Counting disciplinary measures such as suspensions and expulsions is an incentive for schools to less discipline students, said Senator Jeff Mullis, who pioneered a bill to remove the metric from the Georgian school climate formula. Ross Williams / Georgia recorder
The number of suspensions and expulsions a school is handing out could be removed from the formula to determine an important school ranking if a powerful GOP lawmaker finds its way.
Counting disciplinary measures as part of the formula gives school officials incentives to impose fewer sentences, Chickamauga Republican Jeff Mullis said at a Senate Education Committee meeting Monday.
“We don’t really believe that they actually discipline students. They refuse to keep their score low, we see that, ”he said. “And by not allowing it to be part of their scoring, we think that discipline will actually be more strategic and traditional.”
The number of suspensions and evictions a school hands out per student weighs 25% of the score in the annual school climate star rating, along with factors such as attendance, bullying, drug use, and parent, teacher, and staff surveys. The assessment is part of a school’s College and Career Ready Performance Index, a key factor in determining which schools are eligible to become one of the state’s turnaround schools and receive additional support and oversight from the state.
Mullis is the author of a bill that will remove student discipline from the formula that schools use to get their 1- to 5-star rankings. He chairs the rules committee, the porter who decides which bills make it to the Senate.
Mullis provided an example of a school where a fight could break out and school officials might be tempted to punish students for pushing and pushing injuries rather than fighting. Pushing and pushing has a lower penalty and would count less for your score.
But how often schools suspend and deport students is relevant to the climate, said Sen. Elena Parent, a Democrat from Atlanta.
“The reason these things were collected in the first place is that there is a lot of research and data that shows how discipline is practiced and that the culture around discipline really matters in school, and strict discipline like the suspension and exclusion really has serious consequences that we need for further research, ”she said.
Education attorney Michael Waller agrees. He is the executive director of the Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, a non-profit organization focused on Georgia students. Keeping track of how students are breaking rules is an important step in determining the causes of their behavior, he said.
“You want to focus on the community, the school community, you don’t just focus on the individual child, and if you look at these discipline numbers, schools can see what is going on in the community,” he said.
Mullis’ law does not prevent schools from reporting disciplinary measures. It just prevents the violations of their score from being counted, he said.
“We still want to be reported, but to overcome that determination so that the college and career readiness index isn’t compromised, but hopefully the discipline gets even better,” he said.
Discipline is a big problem in Georgia schools, Senator Lindsey Tippins said. However, it is important to monitor disciplinary actions to make sure they are balanced so the public can know what is going on in their schools.
“I’m in a position where I could argue both sides of the bill because I think both sides are right and I don’t know what the solution is,” Tippins said.
Tippin’s crux is how to ensure that members of the public can access a school’s disciplinary data when it is no longer part of the ranking. A family choosing a new home deserves timely access to see how often children face disciplinary action in local schools, he said.
“I would say the solution is to define in this bill how we will change it, what will be available, where it will be available and when it will be available,” he said.
The committee unanimously voted to make changes to determine how schools would provide their disciplinary information. The revised version could be considered Wednesday.
However, the Georgia Department of Education’s request for a new mechanism to publish data on school disciplines would only make it more difficult for parents to find the information, Waller said.
“They will put an extra regulatory burden on the Department of Education and create a different label or mechanism to disseminate that information,” he said.
“We’re all together, we’re a community, and we should try to find ways to bring those numbers down,” he added. “And if some school districts aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing about reporting, the solution is not to stop reporting them, but to enforce the existing rule and find the reasons schools don’t report, and them provide with support to help them. “