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Policy Analysis Exercise Jen Vorse Wilka , MPP Candidate Harvard Kennedy School Prepared for the Children’s Defense Fund and the Massachusetts Coalition to Dismantle the Cradle to Prison Pipeline October 1 , 2011.

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slide1

Policy Analysis Exercise

Jen Vorse Wilka, MPP Candidate

Harvard Kennedy School

Prepared for the Children’s Defense Fund and the Massachusetts Coalition to Dismantle the Cradle to Prison Pipeline

October 1, 2011

Dismantling the Cradle to Prison Pipeline:Analyzing Zero Tolerance School Discipline Policies and Identifying Strategic Opportunities for Intervention

slide2

Research Objectives:

  • Assess the current state of school discipline policies in Massachusetts, including:
    • Federal and state requirements,
    • Variation in district policies subject to the same requirements, and
    • Areas of discretion (what is and what is not zero tolerance).
  • Characterize the nature of zero tolerance in Massachusetts schools.
  • Analyze and draw findings from the 2009-10 Massachusetts school discipline data.
  • Identify high-leverage/strategic opportunities for intervention for the coalition.

Methodology: Literature review, stakeholder interviews, analysis of DESE school discipline data, review/sampling of MA district and school-level discipline policies, cross-district variation analysis, case studies.

  • Definitions:
  • Cradle to Prison Pipeline:
  • High risk of ending up in jail, particularly for
  • certain groups
  • Root causes: poverty, disparate educational
  • opportunities, gaps in early childhood development,
  • inadequate health and mental health care,
  • overburdened/ineffective juvenile justice systems
  • Disciplinary Exclusion/Disciplinary Removal:
  • - Suspension and Expulsion
  • Zero Tolerance School Discipline Policies:
  • Mandatory/predetermined punishments
  • without considering context/circumstances.
  • Increased use of suspension and expulsion for
  • relatively minor offenses.
  • Unassigned Offenses:
  • Non-serious offenses (not involving violence,
  • criminal activity, or illegal substances)
  • Can include: tardiness, skipping class, talking
  • back, swearing, classroom disruption
background
Background

How does

school discipline

fit into the

Cradle to Prison Pipeline?

two paths to prison
Two Paths to Prison

Incident Outside school

Root Causes

Serious Behavioral Incident

DYS/DOC Custody

Arrest, Expulsion

Future Incarceration

Direct

Incident Outside school

Root Causes

Behavioral Incident

Suspension

Absenteeism

Drop-out

Alienation, Disconnection

Future Incarceration

Indirect

findings from national research
Findings from National Research
  • Students’ sense of connection to school strongly associated with ability to succeed in school
  • Suspension doesn’t deter kids; it disconnects them
    • High rate of repeat offenses
    • Students who experience disciplinary removal tend to be less connected, less invested in school rules, and less motivated academically
  • Absenteeism (a necessary implication of disciplinary removal) and suspension consistently cited as strong predictors of dropping out of of school
  • Strong correlation between dropping out of school and becoming incarcerated later in life
slide6

Possible Intervention Points—Direct Path to Prison

Root Causes

Serious Behavioral Incident

Arrest, Expulsion

DYS/DOC Custody

Future Incarceration

Referral to alternative education setting/support services

Student & family supports

Intervention Points Generally Not Focused

on School Discipline

Efforts to re-engage students in school

Rehabilitation

programs; services and support

Prevention; efforts to address root causes

Programs to promote positive climate and relationships

possible intervention points indirect path to prison
Possible Intervention Points—Indirect Path to Prison

Root Causes

Alienation, Disconnection

Future Incarceration

Behavioral Incident

Suspension

Absenteeism

Drop-out

Efforts to re-engage students in school

Dropout recovery; reintegration into school

Alternative disciplinary approaches that keep students in school for minor offenses

Prevention; efforts to address root causes

Programs to promote positive school climate and relationships; supportive school environment

Rehabilitation

programs and services

Intervention Points Relevant to School Discipline Reform

research objective 1 analyzing school discipline policy in massachusetts
Research Objective #1:Analyzing School Discipline Policy in Massachusetts
  • Assess the current state of school discipline policies in Massachusetts, including:
    • Federal and state requirements,
    • Variation in district policies subject to the same requirements, and
    • Areas of discretion (what is and what is not zero tolerance).
  • Characterize the nature of zero tolerance in Massachusetts schools.
  • Analyze and draw findings from the 2009-10 Massachusetts school discipline data.
  • Identify high-leverage/strategic opportunities for intervention for the coalition.
assessing school discipline policies in massachusetts how are policies constructed what s required
Assessing School Discipline Policies in Massachusetts: How are Policies Constructed? What’s Required?

Where is the zero tolerance problem “located?”

  • Several federal and state requirements govern school discipline policy in MA.
  • But, federal and state policies leave a lot of room for discretion, and are largely not zero tolerance policies.
  • Interpretation and implementation of these requirements at the district, school, and individual level can be zero tolerance—superintendents, principals, and sometimes teachers making decisions that apply the maximum penalty, even though they are not legally required to do so, and in effectgiving up their discretion.

Federal

State

District

School

Individual

assessing school discipline policies in massachusetts where is the zero tolerance problem located
Assessing School Discipline Policies in Massachusetts: Where is the Zero Tolerance Problem Located?

Zero Tolerance?

State of Play

Federal

State

District

School

Individual

where is zero tolerance located and what are the opportunities for intervention
Where is Zero Tolerance Located, and What are the Opportunities for Intervention?

Zero Tolerance?

Opportunities for Intervention

Federal

State

District

School

Individual

CPP Public Education Campaign

district level variation in school discipline policies example boston vs lowell
District-Level Variation in School Discipline Policies:Example—Boston vs. Lowell
  • Lowell
  • Lists 5 “alternatives” to be used before
  • progressing to disciplinary exclusion
  • Does not state a policy of seeking to
  • resolve disciplinary issues without
  • exclusion; punitive in tone
  • Comments on very serious offenses, as
  • well as 36 behaviors considered “major
  • violations” that “warrant suspension at
  • the discretion of the administrator”—
  • including property damage,cutting class,
  • disturbing classroom work, and tardiness
  • Boston
  • Lists 25 “alternatives” to be used before
  • progressing to disciplinary exclusion
  • Explicitly states a policy of attempting to
  • resolve disciplinary problems without
  • school exclusion
  • Only comments specifically on very
  • serious offenses (students may be
  • suspended or expelled for possession of
  • weapons, illegal substances, and assault)

Federal

State

District

School

Individual

research objective 2 characterizing the nature of zero tolerance in ma
Research Objective #2:Characterizing the Nature of Zero Tolerance in MA
  • Assess the current state of school discipline policies in Massachusetts, including:
    • Federal and state requirements,
    • Variation in district policies subject to the same requirements, and
    • Areas of discretion (what is and what is not zero tolerance).
  • Characterize the nature of zero tolerance in Massachusetts schools.
  • Analyze and draw findings from the 2009-10 Massachusetts school discipline data.
  • Identify high-leverage/strategic opportunities for intervention for the coalition.
benefits and costs of zero tolerance
Benefits and Costs of Zero Tolerance

zero tolerance

is a

philosophy;

not a

policy.

research objective 3 analyzing school discipline data
Research Objective #3:Analyzing School Discipline Data
  • Assess the current state of school discipline policies in Massachusetts, including:
    • Federal and state requirements,
    • Variation in district policies subject to the same requirements, and
    • Areas of discretion (what is and what is not zero tolerance).
  • Characterize the nature of zero tolerance in Massachusetts schools.
  • Analyze and draw findings from the 2009-10 Massachusetts school discipline data.
  • Identify high-leverage/strategic opportunities for intervention for the coalition.
data source ssdr
Data Source: SSDR
  • Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) School Safety and Discipline Report (SSDR)
  • Lists all REPORTED disciplinary incidents resulting in suspension or expulsion
    • 60,610 incidents in 2009-10
  • 2 Data sets:
    • School, district, grade, offense, punishment, # of school days missed
    • Grade, race, gender, special education status, limited English proficiency status, low-income status, # of school days missed
  • Limitations of the data:
    • Little accountability for reporting
    • Short-term exclusions for unassigned offenses for regular education students not required
    • Incident vs. headcount data
massachusetts school reporting requirements
Massachusetts School Reporting Requirements

Regular Education Students

Special Education Students

Regular Education Students

Offense resulting in suspension of

1 to 10 days:

Offense resulting in suspension of > 10

days or expulsion:

Offense resulting in suspension of

1 to 10 days:

Offense resulting in suspension of > 10

days or expulsion:

OR

OR

  • Serious Offenses
  • Violence
  • Criminal activity
  • Illegal substances

For each incident, school must file:

1. An Incident Report

2. A Student Discipline Record for

each student offender(s) involved

For each incident, school must file:

1. An Incident Report

2. A Student Discipline Record for

each student offender(s) involved

  • Non-Serious/Unassigned Offenses
  • Not involving violence, criminal activity, or illegal substances

Offense resulting in suspension of

1 to 10 days:

Offense resulting in suspension of > 10

days or expulsion:

Offense resulting in suspension of

1 to 10 days:

No reporting required

Offense resulting in suspension of > 10

days or expulsion:

File Student Discipline Record

OR

For each incident, school must file:

1. An Incident Report

2. A Student Discipline Record for

each student offender(s) involved

  • Offenses resulting in:
  • Referrals to the
  • principal’s office
  • Detentions
  • Half-day suspensions

No reporting required

No reporting required

incidents reported 2009 10
Incidents Reported, 2009-10

Special Education Students

Regular Education Students

Offense resulting in suspension of

1 to 10 days:

5,338

Offense resulting in suspension of > 10

days or expulsion:

166

Offense resulting in suspension of

1 to 10 days:

22,599

Offense resulting in suspension of > 10

days or expulsion:

1,021

  • Serious Offenses
  • Violence
  • Criminal activity
  • Illegal substances

Total: 5,504

Total: 23,620

  • Non-Serious/Unassigned Offenses
  • Not involving violence, criminal activity, or illegal substances

Offense resulting in suspension of

1 to 10 days:

23,073

Offense resulting in suspension of > 10

days or expulsion:

78

Offense resulting

in suspension of

1 to 10 days:

Offense resulting in suspension of > 10

days or expulsion:

12

Not required.8,323incidents reported—Actual # likely much higher.

Total:21,151

Total:8,335

Number of

Serious Offenses:

Number of Non-Serious Offenses:

Total # of Incidents:

Number Reported:

Number Reported:

Estimated Numbers:*

5,504 incidents

23,620 incidents 23,620 incidents

23,151 incidents

8,335 incidents 121,847 incidents*

31,995 incidents 145,467incidents*

28,665

*See Appendix D for estimates and methodology

number of disciplinary removals by grade level
Number of Disciplinary Removals by Grade Level

As in past year, disciplinary Removal Used at all Grade Levels;

Rises through Middle School Years and

Peaks at 9th Grade with 13,072 Disciplinary Removals.

number of school days missed
Number of School Days Missed

Half of reported exclusions resulted in 1 day of school missed; 44% or 26,353 incidents resulted in 2-9 days of school missed;

The remaining 6%, or 3,901 incidents, resulted in 10 or more days missed

Together, Massachusetts students missed 199,056 days of schools as a result of disciplinary exclusions

Number of School Days Missed due to Disciplinary Exclusion, Massachusetts (2009-10)

type of disciplinary removals
Type of Disciplinary Removals

Overall, 76% of incidents resulted in out-of-school suspensions.

Referral to alternative settings is used very infrequently.

Type of Disciplinary Exclusion

Massachusetts (2009-10)

(n = 60,610)

Type of Disciplinary Exclusion:

Expulsion vs. Referral to Alternative Setting

Massachusetts, 2009-10 (n = 305)

magnitude of the problem number and type of incidents reported
Magnitude of the Problem: Number and Type of Incidents Reported
  • 60,610 disciplinary exclusionsreported in 2009-10; pre-K to 12th
    • Together,Massachusetts students missed a total of 199,056 days of schoolas a result of disciplinary exclusions…or 1,076 school years.
  • 31,486 of these were for unassigned (non-serious) offenses
  • Actual disciplinary exclusions likely more than double the number of reported disciplinary exclusions
    • 120,000+ incidents, not 60,000
type of disciplinary removal serious vs non serious offenses
Type of Disciplinary Removal: Serious vs. Non-Serious Offenses

Type of Punishment, Serious Offenses

(n = 29,124)

Type of Punishment, Non-Serious Offenses

(n = 31,486)

research objective 4 identifying opportunities for intervention
Research Objective #4: Identifying Opportunities for Intervention
  • Assess the current state of school discipline policies in Massachusetts, including:
    • Federal and state requirements,
    • Variation in district policies subject to the same requirements, and
    • Areas of discretion (what is and what is not zero tolerance).
  • Characterize the nature of zero tolerance in Massachusetts schools.
  • Analyze and draw findings from the 2009-10 Massachusetts school discipline data.
  • Identify high-leverage/strategic opportunities for intervention for the coalition.
framework for reform segmenting offense types
Framework for Reform: Segmenting Offense Types

The Coalition can prioritize low-hanging fruit by segmenting different types of offenses.

slide26

Framework for Reform: Segmenting Offense Types

The Coalition can target its efforts by segmenting the different types of offenses, identifying and prioritizing the “low-hanging fruit,” and developing specific strategies for” Yellow Light” and “Green Light” offenses.

“Red Light” Offenses: Stop! The school discipline

arena is not the place to fight this fight.

“Yellow Light” Offenses: Proceed with caution! This is a critical area, but can be perceived as a slippery slope.

“Green Light” Offenses: Full speed ahead! Reform for unassigned offenses is high-impact and low-risk.

recommendations implementation considerations
Recommendations:Implementation Considerations
  • Recognize the need for disciplinary exclusion as a legitimate strategy for schools in situations that pose a safety threat, and communicate this acknowledgement to stakeholders.
  • Segment offense types into “green light,” “yellow light,” and “red light” offenses.
  • Capitalize on the combination of policy advocacy and grassroots implementation reform.
  • Focus on policy reform at the state and district level, and on implementation reform at the school level.
where are the opportunities for intervention
Where are the Opportunities for Intervention?

Zero Tolerance?

Opportunities for Intervention

Federal

State

District

School

Individual

CPP Public Education Campaign

recommendations opportunities for intervention
Recommendations:Opportunities for Intervention
  • Advocate for expanded reporting requirements.
    • Report on the nature of unassigned offenses
    • Report all unassigned offenses for all students
  • Advocate for state policy change to limit permissible penalties for unassigned offenses.
    • Reserve out-of-school suspensions for most serious offenses
    • Encourage alternative strategies

State Level:

Policy Advocacy for

“Green Light” Offenses

District Level:

Policy Advocacy for

“Green Light” and

“Yellow Light” Offenses

  • Advocate for district to require progressive discipline policies
    • Use and document progressive techniques; exclusion as a last resort
  • Advocate for districts to provide guidelines for non- excludable offenses.
    • Not just what should be grounds for exclusion, but also what shouldn’t
  • Encourage districts to adopt a duel-responsibility philosophy
    • Maintain safety AND keep students in school whenever possible

School Level:

Implementation Reform

for “Green Light” and

“Yellow Light” Offenses

  • Identify “bright spots” and facilitate peer learning opportunities.
    • Build a database of “ambassador schools” that are effectively using alternatives to zero tolerance
    • Facilitate conferences, trainings, and/or online resources
  • Partner with schools to train personnel in alternative approaches.
recommendations opportunities for intervention state level
Recommendations: Opportunities for InterventionState Level

State Level: Policy Advocacy for “Green Light” Offenses

  • Advocate for expanded reporting requirements—Schools should be required to report on the nature of unassigned offenses to ESE (as recommended by the Rennie Center). In addition, school should be required to report to ESE all unassigned offenses resulting in either short-term or long-term disciplinary removal (suspension or expulsion) for regular education students as well as special education students. (See page 15 for current reporting requirements.)
  • Advocate for state policy change to limit permissible penalties for unassigned offenses—Rather than using out-of-school suspensions that remove and disconnect children from school, state policy should encourage half-day in-school suspensions, detentions, or alternative discipline approaches such as restorative justice practices in response to non-serious, unassigned offenses.
slide31

Recommendations: Opportunities for InterventionDistrict Level

District Level: Policy Advocacy for “Green Light” and “Yellow Light” Offenses

  • Advocate for districts to require progressive discipline policies—Work with districts to revise district discipline codes so that they require schools to use and document a sequence of progressive discipline techniques before resorting to suspension or expulsion as a last resort.
  • Advocate for districts to provide guidelines for non-excludable offenses—Work with districts to revise discipline policies so as to provide a list of student behaviors that should not be punished with suspension or expulsion (rather than only listing those offenses that may be punished with suspension or expulsion, as is currently the case).
  • Encourage districts to adopt a dual-responsibility philosophy—Encourage districts to include a “mission statement” in their discipline codes that recognizes schools’ dual responsibility to maintain a safe school environment AND keep students in school whenever possible.
recommendations opportunities for intervention school level
Recommendations: Opportunities for InterventionSchool Level

School Level: Implementation Reform for “Green Light” and “Yellow Light” Offenses

  • Identify “bright spots” and facilitate peer learning networks—Even in a district with perfect discipline policies, it is the implementation of the policy that determines whether a school uses a zero tolerance approach to discipline. There are schools in Massachusetts that are succeeding in exercising their discretion and adopting approaches that keep children in school following behavioral incidents that do not pose a significant threat to school safety. The Coalition should build a database of “Peer Ambassador” schools and facilitate peer learning opportunities, including conferences, trainings, and/or online resources for schools to learn from their peers—particularly those with similar demographic profiles—who are effectively using alternatives to disciplinary exclusion. These could be either one-time events or ongoing networks/relationships.
  • Partner with schools to train personnel in alternative discipline approaches—The Coalition should serve as a resource to encourage and facilitate training opportunities for personnel in schools interested in pursuing alternative discipline approaches.
guidelines for district and school discipline policies
Guidelines for District and School Discipline Policies
  • Adopt a mission statement recognizing the dual imperative of balancing safety for all students with the importance of keeping students in school whenever possible.
  • Emphasize the importance of considering the circumstances of the behavior/incident and whether or not it poses a safety threat before deciding to exclude a student.
  • Require that schools implement and document progressive/alternative discipline strategies before excluding a student. This could take the form of an alternative program or approach, or a more traditional “progressive discipline” approach, such as a parent-teacher conference.
  • Moderate the list of “major” offenses constituting grounds for suspension that are included in the policy (see Boston versus Lowell example).
  • Include a list of offenses that should not result in suspensions—for example, first-time unassigned offenses—and provide guidelines about how to address these behaviors through alternative/progressive discipline strategies.
alternatives to zero tolerance what are they
Alternatives to Zero Tolerance: What are They?
  • “Alternatives”—Working Definition:
  • In the context of zero tolerance, alternatives refers to strategies for managing school discipline that take into account the nuances of student behavior and the situational context. Alternatives often incorporate the following elements:
  • Alternatives recognize that there is a wide range of behavioral issues in schools, and that
  • there is no one-size-fits-all response.
  • Alternatives encourage supportive school climates and positive relationships.
  • Alternatives seek to remediate student behavior while keeping students in school whenever possible.
  • Alternatives to Zero Tolerance DO:
  • Strive to consider the circumstances of each student
  • and behavioral incident, and fit the “punishment”
  • to the crime.
  • Empower schools to customize their discipline
  • practices, while still meeting federal and state
  • requirements.
  • Alternatives to Zero Tolerance DON’T:
  • Erase the need for traditional discipline strategies
  • (suspension, expulsion) in some situations that
  • pose a safety threat.
  • Replace the need for legislative advocacy and
  • policy solutions at the state level.
  • “Alternatives” Can Refer to Multiple Strategies, Including:
  • Ongoing, prevention-focused approaches put in place to support students BEFORE behavioral incidents occur.
  • Alternative methods of remediating inappropriate behavior AFTER behavioral incidents occur.
  • Strategies that combine BEFORE and AFTER elements.
  • Progressive discipline approaches that gradually ratchet up disciplinary responses, seeking to avoid disciplinary
  • removal, but resorting to that strategy if other avenues have been exhausted.
alternatives to zero tolerance where do they fit in
Alternatives to Zero Tolerance: Where do they Fit In?

Types of Intervention

Opportunities for Intervention

School-level: Identify schools that effectively use alternatives; facilitate learning opportunities through conferences, training, and peer-to-peer networks.

District-level: Advocate for inclusion of alternatives in district discipline policies & adoption in school practices

2

Federal

State

District

School

Individual

1

3

Educate the public about alternatives

CPP Public Education Campaign

alternatives to zero tolerance school level approaches
Alternatives to Zero Tolerance: School-Level Approaches

BEFORE INCIDENTS OCCUR

AFTER INCIDENTS OCCUR

  • Characteristics:
  • Ongoing approaches promoting
  • positive school climate, support
  • and relationship building
  • Seek to prevent behavioral
  • issues from escalating
  • Examples: TLPI (Trauma and
  • Learning Policy Initiative) ,
  • PBIS (Positive Behavioral
  • Intervention and Supports)

Traditional Discipline Strategies

Root Causes

Yes

Suspension & expulsion

as strategies to address

situations that pose a

safety threat or cannot

be addressed through

alternative means

Does it pose a safety threat?

Serious Behavioral Incident

Yes

No

Is the incident serious?

Behavioral Incident

Prevention-focused Alternatives

  • Characteristics:
  • After-the-fact remediation
  • strategies
  • Promote relationship-
  • building and student
  • accountability
  • Examples: peace circles,
  • restorative justice
  • Intended Impacts:
  • Keep students in school
  • Reinforce school connection
  • Deter future misbehavior
  • Intended Impacts:
  • Enhance school climate
  • and supportive
  • relationships
  • Decrease occurrence of
  • behavior incidents/
  • offenses

No

Alternative Discipline Strategies

Behavioral Incident

implementation considerations
Implementation Considerations

Implementation Considerations

  • Recognize the need for disciplinary exclusion as a legitimate strategy for schools in situations that pose a safety threat, and communicate this acknowledgement to stakeholders.
  • Segment offense types into “green light,” “yellow light,” and “red light” offenses.
  • Capitalize on the combination of policy advocacy and grassroots implementation reform.
  • Focus on policy reform at the state and district level, and on implementation reform at the school level.