OUSD has such a needy population of kids. Too many of them are disruptive in the standard school setting and are ruining the chance for other kids to learn. (Please read my previous “Another view of the
This poorly addressed chronic problem drives strong families away from
A story about Castlemont
This past Sunday (
Her column reports an effort undertaken recently by Matin Abdel-Qawi, the principal at
Ms. Drummond writes "As a high school principal, Abdel-Qawi faces a Catch-22. Some of his students are so disruptive that teachers can't even teach while they're in the classroom. Yet he doesn't want to suspend the boys because he knows if they drop out, the next stop is prison."
This simple statement confirms my view that too many school reformists have been focusing on the wrong issues!
First, simply by splitting a large school into small schools doesn’t fix the problems that are causing low academic achievement. E.O.S.A. is a small school (316 students in 2006-07), but its classes are suffering from the same serious problems that are plaguing the larger schools -- lost instructional time for the students who want to learn because they are stuck with classmates who are “so disruptive that teachers can't even teach.” Because the principal feels compelled to keep the difficult students at school, their negative impact on everyone else persists.
Would the State Administrator and the “Expect Success” staff be willing to send their children to schools where they would have frequent classroom experiences like this? How can they expect
Second, reformers who push charter schools as the answer to OUSD’s problems are missing the boat. These schools don’t enroll the difficult kids so they shouldn’t even be acknowledged; it's the old comparing apples-to-oranges thing. For instance, since the American Indian Public Charter School has been so wonderful, why haven’t they recruited these types of kids so they could work their Blue Ribbon miracles on them?
Third, the options for
Since suspensions are a punishment for bad behavior (fighting, vandalism, etc.), they do serve as a deterrent for some students. They also relieve the school from additional misbehavior for a few days. There are problems with suspensions, however.
Students prone to the types of misbehavior that earn them a suspension are also likely to have inadequate adult supervision when they are home. During the time they are suspended from school, they can freely roam the city and get into worse trouble.
Also, there are strong financial and legal disincentives for the school to suspend students.
Each school’s suspensions are closely monitored by the district, for their total numbers and for their demographics. Schools lose money when they suspend students because they receive their funding according to student attendance (
Principals are very reluctant to talk about the severe behavioral infractions that occur at their schools. This is partly because of student confidentiality. It is also because no principal wants to reveal the things that are really going on at their school – like weapon possession, serious assaults, drug dealing, etc. Parents often suspect that there are problems, but the schools intentionally keep them in the dark.
For the most serious offenses (bringing a gun to school, assaulting a teacher, etc.) students are “DHP’ed.” This is the commonly used term for the OUSD student expulsion procedure. If the Disciplinary Hearing Panel decides to expel a student from a school, the parent just enrolls him/her in another OUSD school.
It goes like this. A student who gets expelled from School A for committing a serious act will then become a student at School B. A different student who gets expelled from School B will go to School C. And a student who gets expelled from School C will end up going to School D. On, and on, it goes. In other words, there is a rotating set of students who commit serious offenses and who are coming and going from one school to another, all year long.
Some of the Measure Y money helps the schools manage this set of kids. It pays for caseworkers who keep track of them. Their workload is excessive, however. I spoke with one who felt that three caseworkers would be a better number for the load that he was carrying.
This is sad, but true.
There are so many disruptive students in OUSD that the ability for the schools to function on behalf of the non-disruptive students is greatly reduced. Of course, this has been an uncontrolled problem for years. Most of these kids desperately need specialized attention that they will never receive, unless things are changed.
In the seven years I worked at one of these schools, I learned that there are a lot of really serious things that happen during the school day that parents ever don’t know about. As an
OUSD needs to begin to handle these situations differently so that the needs of ALL of its students are met. That way, more
I will share what I am learning about OUSD’s current alternative schools in an upcoming post.