No Quick Fixes or Simple Solutions

The National Clearinghouse on Supportive School Discipline Launches with Actionable Resources to Support Educational Practitioners and Advocates

David Osher, is Vice President, AIR Institute Fellow and Senior Advisor to the Health and Human Development Program at The American Institutes for Research. David is a nationally recognized expert on creating safe school environments and serves as Principal Investigator for the National Clearinghouse on Safe Supportive School Discipline.

On February 27, 2013, I testified before the U.S House of Representatives’ Education and Workforce Committee and cautioned that there are no quick fixes or simple solutions to addressing safety issues like the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Connecticut. I discussed an American Institutes for Research (AIR) audit of Cleveland city schools that I led following a 2007 shooting in which a 14-year-old who had been suspended for fighting, returned to his school – staffed with a security guard – shot two teachers and two students, and then took his own life.  Our audit found that the conditions for learning in the school district were generally poor. Disciplinary practices were harsh and reactive, both students and staff felt unsafe, and student support services were fragmented—driven by adult desire rather than student need.

However, Cleveland city, school, and teacher union leaders were committed to affecting change for its school community. By adopting AIR’s recommendations to implement student centered policies such as transforming punitive in-school suspension to planning centers to which students can self-refer and learn self-discipline, Cleveland realized remarkable improvements district wide. For instance, out-of-school suspensions decreased by 58.8 percent, the average number of incidents of disobedient and disruptive behavior decreased from 131.8 to 73.9, and the average number of cases involving fighting or violence on school grounds went from 54.5 to 36.4 percent.

Cleveland provides a tangible example of what is possible—even in hard times and under less than ideal circumstances. Research and our work in Cleveland have consistently shown that students and teachers perform better when schools:

  • focus on student self-discipline, not external punishment;
  • promote healthy behaviors not suppress unhealthy ones;
  • prevent problem behaviors rather than focus on punishment;
  • build connections with students, not remove them from the school community; and
  • coordinate services systematically, not add services piecemeal.

The New National Clearinghouse on Supportive School Discipline

Creating such an environment in schools takes hard, sustained, and collaborative work but it is work that schools should not have to do on their own. Today, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) launches the National Clearinghouse on Supportive School Discipline (NCSSD) website to support educational practitioners in their efforts to transform the conditions contributing to tragic school shootings as well as harsh, exclusionary and disproportionate disciplinary practices.

In addition to a blog that features perspectives on school discipline policies and practices, news and events related to school discipline reform, and resources to help practitioners choose behavior management interventions strategically, the new NCSSD website is home to:

  • An Interactive Resource Map. The map provides information on national, state and local agencies and organizations with which site visitors can connect such as The Collaborative for Social and Emotional Learning, and the Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, and the National Registry of Evidence Based practices.
  • An Interactive Reference Guide. The guide illuminates common terminology used in the field so that practitioners working across settings can better understand each other on key topics related to school discipline such as the pipeline to prison, restorative practice and disproportionate minority contact.
  • Harsh and Exclusionary Discipline Risk Ratios. The site houses our analyses of restricted-use national and state level school discipline data collected by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights to determine which racial and ethnic minority groups are most likely to be subjected to exclusionary disciplinary actions. We generated a risk ratio graph for the nation and each state that illustrates the likelihood or odds that a member of a specific racial or ethnic group will be subjected to one or more disciplinary actions compared to White students while taking into account school enrollment rates.
  • Guiding Principles Tip Sheet. Guiding Principles: A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline, released in 2014 by the U.S. Department of Education, draws on emerging research and best practices to describe three key principles and associated action steps that can help guide state and local efforts to improve school climate and school discipline. This tip sheet lists resources to support the adoption of these principles.

We welcome your feedback, your questions, and your recommendations. Is the site user-friendly? Are we missing vital content? Do you have a resource you would like for us to post on our website? Interested in being a guest blogger? Would you like us to post an upcoming event hosted by your organization? Contact us at NCSSD@air.org.

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