By: Maria Salciccioli, Senior Policy Analyst
Student discipline has been a hot topic in DC lately; Education Chair of the DC Council, David Grosso, proposed legislation that would ban non-violent infractions as a reason for suspension, which would lead to a decrease in school suspensions. He also held a hearing, inviting the public to testify on discipline policy, and roughly 90 witnesses signed up to testify.
In addition to Councilmember Grosso’s proposed legislation, there have been a few public events in DC about student discipline. SBOE Policy Fellow Kit Faiella wrote a blog post about one event at the Center for American Progress (CAP), “In Class Not Cuffs: Rethinking School Discipline.” Ombudsman Joyanna Smith was at the CAP event with Kit and noted that while the conversation was held in DC, none of the speakers or panelists addressed DC’s pending legislation or the multiple hearings Councilman Grosso has held on student discipline. I attended another event at the Fordham Institute entitled “School Discipline Reform: Hard Lessons from the Front Lines.” I was curious to see how this event might compare – would it make more connections to the DC context?
By: Tara Adam, Policy Fellow
On Thursday, June 15, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, sponsored by the Knowledge Alliance, held a lively panel discussion on the topic: Moderated by the President of the think tank, Michael J Petrilli, discussants included: Dale Chu, VP of Policy and Operations at America Succeeds; Dan Goldhaber, Director, CEDR University of Washington & Director, CALDER & Vice President, AIR; Liz Farley-Ripple, Associate Professor of Education and Public Policy, University of Delaware; and Nora Gordon, Associate Professor, McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University.
The discussion opened with a brief synopsis by Mr. Petrilli discussing the recent movement of policy making power and implementation from the federal to state level, as called for by the Every Student Succeeds Act. He noted that state legislatures are now responsible for being catalysts of policy change driven by sound, empirical evidence. In order to exemplify what type of questions policymakers may be asking when driving such changes, Mr. Petrilli designed an interactive group exercise for panelists entitled, “The Wheel of Policy.” When spun, the wheel landed on the topic of teacher licensure. The group proceeded to brainstorm questions to spur conversation. What was the impact of having fifty different state licensure exams and what was the outcome of having an exam that differs significantly from surrounding states? Given the number of questions, it was clear to the panelists and event attendees that the breadth of teacher licensure is significant and can be broken down into a multitude of subtopics.
From here, the discussion moved to understanding the role politics plays in the dynamic interplay between research and policy. The consensus amongst Mr. Chu and Ms. Farley-Ripple was that as policy analysts, they were more inclined to seek out researchers who produced evidence that support their policy claims and beliefs. This in turn prompted Mr. Goldhaber and Ms. Gordon to rebuke and state that it was imperative that the public understands what type of research was informing said policy claims and where and from whom educational institutions and think tanks receive funding from as there is greater potential for underlying evidential biases.
The event concluded with a brief question and answer session. Attendees talked about the impact of international politics on US policy implementation and whether there should be best practice guides for education policy. During closing remarks, Mr. Goldhaber made mention of and commended the efforts by DC Public Schools (DCPS) on being an exemplary model for other states to follow when creating policy that are clearly rooted in empirical evidence. Mr. Petrilli echoed this sentiment and followed up by stating that this practice was also led by charter school management systems. To learn more about the event and watch the replay, click here.