Guest post by Rhonda Calvo
As educators, we are dedicated to the education of every student, but how do you educate every student when some require discipline consequences that are out of school? According to the U.S. Department of Education, “of the 49 million students enrolled in public schools in 2011–2012, 3.5 million students were suspended in-school; 3.45 million students were suspended out-of-school; and 130,000 students were expelled.”
I believe most people would say that out-of-school suspensions are not effective. For most students, the suspension is a vacation. Research also supports this thought, showing that suspensions are associated with negative student outcomes such as lower academic performance, higher rates of dropout, failures to graduate on time, decreased academic engagement, and future disciplinary exclusion.
In light of this reality, school administrators must decide how to educate all students, everyday, in a manner that fits their school culture and community.
Our On-Campus Behavior Program
Since its implementation two years ago, our on-campus behavior placement has been very successful. We can attribute the success of this program to the following components:
- One licensed teacher is in the behavior program classroom. The students need the consistency and boundaries given by this one teacher. This person must be a teacher who has a passion for these students and who has the ability to build a positive rapport.
- Students are able to easily access their education. For schools with technology, Google Classroom eliminates excuses. Students will always be able to complete their work provided by their classroom teachers.
- Students are required to follow campus policies, such as standard student attire and cell phone policies. Operating on an alternate bell schedule rather than the comprehensive campus also has its benefits.
- There are established criteria for students to “earn” their way out of the behavior placement. In our program, students must attend school daily or provide an excused absence note, fulfill their daily goals, complete their classroom assignments, and have no further behavior incidents to earn credit for each day.
- Activity time and character education are included in the daily schedule.
- Once students have earned their release from this placement, they must complete a reflection project based on their infraction. Through this project, they must report what they have learned and what strategies they can now use to make better choices in the future.
- When it’s time to return to the comprehensive campus, students complete a “re-entry” conference. Students share their reflection project with the dean of students or a counselor. This allows the student to have a fresh start and to know that there are adults that believe they can find success.
This program has produced measurable success:
- Zero students have been sent to the district’s behavior programs.
- Our expulsion recommendations have been reduced by 50 percent.
- Students suspended out of school have been reduced by 217 percent.
- Academically, we have seen an increase in students’ grade point averages and credits earned toward promotion.
- Our recidivism rate remains below 10 percent.
We have seen that with the proper support, the majority of students want to find success and want to be recognized for this success. Parents are also appreciative because an on-campus placement shows the family that educators value their child and want their child to grow and move forward. With the data collected, interventions can be tailored to the needs of each specific student to prevent discipline incidents.
Things to Consider
Here are some questions to consider when planning an on-campus behavior program:
- Can you justify the funding to dedicate one teacher to an on-campus behavior program?
- What data will you use to create the placement or levels of placement needed for your students?
- How do you help these students transition back to the comprehensive campus and peers?
- How could you involve the counselor or other adults on campus in a mentoring role?
Have you implemented a similar program at your school? Please share what success you have had with alternatives to out-of-school suspension, how you went about this shift, and the results you’ve seen.
Rhonda Calvo is the assistant principal of Jerome Mack Middle School in Las Vegas, NV, which serves 1,300 students in grades 6–8. She is the 2016 Nevada Assistant Principal of the Year.