February 26, 2014
CHICAGO —Chicago Public Schools (CPS) today is further strengthening its Suspension and Expulsion Reduction Plan (SERP) with the release of an outreach plan that will engage parents, stakeholders and community partners to build on progress the district has made to decrease suspensions. An important step in communicating the plan involved releasing detailed suspension and expulsion data on its website, which brings greater transparency and increased accountability as the District works toward a goal of keeping students connected to their school communities and developing alternative methods to deal with disciplinary issues. The new data can be found on the District’s schools performance page: www.cps.edu/performance.
“Releasing our suspension and expulsion data is an important step in this process to develop better school climates and a more equitable approach to student discipline,” said CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “The next phase of our work includes engaging community and strategic partners to work in tandem with us to strengthen professional development around social-emotional learning for students, helping ensure that our students graduate 100-percent college ready and 100-percent college bound.”
Under the leadership of CEO Byrd-Bennett, CPS has continued to move away from the District’s zero-tolerance approach, believing that overly punitive practices negatively impact school environments and lead students to drop out of the system altogether. Byrd-Bennett and CPS leadership understand that when students aren’t in class they miss out on valuable learning time. Strengthening that connection to school is critical as attendance is eight times more predictive of course failure in the freshman year than test scores, according to a study by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research.
The District- and school-level data released today highlights the effectiveness of restorative justice practices and building positive learning climates. At the high school level, there has been 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 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.Out-of-school suspensions among elementary students are also on a downward trend in SY13-14, dropping 25 percent compared to the first semester last year (from 14,220 to 10,546).
CPS has been working toward a more equitable approach to student discipline since 2012, when it amended its Student Code of Conduct (SCC) to put a greater focus on restorative and instructive practices. This renewed effort aims to further reduce out-of-school suspensions and expulsions, particularly for African-American students.
For far too long in Chicago, and in large urban school districts across the country, African-American students have faced higher rates of suspensions and expulsions compared to their Hispanic and white classmates. CEO Byrd-Bennett is committed to reducing that disparity with a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach:
- Making additional revisions to the SCC to reduce the subjectivity in the language that contributes to African-American students being suspended at higher rates than their peers.
- Providing stronger supports for principals, teachers and students by training staff on classroom management and restorative discipline practices that offer alternatives to suspensions. Also maximizing programs already in place that target African-American students, such as BAM and MATCH, which emphasize youth leadership and positive behavior to reduce misconduct.
- Creating awareness and holding schools and their principals accountable through data transparency and by delivering targeted supports where they are needed most.
- Engaging with external partners, such as Project NIA and representatives in the juvenile justice system, to ensure best solutions are brought forward.
“Making this data available for all to see allows us to have an honest conversation about how punitive discipline practices are affecting our children,” said Mariame Kaba, director of Project NIA, a Chicago-based advocacy organization focused on eliminating the school-to-prison pipeline. “That’s everybody’s goal. How do we achieve the kind of improvements we need to keep kids in school, engaged, and out of the prison pipeline?”
Starting in March, CPS will gather more input on the SERP by engaging with staff, families, and community partners citywide through a series of focus groups and community meetings. The goal is to bring a revised Student Code of Conduct to the Board in June and to begin large-scale professional development by summer.
CPS’ charter partners have pledged to be a part of this process, joining a “Chicago Collaborative for Supportive School Discipline”, a District-wide effort to establish more consistent and supportive discipline policies. For the first time, the District is making available to charter operators some of the same “alternatives to expulsion” intervention programs, such as SMART – which integrates family participation into targeted teaching sessions around character building and conflict resolution – that have dramatically reduced expulsions in District-managed schools. Charters will also be asked to report their expulsions and suspensions publicly to ensure the transparency is consistent across all District schools.
To incentivize charter participation, CPS will create a preference for charter operators in the approval or renewal process when they develop Student Codes of Conduct that emphasize instructive, corrective and restorative responses to misbehavior.
"The charter community is committed to creating school environments that are conducive to learning while also working diligently to reduce suspensions and expulsions,” said Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. “We all have an obligation to do what we can to keep students in school. We look forward to working with CPS to identify solutions that ensure all students, no matter what kind of school they choose, are getting rich educational experiences and remain connected to their school communities.”
Chicago Public Schools serves 400,000 students in 658 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.