protect the safety of our students, respect our teachers, and safe keep positive learning environments.

    Off the top of my head better things to spend our time and money on include :

    -more first five programs
    -better community outreach
    -increase the number of role models that students relate with and give incentives for them to work in a direct capacity with the student body