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Suspension Rates Drop At Nearly Half Of California School Districts

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Classroom (Photo by hxdbzxy via Shutterstock)
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Suspension rates are down in almost half of all California school districts, according to data collected last month by the California Department of Education's new California School Dashboard evaluation tool.

A trial version of the tool found that nearly 45% of districts lowered suspension rates between the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, reports EdSource. Suspension data from 2015-16 will be included when the dashboard is officially implemented in all California schools this fall.

Dr. Earl R. Perkins, Associate Superintendent, Division of District Operations for the Los Angeles Unified School District, told LAist that the LAUSD is "very pleased" with the lowered suspension rate, noting that it came about largely as a result of giving teachers increased resources for disciplinary interventions as opposed to simply sending students home.

"A child should not be sent home for not having their homework," said Dr. Perkins, noting that the new system of logging all disciplinary interventions in the California School Dashboard system has created greater accountability for teachers and administrators.

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Perkins also attributed some of the new program's success to the implementation of what he calls "culture climate changers." These include credentialed former teachers, counselors and restorative-justice experts who work directly with students and educators to defuse disruptive behavior in the classroom, teach empathy training and build relationships within the community.

There are 65 "culture climate changers" working in elementary, middle and high schools across the LAUSD school system during the 2016-17 school year, and Dr. Perkins hopes to increase that number as the program continues to reap benefits.

Although California school suspensions are down across the board, black students are still disproportionately targeted for suspension, the L.A. Times reports. Figures from the Brookings Institution indicate that although black students made up only 6% of California's public school enrollment in 2015, they faced a suspension rate of 17.8%, compared with 5.2% for Hispanic students, 4.4% for white students and 1.2% for Asian students.

Dr. Perkins, who helped implement former President Barack Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" program to improve the educational future of Latino and African-American boys, hopes the California School Dashboard system will provide tools to help address racial disparity in suspension rates. "The program allows us to ensure that students, parents, teachers and administrators are all speaking the same language and that discipline is the same across all Los Angeles school districts," said Perkins, adding, "We're currently in baby steps with the new system, but soon we'll be running."