Thursday, November 1, 2012

Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs Costly & Ineffective

A new report Breaking Rules, Breaking Budgets, documents the high price tag attached to school districts’ use of discretionary out-of-school suspension, expulsion, and disciplinary alternative schools and spending on school policing—an approach that has failed to reduce student disciplinary referrals in Texas.

The 11 surveyed school districts—which educate a quarter of the State’s four million public school students—spent nearly a combined $140 million in 2010-11 on out-of-school suspensions, referrals to Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs (DAEPs), and discretionary expulsions to Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Programs (JJAEPs). They spent another $87 million on security, monitoring services, and campus policing that school year.

Surveyed districts include: Bryan ISD, Conroe ISD, Cypress-Fairbanks ISD, Dallas ISD, Fort Bend ISD, Fort Worth ISD, Houston ISD, Humble ISD, Northside ISD, Plano ISD, and San Antonio ISD.

“We recognize that many Texas school districts are struggling as a result of the $5.4 billion cut in state funding for public education approved last year to help address a state budget shortfall,” said Texas Appleseed Deputy Director Deborah Fowler. “We are releasing this report, not to point a finger at spending in the surveyed school districts, but to open a dialogue with schools about different approaches to student discipline that are more effective and less costly to implement.”

Appleseed Staff Attorney Kathryn Freeman said that a substantial body of research, including the landmark Council of State Governments’ (CSG) study released last year, shows that removing misbehaving students from school increases their risk of dropout, grade retention, and future juvenile justice system involvement. The CSG study also found that removing these students does not result in any measurable improvement in academic performance for students remaining in the classroom, she said.

“At a time when schools must do more with less, it is critical that districts scrutinize their disciplinary data and use it to strategically scale back costly, ineffective approaches to disciplining students. A portion of the cost savings can be used to implement evidence-based behavior management programs, such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), that cost less and have proven successful in reducing student disciplinary referrals in schools across the country and in some pioneering schools in Texas,” Freeman said. Implementing PBIS and other proactive behavioral management programs outlined in the Appleseed report can further reduce disciplinary referrals— creating better outcomes for students and saving tax dollars, she said.

Texas Appleseed is recommending that school districts consider: 1) limiting out-of-school suspensions to misbehavior that that impacts school and student safety (thereby increasing district’s state funding reimbursements for average daily attendance; 2) amending Student Codes of Conduct to limit the potential for a DAEP referral to only serious offenses where other forms of intervention have not proven successful or campus safety is at risk; 3) targeting school policing and security and monitoring services to campuses where they are truly needed; and 4) providing additional training in effective classroom management to administration and staff at campuses with high numbers of out-of-school suspensions and DAEP and JJAEP referrals.

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