Saturday, April 23, 2005

STREET SMARTS

As a former Cleveland schools teacher, I'm often asked if the violence in the schools is as bad as rumored. Frankly, the answer is "it depends". At some schools, yes, it is. However, most of the time, it's not that bad.

In the aftermath of some recent incidents that created bad publicity for the district, others have considered that same question. One of them is a current teacher in the district, Mary Beth Matthews, who writes the blog, Street Smarts. In it, she asks,
What prevents teachers or building administrators from punishing students who behave inappropriately?
This is a question that must be asked of teachers and administrators anonymously, otherwise the answers will be:
"We always give appropriate attention to discipline problems."
Many teachers already told Regina Brett the real answer to that question.
High suspension and expulsion numbers look bad to the folks downtown.
This begs another question; Why?

A report detailing the numbers of students suspended tells the administration at the downtown office nothing about the atmosphere of a particular building.
Low numbers do not mean there are no behavior problems, they simply mean the problems are not being reported or addressed. On the other hand, a building with high numbers of students being suspended would not necessarily mean the building has too many behavior problems. Rather, it says that the principals are busy working to set a no-nonsense tone in that school.
If a person will spend a day in a school, and see students roaming the halls and classrooms out of control, they will know that the school has discipline problems. That is just common sense.
If we are ever to going to fix the schools we have to start dealing with the problems from a common sense point of view. We have to deal with reality.

Amen, sister, amen.

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