California program seeks to address disparities in discipline and achievement
- The University of California Los Angeles's Center For the Transformation of Schools and the school districts in Orange and Butte counties in California are launching a pilot program to develop of a training curriculum for addressing school culture and student achievement, EdSource reports.
- The new training, focusing on reducing racial disparities in suspensions and achievement, will be based on providing multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS), an approach where students “progress through a range of interventions depending on their need levels.” The approach also includes practices such as restorative justice, social-emotional learning and meditation to encourage the building of healthy relationships between staff members and students.
- Organizers will spend the first year designing the training curriculum, the second year engaging in a statewide train-the trainers initiative, and subsequent years training at the school and community levels.
California’s most recent state budget is seeking to address some of these key issues. The $15 million line item sets funds aside to seek alternative approaches to discipline while indefinitely extending the state’s ban on suspensions in K-3 for “willful defiance and disruption,” an approach that some educators and advocates hope will contribute to the breakdown of the “school-to-prison” pipeline.
Other states are also seeking alternatives to traditional discipline. In 2016, a study of suspensions and expulsions in Virginia also led to recommendations for a change in approach. Alternative approaches include the MTSS approach as well as restorative justice, meditation, exploration of brain science, development of social-emotional learning skills, and "coonscious discipline.”
The desire behind all of these approaches is to create a positive school culture rather than a negative one. While students need discipline, teachers also need to build positive relationships with students in order to engage them and inspire them to succeed. It will be interesting to see if California’s new approach, which strives to seamlessly address both discipline and achievement issues, is successful and whether it can be replicated in other states.