Friday, October 4, 2013
South Carolina Appleseed just released its report on teacher and student dropouts in the state. It begins with an alarming assessment from Education Week: "Public high schools in South Carolina graduate on 61.7 percent of their students. This is 12 percent less than the national average and 26 percent less than the state's federally-defined graduation performance goal." The report attributes the state's dropout problem to its harsh approach to student discipline. State statutes, for instance, include standards that authorize the expulsion of students based on vague and relatively minor misbehavior. The report's proposed solutions are directed at parents, school officials and employees, and the state legislature. As to the legislature, the report recommends:
The legislature must repeal or significantly amend the “Disturbing Schools” statute to remove the current catch-all wording that permits the arrest of students for any number of typical misbehaviors, including “acting obnoxiously.”
The legislature must amend state law so that school boards do not have the discretion to expel a student for vague infractions, such as “gross misbehavior,” “persistent disobedience” or “other acts as determined by local school authorities.”
School districts should be required to disaggregate and report data by school on suspensions, expulsions and criminal charges against students. This information should include the duration of each exclusion from school and the reason for the discipline. Districts also should be required to report the number of students readmitted to school after the end of their punishment.
The report is South Carolina specific, but these recommendations would be good medicine for most other states as well. It also includes a good overview of the current research on positive behavioral interventions and supports.