Thursday, February 9, 2012

Suspension factories

Every year I've looked at the state's school report cards and wondered:  Why are so many kids suspended in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools?  As the latest report on crime,  violence,  suspensions and dropout rates shows,  last year CMS high school students were more than twice as likely to get short-term suspensions  (up to 10 days)  as counterparts in Wake and Guilford counties.

Database reporter Gavin Off got state suspension records for the last four years. We're just starting to tease out what they mean,  but the school-by-school map he created gives a glimpse of schools where suspensions have been consistently and startlingly frequent.

Some are the ones CMS closed this year,  an issue I touched on in an earlier article about how those high levels of suspension are spilling into the schools that took those students.  In the four years before J.T. Williams Middle School closed,  Gavin's numbers show it averaged almost 162 suspensions per 100 students.  That's not a typo  --  it means some students were suspended so frequently they drove the average up.  Spaugh Middle averaged almost 147 suspensions per 100 in the four years before it closed, and Wilson Middle was at 97 per hundred.

Numbers only provide a starting point for serious discussion.  What combination of student behavior and faculty response are turning some CMS schools into suspension factories?  Which schools,  neighborhoods and volunteer organizations are finding better ways to squelch trouble and keep classrooms focused on learning?  Will closing hotspots and/or moving students improve behavior,  or just relocate problems?

As always, insights from those of you on the front lines are appreciated.

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