Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Why Are You Looking Over Here?

In the battles over disproportionate school discipline, those who maintain that there must be something wrong with the attitudes of the teachers, or with the rules, or with “the whole system*,” rather than with the behavior of the students, remind me greatly of the old joke about the guy looking under the street light for his lost keys rather than where he actually dropped them.

In fact, I think that may be a rule that generalizes pretty well. It ties in nicely with my previous post about Who You Believe.

*You know how I feel about systems.

There Is No System (2006)
There Is No System (2019)


james said...

Maybe it does tie in with teacher attitudes. Madison wound up on the bottom of the "Achievement Gap" list--worse than last year--largely because of a decline in "minority" scores. I've met plenty of teachers in the area--you can't tell me they bear animus against black students and expect me not to laugh.

But--maybe, just maybe, students of different ethnicities come from different cultures. And for someone from within some of those cultures, especially when they have a lot of father-less kids, you need more rules and consequences, not fewer. If so, then cutting slack makes things worse.

You can always make things worse.

RichardJohnson said...

In the battles over disproportionate school discipline, those who maintain that there must be something wrong with the attitudes of the teachers, or with the rules, or with “the whole system*,”

I would be extremely surprised to find anyone with such opinions who had actually taught in a primary or secondary classroom. I was going to add qualifiers such as "public school" or "inner city" or "substantially minority," but concluded those were not necessary.

I found an exception. Valeria Silva received a golden parachute of some $700,000 when the St. Paul (MN) school board fired her from Superintendent job after implementation of her "inclusive discipline" program for the collapse in school discipline. She had some two decades experience as a teacher or administrator in the St. Paul school system.Her focus was ESL. She won accolades for her putting ESL students into regular classrooms. Texas could have told her that worked much better than an ESL ghetto. In Texas, ESL students are generally in separate classrooms for only a year or two. My brother-in-law came to the US from Germany at age 12 without knowing any English. After arriving in the US in June, he started school in September. Total immersion.

So yes, there was plenty of previous evidence that getting ESL students out of the ESL ghetto would work.

However, Silva believed that classroom inclusion would also work for Special Ed students. Not surprisingly, that didn't work so well. The main difference between ESL students and other students is not behavior or intelligence, but language skills. Once they learn English, the difference disappears. One cannot say that there is a such a small difference between Special Ed students and regular students. Behavior and intelligence differences are much bigger differences than language skills.

Not a surprise that her next move on discipline fell flat on its feet. I suspect that Silva spent most of her career with ESL students, and had little direct experience with black students born and raised in the USA.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Our two from Romania arrived as late 6th and 8th-graders on May 25th. They had received some English instruction in Romania and had had contact with American mission teams at the orphanage the previous two years. I took five weeks off to home school them, though they went to a few events at the Christian school they were going to be entering. Then my wife, a school librarian, homeschooled them for the summer. They entered at grade level in the fall. The younger one had not been a good student in Romania, but they both survived even the first semester, and the older went on to get a degree in accounting.

We interviewed the public school about what they might offer and were not impressed, even though it is theoretically one of the best districts in NH, which scores extremely well as a state every year. Both eventually went to the public school for junior and senior year, when their English proficiency was not an issue.

I think your assessment of language versus processing difficulties is accurate. The former is an obstacle, the latter is a problem.