Monday, June 15, 2009


In my year end evaluation, my evaluator noted my high number of student referrals and high number of student removals. His observation is accurate, but I had to qualify those numbers. In contrast to my previous five years of teaching, this year's numbers were an outlier. Until this year, I could always count the combination of student referrals and student removals on just over one hand. But this year's implementation of Corrective Reading brought my numbers up. I had students refusing to cooperate and trying to derail the class nearly every period of every day for the first month.
Very few of my referrals or removals ended up with students receiving much discipline--a morning detention and the occasional in-school-suspension. However, I find the Washington Post's recent account of Jeffery Parker's handling of discipline in Prince George's (D.C.) Gholson Middle School fascinating.
For those on the outside who don't walk the hallways of many troubled schools, student discipline can be addressed through conversations and phone calls home. But for those on the inside, the problems are much more complex.
Being cussed out is a regular happening in our halls, especially by students wandering the halls who will then refuse to give their name. Our only recourse is to sit at one of the few archaic computers which house the student photos--except those photos often have the wrong names under the student faces. I just don't have that type of time.
In-school-suspension isn't much of a deterrent anyway. There the students listen to their iPods, play their PSP's, and even there, continue to escape to wander the hallways.
Some would say that it's the teacher's fault. That if our content were relevant and our analogies culturally responsive then these discipline problems fade away. I can't believe that. What is needed is a system wide overhaul. But I don't know how to do that.
Let's assume we overhauled the system, that our teachers were relevant and responsive but the students still didn't care? What do we do with a student who refuses to comply? What do we do with a student who continues to disrespect?
Ultimately, I want to see a school like the one I'm at successfuly educate students so that discipline really isn't a major issue--because we all know discipline will always be an issue; I just want it to be a lesser one.


At 4:39 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

I continue to wonder the purpose of focus on the number of referrals.

Is the purpose to get the staff member to stop referring, and thus allowing chaos in class and no learning?

That will make the current discipline program look more successful. (And there are staff members who have caved to this strategy in many cases) Better data, if you will.

I support your need to exclude students who interrupt learning.

At 12:17 PM , Anonymous Joe Bellacero said...

It is interesting that the evaluator "noted" the number of referrals. Once you put the numbers in context did he/she offer any helpful ideas?
Were you able to engage in a dialogue about the ladder of referral? Was there any recognition that many students viewed the class as an assault on their self-esteem and that you were in the position of spokesman for a program that was doomed to failure by being imposed upon the unwilling? Or was the noting simply done to let you know that you are expected to handle all problems yourself?

I've felt from the beginning that the very title of the course, "Corrective Reading" is a neat illustration of the insensitivity rife in your school, in fact worse than that, it is deeply contemptuous of the students involved no matter what their culture (although cultural issues can serve to magnify the insult such treatment in the eyes of the students). A further illustration of this contempt is the perfunctory treatment of students when they ARE referred. This is a place that is going through the motions.
You can and should try to protect the students from this contempt within your own class, but as for the school, it needs a major shake up in administration or it needs closing down.

At 6:26 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Joe, the evaluator and I have regular dialogue; in fact I feel he knows how to challenge me to greater heights. With that said, we have a highly touted (and highly invested) program in our school, Positive Behavioral Support, which seeks to reduce the number of referrals. Therefore, I really skewed the statistics--not good.
I would add that you are spot on in that we are going through the motions of education reform. We've added Tier II and Tier III interventions (TCI), Positive Behavioral Support (PBS), and about 8 other intitiatives. Unfortunately, we don't do one of them very well.
The book Good to Great details the importance of being able to do one thing great. We can learn from that as we do a lot of things with mediocrity.


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