Teach­ers get their fill as classes empty

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS

Black youths are more likely to be sus­pended, kicked out of school or ar­rested than white youths, and all three oc­cur­rences are more pro­nounced in ur­ban school sys­tems, ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics gath­ered by the U.S. Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion’s civil rights of­fice.

The re­port, re­leased last week, took a broad ap­proach, look­ing at 2009-10 schoolyear data in 72,000 schools and in 7,000 school dis­tricts that serve an es­ti­mated 85 per­cent of our stu­dents at­tend­ing kinder­garten through high school.

The dis­ci­plinary facts are nei­ther shock­ing nor dis­turb­ing, as they re­flect both the re­al­ity and the per­cep­tion of the na­tion’s over­all crime rates. But think for a mo­ment. As of­fi­cials march to var­i­ous drum­beats of the school re­form move­ment, who car­ries the heav­ier bur­den?

Our youths, or teach­ers and prin­ci­pals who im­ple­ment zero-tol­er­ance poli­cies tar­get­ing stu­dents?

In re­leas­ing the data, Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Arne Dun­can said, “The un­de­ni­able truth is that the ev­ery­day ed­u­ca­tion ex­pe­ri­ence for too many stu­dents of color vi­o­lates the prin­ci­ple of eq­uity at the heart of the Amer­i­can prom­ise.”

That word “eq­uity” is fully loaded, stok­ing dif­fer­ent thoughts and feel­ings in dif­fer­ent folks.

At first blush, it could mean fewer black kids would be deemed dis­ci­plinary and be­hav­ioral prob­lem kids. Then again, it could mean we’ll start to see more white kids be­ing kicked to curb of the school­house.

Ei­ther way, black and white youths would suf­fer an iden­ti­cal fate: no full-time public school­ing and/or crim­i­nal records.

Since we’re sup­posed to be mov­ing in the other di­rec­tion, a glar­ing omis­sion in the civil rights of­fice’s study ap­pears ob­vi­ous.

What fate do teach­ers and prin­ci­pals suf­fer when they break the very rules hoisted upon their stu­dents?

A D.C. ex­am­ple: A grade school teacher called a stu­dent “dumb” and “stupid,” and his fam­ily is hav­ing on­go­ing dis­cus­sions with the teacher and the school about what hap­pened and pos­si­ble con­se­quences at the school for the boy.

The boy is em­bar­rassed be­cause the name-call­ing oc­curred in front of the class, and his fam­ily is con­cerned be­cause the school has said it does not plan to take any dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against the teacher.

But — and this is a huge BUT — the boy could face sus­pen­sion if he cuts up in class for any rea­son or re­tal­i­ates with un­to­ward be­hav­ior. Work with me. The race, name and lo­ca­tion of the school are ir­rel­e­vant (although I agreed to mask all three, for now).

The point is it’s far eas­ier for schools to draw up do-not-cross lines for stu­dents, while we seem to be in­creas­ingly ac­cept­ing of an ero­sion in teacher ac­count­abil­ity, whether it re­lates to stu­dents’ aca­demic per­for­mance and test scores or teach­ers’ be­hav­ior.

It’s the old do-as-i-say-not-as-i-do men­tal­ity.

Teach­ers are the only ben­e­fi­cia­ries when kids aren’t in school.

Public school teach­ers get paid whether they’re stand­ing be­fore a class­room of 30 stu­dents or only half the class shows up all week long.

Part of the rea­son for that long-stand­ing fi­nan­cial give­away is that school dis­tricts are al­lowed to hold on to money even when the kid no longer shows up for school.

We have an as­ton­ish­ingly high dropout rate — Amer­ica’s Prom­ise Al­liance says an av­er­age of 7,000 stu­dents drop out of high school ev­ery 26 sec­onds — but the cost of school­ing rises each year. What ex­actly is driv­ing up the costs? Salaries. The mo’ money cry needs to be tamped down.

In­deed, it’s time to de­mand mo’ bang for all the big bucks. The feds told us what we al­ready knew. It’s what we don’t know that’s hurt­ing us all.

Why do teach­ers and schools get to keep our money when those 7,000 dropouts — blacks, whites, Asians, In­di­ans and His­pan­ics — are no longer seated in class?

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