A Colorado panel of lawmakers and police have rightly called for the end – or at least the scaling back – of strict disciplinary policies, also known as zero-tolerance. In a post-Columbine world, school systems quickly implemented harsh discipline policies that punished all offenders equally regardless of whether the offense involved a weapon or just a kid talking back to a teacher. Such measures have proven counterproductive, and have studies have shown that children of color and low-income students have been disproportionately affected by these policies.
Transitions are seldom easy, but they provide are an opportunity to re-evaluate priorities and set new directions. That’s why Susan Gobreski, Executive Director of Education Voters Pennsylvania, is urging her city to take its time before hiring a new superintendent of schools to create a new vision and direction for the city’s public school system. Coming together now around a clear mandate and plan for expanding educational opportunity now will help the district find the right person for this critical position. Here’s what Susan writes:
It's no secret that high rates of out-of-school suspensions have a significant negative impact on students' educational experiences and their opportunity to learn. When students are suspended -- often for non-violent offenses such as wearing inappropriate attire or talking back to a teacher -- they are not in class learning, and the chances skyrocket that they will not graduate on time or will drop out altogether. Take for instance the Buffalo, N.Y...
We know that vouchers fail in at least two ways. First, vouchers do not raise student achievement. They also hyper-segregate schools, typically by excluding students with disabilities, students learning English, and children from low-wealth families.
Nevertheless, a large school district in Colorado adopted a plan to use about $3 million of its public education tax revenues to start a voucher program in the 2011-12 school year. Most of the private schools where the Douglas County School District wanted to pay tuitions are religious schools that require teachers, parents, and potential students to agree to religious tenets.
Programs such as Race to the Top that require states to compete for resources in the form of grants have not systemically solved the nation’s major education problems over the past two and a half years, nor will they in the future.
The role of the federal government is not one of a foundation, but as an agent of the people working to ensure opportunities for all. How can the United States win if most states lose, let alone stay on a trajectory to meet the President Obama’s 2020 goal for the United States to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020?
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