February 7, 2014
CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett today announced that the implementation of the 2012 Student Code of Conduct (SCC) has led to an unprecedented 36 percent drop in school suspensions since the School Year 2010-2011 (SY 10-11). After recognizing that too many students were being suspended and expelled due to a zero-tolerance policy that had once been the District standard, CPS worked to develop a code of conduct that encouraged teachers, principals and school officials to develop alternative strategies and options for dealing with disciplinary issues. CPS will now build on this plan through a comprehensive strategy to further reduce out-of-school suspensions.
“We know that suspensions cut into instructional time, and keep our students out of the classroom,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “The Student Code of Conduct that we implemented brought great results – a 36 percent decline in suspensions – and gave our students the support they needed while keeping them in school and learning. We will now expand on this work to further enhance and build the program and ensure that our students are given every opportunity to learn the problem-solving and relationship-building skills that are critical for success both inside and outside of the classroom.”
The District has been working toward a more equitable approach to student discipline since 2012, when it amended its SCC to put a greater focus on corrective and instructive practices to reduce out-of-school suspensions and expulsions. Strict discipline codes historically resulted in the loss of instructional time and negatively impacted student attendance, as well as academic achievement and the overall school climate.
Those changes have had a big impact. Restorative justice practices and a focus on building positive learning climates in high schools have contributed to a 23 percent drop in out-of-school suspensions between SY 10-11 (46,803) and last year (36,046). That trend has accelerated in School Year 2013-2014 (SY 13-14), with 14,587 out-of-school suspensions through the end of January, representing a 36 percent drop from the same time period in SY 10-11.
The expansion and enhancement of the Student Code of Conduct calls for expanding restorative justice practices among schools, and working with community partners and parents to promote healthy school climates that will give students the support necessary to be successful in college, career and in life.
To further the District’s work to reduce suspensions and expulsions, Byrd-Bennett has assembled a steering committee that will serve as a cross-functional team that develops the resources, capacity and policies to keep students in the classroom. The committee will incorporate these five strategies:
- Revising the SCC: This process will include a review of when suspensions are permitted to ensure a primary focus on keeping students in an active learning environment.
- Enhancing Accountability Systems: CPS continues to update its data systems to allow schools and networks to more easily track, access and analyze behavior and suspensions data.
- Continue Development of Effective Resources to Support Staff and Parents: Building off best practices locally and around the country, the District will provide stronger guidance (e.g., an Alternatives to Suspension Toolkit) to support schools in preventing inappropriate behavior and utilizing effective responses to misbehavior. These resources will assist principals and teachers in the use of targeted interventions during the school day and also provide parents with information on how to further support their children’s success at home.
- Increasing Professional Development to Expand Best Practices: CPS will engage principals, teachers, deans, and other key stakeholders in identifying potential root causes and solutions to effectively address schools’ needs, and the district will use this input to shape a more comprehensive approach to professional development district-wide.
- Citywide Collaboration to Support Success: The District is committed to working with parents, community groups, the Chicago Teachers Union, elected officials, and faith-based leaders, to further its work to reduce suspensions and expulsions. Project NIA, an advocacy organization focused on eliminating the school to prison pipeline, is helping ensure consistency and transparency in application of disciplinary action and will partner with CPS to hold community forums to gather citywide input.
CPS is asking its charter partners to join its “Chicago Collaborative for Supportive School Discipline”, a District-wide effort to establish more consistent and supportive discipline policies to ensure safe, welcoming school climates. For the first time, the District is making available to charter operators some of the same “alternatives to expulsion” intervention programs, such as SMART, that have dramatically reduced expulsions in District-managed schools. CPS is also creating a preference for charter operators in the approval or renewal process when they develop Student Codes of Conduct that more closely align with the District’s.
These efforts align with pillar two of the District’s 5-Year Action Plan, calling for systems of support that meet our students’ needs. Providing a safe learning environment will allow our students to make better choices, and to learn skills necessary to graduate 100-percent college-ready and 100-percent college-bound.
Chicago Public Schools serves 400,000 students in 658 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.