At Wednesday night’s school board meeting, Superintendent Tony Smith and a small panel, including two principals, presented the Balanced Scorecard Accountability Report. The topic: suspensions.
One major focus of the report is to work toward reducing suspension rates overall, but specifically with African American male students.
In the 2011-12 school year, African American students accounted for one-third of enrolled OUSD students and 63 percent of the students who were suspended. Of the male students, African Americans make up 16 percent of all OUSD students and 41 percent of suspended students. Compared to other ethnicities in the district, this figure is disproportionate and raises a few red flags.
Latino students, for example, have proportionate suspensions compared to the total students enrolled in the district. They make up 38 percent of all OUSD students and 27 percent of suspended students. Latino males in the district and those who were suspended make up 38 percent and 27 percent respectively.
The report also details possible root causes of student suspensions and strategies schools are and should be utilizing to reduce the number of suspensions and be more proactive to all student success.
The strategies are laid out on a pyramid structure with three tiers of action. The first tier addresses almost all students with early intervention and developing social and emotional learning for all students; tier two focuses on restorative justice and developing manhood for students at risk of suspensions; tier three helps the troubled students on an individual basis.
This data mirrors figures from Urban Strategies Council’s report “African American Male Achievement Initiative: A Closer Look at Suspensions of African American Males in OUSD” for the 2010-11 school year. The trends are similar in that about the same proportion of African American male students in OUSD and getting suspended. They still have a higher rate of suspension compared to girls and are more likely to be suspended in middle school than any other time in OUSD.
Overall, district-wide suspension rates have gone down from 5.7 percent to 4.2 percent in the past year. Suspension rates divided by school level—elementary, middle and high school—do show that African American male suspension percentages have gone down by an average of 4.8 percent. The plan is to overall, not on average, reduce African American suspensions by 5 percent by the 2014-15 school year.
What else can the teachers and administration do to help? Training is encouraged to keep teachers knowledgeable and prepared to treat their students with an attitude sans bias, but if almost the same percentage of these African American students are suspended, what else can be done? How long until true progress can be seen?
How are families of these at-risk students helping or hurting their child’s chances of furthering and bettering their education?