Raise and Reduce
In an effort to raise test scores, East Hartford, Connecticut's school district is investing nearly a million dollars (largely from outside sources) into " teacher training, consultants, books, curriculum and materials" according to the Hartford Courant. Tucked into the agreement is the aim to reduce the number of suspensions of "black, Hispanic and special education students."
I wonder what the plan includes for reducing the number of susupensions, and I also wonder why they don't want to reduce the number of suspension of white and Asian students?
The district's student population is approximately 1/3 black, 1/3 Hispanic, and 1/3 white and Asian.
The inference is that the black and Hispanic students are the ones getting into trouble, or at least are the ones getting reported. I suppose the problem is a mixture of the two, which begs the question: How does a school reduce the suspension rates for 2/3 of the student population?
More to the point, if the inequity of suspensions is a result of teachers and administrators "missing" poor behavior by white and Asian students, then the suspension rates overall should go up. But if the white and Asian students are making better choices than the black and Hispanic students, what can reasonably be done to influence those students to make better choices?
Because I teach at a school with a similar ratio of black and Hispanic to white and Asian, I can attest to the existence of students who feel "targeted" by adminstrators and teachers. I cannot attest to the veracity of those feelings.
Let me pretend that we teach at a school with a similar ratio of 67% black and Hispanic to 33% white and Asian. There are 100 student suspensions during first semester. Of those 100 suspensions, 67 of them are of black or Hispanic students and 33 of them are of white or Asian students. From a strictly numbers perspective, there are twice as many suspensions of black and Hispanic; from an outsiders view, inequality exists. From a reality standpoint, the numbers are even because of the percentage. In this situation, I don't see the need to directly target suspension reduction for one or two of the groups. I might see a need for reducing the overall number from 100 to 75.
Now, if we take the same scenario, changing the numbers to 85 black and Hispanic suspension to 15 white and Asian, then I see the need to target suspension reduction for the black and Hispanic students.
But the question remains, How? How does a school reduce suspensions, while maintaining high behavioral standards, for two specific racial groups?