Inequitable discipline

Racial minorities and students with disabilities are disproportionately suspended from school, as per “National report highlights racial disparities in suspensions”:

  • African American boys receive harsher penalties than white students for the same offense
  • African American girls, Latino students (at middle and high school levels), Native American students and students with disabilities are also overrepresented in suspensions
  • there is “emerging evidence” of disproportionate disciplinary practices involving English learners and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students

The effectiveness and appropriateness of suspension as a disciplinary tool is also suspect:

  • Suspensions are most often used for conduct that is not a threat to safety.
  • disparities are most pronounced for subjective offenses, such as insubordination or defiance

Further troubling is the consequence of receiving suspensions:

  • Suspensions can lead to lower academic achievement, higher dropout rates and a higher likelihood that students will be arrested and incarcerated

Especially in light of more effective alternatives both for preventing and responding to discipline issues:

  • Positive relationships among students, teachers and parents are more important than neighborhood crime and poverty at predicting school safety.
  • interventions that improve the quality of academic instruction contribute to lower suspension rates
  • schools with more diverse faculty and student bodies have fewer disciplinary issues
  • The growing use of restorative justice in schools may help in these efforts because it increases opportunities for positive contact between races and helps teachers and administrators see students as individuals rather than members of a particular race

We need to work to understand differences, not shut them out.

Good practice for better learning

Some choice nuggets from “How to Learn Better at Any Age” by writer Peter Brown and cognitive psychologists Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel:

Retrieval practice — recalling facts or concepts from memory — is a more effective learning strategy than review by rereading.

[Interleaved practice] produces longer-lasting learning and enables more versatile application of it in later settings.

Trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution leads to better learning, even when errors are made in the attempt.

You learn better [by] drawing on all of your aptitudes and resourcefulness, than when you limit instruction or experience to the style you find most amenable.

Better yet, write your own summary.