Friday, May 4, 2012

Something to Think About

As easy it is to make fun of Fayette County, a lot of what's wrong with it are really just symptoms of lots of underlying problems. Everyone knows one of those problems is kids in school, whether they're acting out or aren't performing well.

I've heard plenty of horror stories, and I'm sure every person who's ever read this blog could add at least one. The worst part is the horror stories are more often about the parents, not the kids. Parents tell their kids to intentionally fail special education tests because they'll get more welfare money. Parents don't take their kids to school or pick them up because they're already drunk or high or just won't get out of bed. Kids who get some of their best or only meals from school lunches. Pregnant teenagers, some as young as twelve. Kids who are found to be physically or sexually abused.

A Washington high school has tried a new approach to dealing with troubled kids. When there's a problem with a student, the teachers ask what's wrong and what might have prompted the outbursts, and the results have been ridiculously positive.

A lot of people (like my dad) might say that this is babying the kids, not disciplining them, and that they won't learn anything and it's all this new hippy liberal crap that's right up there with putting a stop to bullying. On the surface, maybe it seems like all of those things. But it's working, and it acknowledges the fact that a lot of these kids have severe problems at home--it's actually called toxic stress, and it damages kids' brains to the point they cannot learn.

When these kids do act out, they still face consequences in the form of in-school suspension. Sending them home is either more like a vacation or just keeps them in a toxic environment that's causing their problems to begin with. The most compelling reason to consider this approach, though, is the numbers.
2009-2010 (Before new approach)
  • 798 suspensions (days students were out of school)
  • 50 expulsions
  • 600 written referrals
2010-2011 (After new approach)
  • 135 suspensions (days students were out of school)
  • 30 expulsions
  • 320 written referrals


There's a whole lot that goes into this, too, from the way students and teachers interact in difficult situations to the way they gauge how bad a student's toxic stress is, not to mention the effects of that stress on health. Plus the kids like it and recognize how much they've benefitted from it.

Why not try this at some of Fayette County's more problematic schools?

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