An Illustration of a Problem in K-12
Occasional OTBer Chris Lawrence notes the following via his FB feed from The Telegraph (in Macon, GA): Teachers: Frustrations over student discipline widespread
Some Bibb County public school teachers say discipline problems have become so widespread that teachers feel victimized twice — once by disruptive students who go unpunished, and again by the administrators who blame teachers.
Some of them expressed fear of being fired if central office administrators learned that they had discussed this pressure.
One staff member said there had been implied threats to revoke teaching certifications for those who were unable to deal with discipline problems “using alternative methods,” the report stated.
In some cases, teachers have said they even felt they would be blamed for violence against them.
Nova Bruss, who retired this summer from Westside High School, said, “We were told if a student tried to leave your classroom, not to stand in the door because if they pushed you out of the way, that was your fault.”
Or if a teacher tried to confiscate a student’s cell phone “and they opposed you physically, that would be your fault,” she said.
Georgia law expressly gives teachers the authority to remove a student from class who “repeatedly and substantially interferes” with a teacher’s ability to teach. The law states, “Each school principal shall fully support the authority of every teacher in his or her school to remove a student from the classroom.”
But some teachers say the law is not being carried out in Bibb County.
Bruss said she felt that when two assistant principals at Westside tried to start the last school year with high standards for student behavior, they got in trouble for having “too many” students in in-school suspension or disciplinary hearings.
The striking thing here is that perhaps the most important contribution that the administrators in a school can provide to the overall educational mission of a school is to deal with problem students. However, if the administrators are either unwilling or unable to do so, then they are failing the teachers and the students. The problem is that discipline is hard, and so the pressure is to push the problem down onto the classroom teachers. Of course, in so doing, the other students suffer. Every minute used to discipline other kids in the class is a minute not being used for instruction.
Now, one cannot make a blanket statement about all K-12 in terms of whether administration is failing on this count. However, I think this case does provide an illustration of a key issue for those wanting to understand an aspect of the problem in universal education.
Note, too, that problems like this are lessened in a private school setting (or, even magnet schools in a public system) because such schools do not have to tolerate problem children. As such, vouchers don’t, ultimately, solve the problem.