Madison School District officials are patting themselves on the back for a sharp reduction in the number of out-of-school suspensions and in-school punishments for African-American students this school year. They credit a new Behavior Education Plan that took the easiest possible route to reduce such punishments--they all but stopped handing out such discipline. Under the new policy, counselors take disruptive students outside to "have a talk" and to "determine the real cause of their misbehavior" rather than subject kids to actual disciplinary action like detention. It's the new "progressive approach" to school punishment--meant to make things "fair" for students or all ethnicities.
The only problem is, the new policy isn't actually improving student behavior in the classroom. In fact, one eighth grade math teacher is quitting her job because she no longer feels safe at school. Stephanie Bush is leading a group of teachers who say the new discipline policy is making things worse in the classroom instead of better.
“I’m seeing behaviors on a regular basis that I haven’t seen in 20 years of teaching,” Bush said. Some of this alarming conduct included students swearing at teachers, kicking trash cans, walking out of class, and kids wandering the hallways and in and out of classrooms, she said in an article in the Cap Times newspaper.
A fifth grade teacher--Margaret Stumpf--says: What’s more, a small group of disruptive students is exacerbating the misbehavior of others, Stumpf said. Still other students are frightened, she said, recounting the daily plea of “Miss Stumpf, I’m scared,” from one boy. Other students try to flee the classroom with bathroom excuses or visits to the nurse.
An internal poll finds 18-percent of Madison teachers as a whole--and just ten percent of middle school teachers say the new Behavior Education Plan is resulting in better student behavior. But don't tell that to Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham: “I visit schools two or three times a week and in large part they are very joyful environments for students. I don’t want anyone to get the perception that our schools are out of control,” she said. And of course, she want's more money to hire more counselors to deal with the increasing number of classroom disruptors.
The most important thing for Ms Cheatham and her other "progressive educators" is that her discipline numbers don't look "unfair". Madison schools aren't being "intolerant" of cultural differences in behavior and discipline anymore. And if that means a reduced educational experience for all of the other kids in those classes then at least everyone is "equal".