Sunday, January 29, 2006

Is There A Student Discipline "Race Gap" In Seattle?

When it comes to student discipline, is there a "race gap" in Seattle?
Nearly two decades after it began tracking student discipline, Seattle Public Schools continues to struggle with a chronic problem: African American students are still far more likely than their white peers to be suspended or expelled.

The "discipline gap" persists even as the district drastically lowered the overall number of students who were expelled last year, new statistics show.

Compared with white students, African Americans were nearly twice as likely last year to receive short-term suspensions, lasting 10 or fewer days. Long-term suspensions were imposed on black students more than twice the time.

"We're still seeing a lot of disproportionality," said School Board member Darlene Flynn, chairwoman of Student Learning Committee. "That hasn't improved at all."

The disparity was investigated by the Seattle P-I in 2002 in a special report, "An Uneven Hand," which found that black students were being disciplined at much higher rates than students of other races -- and had been for at least two decades.

The district has made an effort in recent years to provide better training to teachers and administrators and focus on alternatives to suspending or expelling students. But short- and long-term suspension rates are virtually unchanged since 2000, and in some cases are higher.

Flynn said the district needs to do a better job of lowering discipline rates, especially for black and Hispanic students.

It's a daunting problem that has long frustrated district officials. Several task forces have been convened to study the problem and make recommendations -- recommendations that were rarely followed.

In its five-year strategic plan, approved last spring, the School Board formally set a goal of narrowing the discipline gap by 20 percent a year, starting in 2005-06.
There is much more to read in the whole piece.

What is unstated by the writer of the article is the number of infractions that were said to have been committed by the various racial groups being tracked. Apparently, the focus was on the number and type of consequences being assigned.

In order to judge whether or not the Seattle system is fair, it would be best to disagregate the data by race, total number of accusations, and the number and types of consequences administered.
See last week's Carnival Of Education right here and our latest education-related posts over there.