Behind the Headline: How Do We Help Our Least Motivated, Most Disruptive Students?

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How Do We Help Our Least Motivated, Most Disruptive Students?
6/1/15 | Washington Post

Behind the Headline
Charters Can Do What’s Best for Students Who Care
12/15/2014 | Education Next blog

In his new book Ain’t Nobody Be Learnin’ Nothin’: The Fraud and the Fix for High-Poverty Schools, Caleb Stewart Rossiter argues that

weak effort or disruption should never result, as it often does today, in suspension and then return to the same class, but rather in separation from the students who are working hard, with intense remediation intended to allow a new start in a new class the next quarter.

In a review in the Washington Post, Jay Mathews is critical of Rossiter’s approach

He wants more and better social workers for the disruptive, more and better teachers for the slow and unmotivated. But he cites no examples of this working well with such students. In a typical school, those classes would likely become zoos or jails. Very few sane teachers would take such an assignment. Few school boards — or judges — would sanction such remedial cesspools.

Mathews concludes, “Urban children ready to learn should not be forced to suffer from standards lowered for others, but what to do with the bottom group is a tough call. Any ideas?”

On the Education Next blog, Mike Petrilli has argued that “we shouldn’t allow disruptive students to hold their classrooms hostage.” He writes

For eons, excellent schools have found smart ways to create order that need not require large doses of punitive sanctions. It’s part art, part science, and comes in many flavors, but generally amounts to creating a climate of respect for students and teachers alike; setting clear behavioral expectations schoolwide and enforcing them consistently; and using a set of graduated consequences for misbehavior that work to correct problems before they get out of hand…

…both parents and educators flock to schools with strong, positive climates and a sense of order. Once upon a time that often meant urban Catholic schools, with their school uniforms and ample supply of tough love. Increasingly it means urban charter schools, many of which are secular forms of the Catholic schools of old.

Because these are schools of choice, they have many advantages, including that everyone is there voluntarily. Thus they can make their discipline codes clear to incoming families (and teachers); those who find the approach too strict can go elsewhere.

—Education Next

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