Tag Archives: discipline

Movie screening in NK highlights adverse childhood experiences

The impact of negative childhood experiences like experiencing abuse or being placed in foster care is getting a lot of attention these days. So called “adverse childhood experiences” impact a child’s ability to learn, educators are discovering, and there’s a trend toward trying to understand students’ struggles in the context of their ACEs profile.

No one is immune from ACEs. A parents’ divorce, a serious illness, it all adds up. But for some children who’ve had it particularly tough, the cumulative effect is disabling.

North Kitsap School District will host a free screening of “Paper Tigers,” a documentary about the effect of stress on the childhood brain at 6 p.m. Monday at North Kitsap Community Auditorium, 1881 NE Hostmark St.

The film “captures the pain, danger, beauty and hopes of struggling teens—and the teachers armed with new science and fresh approaches that are changing lives for the better,” according to a press release on the district’s website.

After the film, there will be a 30-minute Q&A with Joe Sporleder, retired principal of Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, who pioneered alternative approaches to helping stressed students, including re-thinking how to manage behavior problems. I interviewed Sporleder for our series on discipline, which ran in 2014.

“We are excited to screen this film for our parents, community and staff”, said Associate Director of Learning Support Programs Sonia Barry. “Our area has many children that have Adverse Childhood Experiences which impact their school career and transition to adulthood. We are eager to learn more about trauma-informed care and brain development in order to assist our children to become successful adults. This includes strategies for preventing and de-escalating problem behavior and learning more about ACEs.”

How Winifred Atchison salvaged my education

“Does not work up to her potential.” This was a common theme on my early elementary school report cards.

I was easily distracted, overly sociable and a little bit mischievous, just the kind of kid that puts a snag in every teacher’s stocking.

Day in, day out, I must have worn on Miss Atchison’s nerves, but she never let it show. Winifred Atchison was the quintessential schoolmarm, with sensible black pumps, a wool skirt just below the knee and a cap of leaden curls.

Miss Atchison brooked no nonsense, and I believe I spent more time out in the hallway than in the classroom during my fourth grade year. Our classroom was off a landing, and I can remember my older sister — well behaved, neat, punctual, studious — taking the stairs to the cafeteria with her friends, pretending she didn’t know me.

I was one of two girls in a remedial handwriting class, a fact of which I was probably not sufficiently ashamed. Things haven’t improved much to this day.

I hated math and didn’t get the point of history (too many dates to memorize, so long ago). I lived for recess, PE and lunch.

The one part of the instructional day I came to love was read-aloud time. Right after lunch, Miss Atchison would read to us in her thick Irish accent.

I don’t recall any of the books she read, but I do remember they had a profound effect on me. Lying my head on my arms — which was allowed — I relished the sound of the words and marveled at how they strung together. Miss Atchison could have been reading the phone book in that mellifluous brogue and I’d have been hooked.

Now, some time during the year, someone (not me, probably one of the guys) had brought in a lump of clay that got divvied up, loaves and fishes style, until everyone had a little pinch. Miss Atchison knew about the clay, and allowed us to have it in our desks — the old hinge top kind — as long as we didn’t take it out during class.

One day during read-aloud time, when Miss Atchison’s eyes were on the book, someone sneaked their clay out and started making tiny ramps on the desktop, which was slanted, and a tiny clay ball to roll down the little maze.

I would love to take credit for that bit of brilliance, but I have to say it was probably one of the guys, or Cornelia Adams, who was both artistic and subversive. Pretty soon everyone in class was making clay mazes on their desks.

Miss Atchison quickly became aware of the new trend, but instead of squashing it, lo and behold, she tolerated it. Pretty soon our classroom economy revolved around the clay, which grew in volume like currency, traded for erasers, pencils and pennies. We had a virtual clay Mafia, of which I was not part. But I had my share of the goods, a raquetball-sized wad.

The mazes got bigger, more elaborate. We had unspoken contests for who could keep the little ball rolling the longest. And yet read-aloud time grew utterly quiet; none of the usual wiggling or whispering. Even kids who used to squirm through the stories, settled down and maybe even listened.

My lifelong love of words began with read-aloud hour, a blissful interlude marked by the lilting sound of Miss Atchison’s voice, the softness and earthy smell of clay, and the sight of the little ball rolling, dropping, rolling and dropping.

In the months and years to come, I developed a voracious appetite for reading and also found I was a pretty decent writer. Over months and years, I settled down, knuckled down and became a decent student, and later in life a journalist.

For all this, I credit Miss Atchison, who was old in the 1960s, when I went to elementary school, and is surely dead by now.

Did I ever tell her, “thank you?” I can’t recall. It seemed a given; we loved Miss Atchison and she loved us. She knew what made each of us tick. She knew when to push us and when to indulge our childish sense of play.

Now, that was brilliant.

On Sunday, we’ll hear from this year’s high school graduates about teachers who changed the trajectory of their education, and we’d like to hear from you, too.

Starting today, post your thoughts, memories, photos and videos on the social media platform of your choice with the tag #bestteacher. Our goal is to collect reader responses through Facebook, Twitter and other social media and share them when the story is published online at www.kitsapsun.com.

If you’re using Facebook, make sure we can see the post by following these instructions: Click on the blue drop-down menu to the left of the “Post” button. It reads, “Who should see this?” Click on “Public.” Making your post public will allow it to be included when we aggregate the responses.

Whatever platform you’re using, remember to use the hashtag #bestteacher.

Video of Bremerton teacher shows challenge of classroom management

Note on Feb. 24: My apologies. Due to a coding error, the video did not show up when I posted it. Video should work now. Chris Henry, reporter

Today’s story in our six-part series on student discipline focuses on a Bremerton classroom, where teacher Veda Langford manages her students with a blend of compassion and discipline.

Here’s the video of Langford’s class, which posted on Day 1, in case you missed it.

More on that discipline data

This blog post started out as a reply to readers who commented on today’s story discussing discipline data. The data show discriminatory discipline is a real phenomenon at the local, state and national levels.

My reply got a little lengthy, so I had to put it in the blog.

Vitaeus, you asked, “Is there any research into how many discipline cases are upheld on higher review?” You also were worried about districts being subject to quotas.

Regarding whether cases were upheld, I assume you’re talking about the federal review of complaints of possible civil rights violations in schools. My understanding is that the evidence of discriminatory discipline referred to in the report was based on cases that had been vetted (not those that were unfounded), as well as investigation of school districts’ discipline practices across the nation.

Larry Croix: Yes, it is possible for a snapshot of data to be taken out of context. But the feds have been following this issue for years (as I will elaborate on in part 6 of this series).

None of the many school officials, youth advocates and education policy analysts I talked to denied that discriminatory discipline exists, including Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute (quoted in this story). But Petrilli doesn’t like the idea of sanctions, which he says could drive schools toward a quota-driven approach to reduce suspensions and expulsions.

That seems a valid and fair concern, especially given recent history in districts, like Philadelphia, where school officials tried to reduce suspensions and expulsions without a systematic approach to maintaining control of the classroom. The schools became chaotic and dangerous, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Data from the state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is different from the federal data. It comes from Washington schools’ annual reports in the number of incidents and disciplinary actions (as in the database, above in the story). That gives a snapshot of each district per school year, showing what was the most prevalent reported offense at each. Was it bullying, drugs, fighting without major injury? And so on.

On OSPI’s website, you can also drill down to each school. They are working on making that information easily accessible/ sharable, but when we checked, their “report builder” wasn’t ready for prime time. And we’re talking a ton of data here, so transferring it by hand would have been prohibitive for our staff. We will try to pull that data to our website when it becomes available.

Schools, in the past, also have reported demographic information on race, socioeconomic status and disabilities. As of 2012-2013, they must now show disciplinary action by demographic group.

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is incorporating this new data (not new to the schools) into its public database, which will be out some time this spring, according to the OSPI spokesman I talked to.

What will all this new data do? Going forward, districts and other interested parties can track discipline data by demographic group over the years by district and down to the school level. Hopefully, analysts and the public will look at patterns and not snapshots taken out of context, a concern of one school official I spoke to.

In theory, districts are consistent in their recording and reporting of incidents, but that may not be so, at least yet, according North Mason’s Superintendent David Peterson, whose district had the highest rate of suspensions and expulsions of all local districts in 2010-2013. Peterson says differences in how districts view, record and report offenses can account for at least part of this.

Larry Croix, you make the point that data could be manipulated. School officials and a spokeswoman from the Washington State School Directors association, also were concerned about this, especially given that (in theory) anyone could make their own data report from OSPI’s website. Cherry picking in theory is a possibility, so certainly one would want to consider the source.

The state report referenced in this story analyzed discipline data by demographics for the 2009-2010 school year. Data for the graphic illustration in the newspaper today came from the 2012-2013 school year, analyzed for us by Washington Appleseed, an organization focused on education policy and social justice. Appleseed has a data sharing agreement with OSPI.

The state report, co-authored by data analysts at Washington Appleseed, appears well vetted. Lawmakers considered it heavily in recent legislation addressing discipline that got bipartisan support.

Bottom line, regarding discriminatory discipline, we’re talking about a decade or more of local, state and national data. I talked to dozens of school officials and teachers. Only one denied that discriminatory discipline is a real phenomenon.

Will the data get better as districts become more consistent in their reporting and as the state improves its system of collecting and reporting that data? Hopefully. That’s the idea. This is all a big work in progress.

In the meanwhile, educators are moving forward with “best practices” aimed at helping troubled students while reducing exclusionary discipline.

“I don’t need to know the exact number of students they’re suspending and expelling and the exact rates,” said Linda Mangel of the ACLU of Washington. “We have enough data to know we have a serious problem with racial disparities in discipline in our state.”

But, Mangel added, “The data only tells part of the story.”

You can’t make the assumption of bias in discipline just based on data, she said.

“What data can help us do is identify teachers in schools who may need extra support,” she said.

That will be the topic of tomorrow’s story.

Local officials have argued that solutions to discipline issues are most appropriately found at the district and building level. Tomorrow, we’ll discuss how behavior can get misinterpreted and where some teachers may need support in working with minorities.

Thanks all, for your interest.

Chris Henry, reporter