Suspensions in NYC public schools dropped 17% in the 2014-15 school year, according to the latest Department of Education data. This continues the trend of the past four years, which has seen NYC suspensions drop 36% overall.
A message from the Executive Director, 2015 Annual Report.
Back in 2002, punishment was the big trend in education. But it went by other names, like “zero tolerance” and “No Child Left Behind.” NCLB ushered in a brutal new testing regime that was supposed to “hold schools accountable” for student academic success and close the “achievement gap” – yet failed to create the conditions that would make that possible. “Zero tolerance” was supposed to be the answer to school discipline. It led to soaring suspensions and a growing police presence in the schools.
Dear Morningside Center friend,
These are trying times for those of us who are working for a more just and peaceful world.
But at Morningside Center, we have a source of solace that keeps us going: It’s the young people, educators, and parents we work with in public schools, who amaze and inspire us day after day.
Morningside Center Deputy Executive Director Tala Manassah talks about alternatives to suspending kids in early childhood education at the Albert Shanker Institute:
"Suspensions are not only ineffective, they're immoral. A suspension means that we are saying to the kid, 'You are not part of this community anymore. You are not wanted.' If there are kids who are outside the reach of schools, then schools have got to change."
What’s the best way to help young people learn social and emotional skills they can use for the rest of their lives? What’s the impact of social and emotional learning (SEL) programs like ours on students, teachers, and the classroom climate? Morningside Center has been asking these questions and working with researchers to answer them for going on three decades. Our joint quest for understanding has so far resulted in two major scientific studies that have helped us build our SEL programs – and contributed to the growing SEL field.
The questions continue – and so does the research.
Suspensions have "dropped significantly" at Manhattan's Landmark High School, according to principal Caron Pinkus. And there are fewer fights at the school. She credits the restorative practices her school has been implementing through Morningside Center’s Restore360 Program.
Pinkus explains: “When kids have been doing circle all year, they feel part of a community, and they don’t want to disrespect that community by fighting. So there are fewer fights.” What’s more, "the staff is not as quick to suspend, even when something does happen. We’re a lot more conscious about the impact of doing that – and we have other approaches to try.”
We wanted to know: Is Landmark's experience the exception or the rule? Does Restore360 really succeed in reducing suspensions? It's an important question not just for us, but for school districts across the country that are looking for positive alternatives to punitive discipline policies.
So we delved into the NYC Department of Education's suspension data to find the answer.
On July 15, a varied group of educators came together for a Morningside Center workshop aimed at helping “strengthen and sustain our intention to act for climate justice.” Brooklyn biology teacher Michael Sweringen called the gathering “the start of an excellent adventure.”
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