A few weeks ago a colleague of mine came to me told me about a conversation she had with our principal. The topic of their conversation was discipline, and how there has been an increase in student suspensions for the second half of the school year. He wasn’t sure what to do to lower the suspension rate. My colleague didn’t know what to do either.
About a week after that conversation my colleague came to me, and asked me to help her brainstorm some ideas on how we help curb the amount of student suspensions in our school. We did just that.
We decided to look at all the student data we could that dealt with discipline such as office referrals, suspensions, and in-school suspensions. Before we could come up with a solution we had to see where, when, and who were getting suspended. The main data we looked at was where were students misbehaving, what time of the day, and who were the students who had the most office referrals up to date.
After we had gathered that information we found that the students who were suspended most happened to be in the afternoon, and most of the time in the afternoon classes. We looked at the data and found the top 10 students who had the most office referrals. We narrowed that list down to 6, because some students were special education students, and a few were expelled from school.
Now we had the data, what do we do now?
We began to discuss some out of the box of the box ideas. Our premise was: every student has a right to learn, and learn in the right environment that fits their needs. We began to look at what are some of the characteristics these 6 students have in common, and what could they use in their life to make their day at school better, and more productive. We decided that we needed to get more services involved in these students lives. So we asked our school counselor to help us with some wrap-around services that would help these students emotionally, and physically if needed.
We now had an idea of what we were going to do. We needed a place and time for these services to happen. So we decided that our best bet would be to create an alternative classroom where these students can get some education, but also some services that will help them. The time frame would be the exact time student office referrals rose. That would be 10:30am.
We talked to our principal about the idea of a half day alternative classroom where students would spend the whole afternoon doing academics, some life skills, and doing some creative activities. Our principal liked the idea, and gave us the green light to develop it. His marching orders to us was if we are going to spend the time and do this we have to do it right.
We developed a student contract, that students would have input in, like making goals, suggesting rewards and consequences. The contract will be personalized for each student, and the contract has a section on where the teacher will make records on behavior, what rewards they receive, and the consequences they receive.
We developed classroom expectations, and teacher expectations. Students will be placed in this alternative classroom, which we are calling Spartan U, for 4 weeks. After four weeks, and the data collected on these students is good, and students make progress on their goals, then students will be slowly transitioned back into the regular classroom. Once the student is being transitioned back into the classroom the regular classroom teacher will then make comments on the contract. After two weeks of transition the student can get back into the regular classroom. If the transition doesn’t go well the student returns to Spartan U for another four weeks.
This past week we finalized a daily schedule, we lined up some community services, and some guest speakers. We have some new technology for the students to be trained on. Students will get their school work from their classroom teachers using Schoology. We had a small staff meeting with the administration, nurse, counselor, and our CTAG (Closing the Achievement Gap) staff. They have all pledged to help make this program successful as it can be by helping to provide support to the teacher, bringing in guest speakers, and helping to be mentors to these students.
Our goal is help make these students successful as possible. Our last resort is a suspension. The only way these students can be successful is if they are in school. We are kicking off this adventure on Monday. I am very excited. The teaching staff seems to be behind us as well. If this program is as successful as we hope the administration has agreed to keep it to run next year.