From the NYT, a representative sample of contemporary thought:
Raising new questions about the effectiveness of school discipline, a report scheduled for release on Tuesday found that 31 percent of Texas students were suspended off campus or expelled at least once during their years in middle and high school — at an average of almost four times apiece.
When also considering less serious infractions punished by in-school suspensions, the rate climbed to nearly 60 percent, according to the study by the Council of State Governments, with one in seven students facing such disciplinary measures at least 11 times.
The study linked these disciplinary actions to lower rates of graduation and higher rates of later criminal activity and found that minority students were more likely than whites to face the more severe punishments. ...
In other words, minorities are more likely to get into trouble in school, to get into more severe trouble, to drop out, and to commit crimes after school. Ergo, as the rest of the article explains, white people need to shape up, STAT.
The study, which followed every incoming Texas seventh grader over three years through high school and sometimes beyond, joins a growing body of literature looking at how to balance classroom order with individual student need.
Several experts said in interviews that the data, covering nearly one million students and mapping each of their school records against any entry in the juvenile justice system, was the most comprehensive on the topic yet. The report did not identify individual districts or schools.
A valuable study could, theoretically, be done comparing the Value Added in test scores of different disciplinary policies. My guess would be that strict order (e.g., KIPP) is most valuable for poor blacks and Hispanics, but a heavy hand eventually turns negative as we ascend the social scale to the most elite white / Asian schools, where progressive educational assumptions about students being self-motivated by curiosity and ambition work fairly well. But, apparently, this kind of analysis wasn't attempted. This article doesn't contain any information on the impact of troublemaking students on their classmates.
The findings are “very much representative of the nation as a whole,” said Russ Skiba, a professor of school psychology at Indiana University who reviewed the study along with several other prominent researchers.
My impression from test scores and imprisonment data is that blacks and Hispanics do better in life in Texas's conservative culture, compared to politically or culturally liberal places like D.C., L.A., and New Orleans.
... Several teachers and administrators in Texas were shocked to learn of the report.
“That’s astronomical,” said Joe Erhardt, a science teacher at Kingwood Park High School in the Houston suburb of Humble, Tex. “I’m at a loss.
Doug Otto, superintendent of the Plano Independent School District, said the data showed that “suspensions are a little too easy.”
“Once they become automatic, we’ve really hurt that child’s chances to receive a high school diploma,” he added “We’ve got to find ways to keep those kids in school. Don’t get me wrong — we have to provide safe environments for all the other kids. But you have to balance it out and cut down the suspensions and expulsions.”
Almost 15 percent of students, a vast majority of whom had extensive school disciplinary files, had at least one record in the juvenile justice system, according to the report.
See, we have to be nicer to the 15% at the expense of the 85%. Why? Because the 15% are a minority while the 85% are a majority. And, as every enlightened person knows, minority rights come before the welfare of the majority, even if, as in this case, the minority is a self-selected minority of juvenile delinquents. Also, the minority of juvenile delinquents also tends to be racial/ethnic minorities, and thus punishing them for the good of majority violates the Prime Directive.
Minority students facing discipline for the first time tended to be given the harsher, out-of-school suspension, rather than in-school suspension, more often than white students, the study said. (The nature of the offenses was not noted.) A disproportionate number of minority students also ended up in alternative classrooms, where some have complained that teachers are often less qualified.
Are you claiming that the more effective teachers, the ones with more on the ball, tend to be more effective at not getting stuck teaching classrooms full of juvenile delinquents? Next, you'll be telling me that Phil Mickelson's golf swing coach is better than the guys at my local driving range.
“What we really need to do is go in to those districts and see if these really are choices being made,” Mr. Skiba said. “We don’t really know enough about the reasons for African-American and Latino over-representation in school discipline."
I know, teacher! Ask me! Ask me!
"We have enough data to show that it’s more than just poverty and any greater misbehavior.
In other words, whites on free lunches are less trouble than blacks on free lunches. That's a recurrent finding -- that racial gaps in behavior still exist after adjusting for poverty.
The part about not "more than just ... any greater misbehavior" appears to be based on the assumption of racial equality. The article states above that "The nature of the offenses was not noted" so there's no evidence for that assumption.
"My guess is it’s very subtle interactional effects between some teachers and students.”
It's those vicious white lady racist teachers who don't understand that the black kids go to black churches, which are more energetic than stuffy white churches, as the State Superintendent of Schools in California memorably explained a few years ago.
... While the study found links between school discipline and criminal activity, there is no way to know whether one caused the other.
My default assumption would be that a lack of school discipline is more likely to be causally associated with later criminality, but nobody's asking me.
Educators have long complained that many students, particularly from poor families, arrive in classrooms with problems far beyond academics that they have few tools to control.
Why not try giving them more tools to control students?
A former alternative-education teacher in Texas, Zeph Capo still remembers the eighth grader who swore at teachers, threw books and pencils, and eventually was suspended and sent into the district’s disciplinary program. Mr. Capo said he did not know whether the student straightened out or slipped further. The study made him only more concerned.
“Are suspensions the tool to improve student behavior and help them be successful?
I would think that suspending the disruptive students could help the non-disruptive students learn more, but what do I know?
"No, I don’t think that’s the case,” said Mr. Capo, now a vice president of the Houston Federation of Teachers who trains others in classroom management.
In other words, he managed to get the hell away from those little hellions and nows spends his days with other adults in a pleasantly adolescent-free environment. (Teachers are recruited from the ranks of the kids who liked school, so getting a staff job teaching teachers, which is the desired career path of most teachers after a few years on the frontlines, is a pretty stress free job. And the staffers like to keep it that way by discouraging teachers from sending troublemaking students to the office.)
“Sometimes there’s not a lot of choice left but to risk chaos and anarchy in your school. There are potential times when human beings have had it and they drop the hammer, and maybe the hammer crushes too far.”
In other words, the people, teachers and students alike, still stuck in the classroom with these brats should just suffer more in silence rather than send the little monsters to the office for us staffers to deal with. We staffers have important classroom management training Powerpoints to prepare, and therefore can't be interrupted by actual students.
As for the majority of students who aren't incessant troublemakers and might actually learn something if the minority of bad apples were sent away, well, too bad. If they wanted somebody to do a big study of their plight, well, they shouldn't be part of the majority.