May 21, 2018 - In This Issue:

Since we last wrote, we've been working hard with many districts as they revise their discipline policies and practices to address disparities and other concerns. See below for what teachers and counselors are doing at one school in Anchorage, Alaska. We also offer links to useful online resources on codes of conduct and social and emotional learning. And we highlight a report that points out the continuing importance of federal guidance on school discipline.

As the school year winds down, we wish you a restorative summer, and look forward to reconnecting in the fall. 
Best wishes, 
Lucy Patton
Engage! Newsletter Editor

Helping students reset at
Wendler Middle School

Occasionally we like to share news of schools where we work. Here's some of what Wendler Middle School in Anchorage, Alaska has been doing to address behavior issues and support students.
Teachers and counseling staff at Wendler have instituted new practices as they shift to a supportive and restorative school culture, with Engaging Schools' help. Over the last two-plus years, teachers have been using a new student support process. Teacher teams identify students with serious unwanted behaviors and create a "worry list." Weekly, each team chooses a student from the list to focus on. The team's first step is a tightly constructed 12-15 minute conference about the student to analyze and define the problem and create an action plan to support the student. Progress monitoring follows. The aim is to identify and provide supports for students of concern early, equitably, and effectively.  
At the beginning of this year, the school created a behavior intervention center called the "Ram Reset Zone" (RRZ), named after Wendler's mascot. Students who exhibit behaviors that warrant their removal from class or are experiencing significant distress are sent (or ask to go) to the RRZ for a conference with a trained staff member who helps them cool down and discuss the problem. In most cases, staff members coach students in making a plan for re-entry. Returning to class with a plan can help the student repair their good standing. This may take the form of an apology or other restorative action.  
These two strategies are becoming models in the district. Educators from three other schools have observed the processes in action to inform decisions about instituting similar structures at their schools.    
Webinar: Revising codes of conduct for more equitable school discipline  
Our senior consultant, Carol Miller Lieber, recently presented a webinar entitled "Improving School Discipline Outcomes and Reducing Exclusion and Disproportionality through Code of Conduct Revision" in partnership with the AASA, the superintendents' association. Also on the panel were the superintendent and the chief ombuds/student support officer of the Syracuse City School District. They addressed ways that districts can assess and revise their codes as a foundational step in achieving more equitable discipline policies. The webinar has been archived on this page on AASA's site, and can be played without logging in.
"Learning is social and emotional" 
The Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development ha s announced a new blog to be hosted by Education Wee k called " Learning is So cial and Emotional ." The blog will be curated by the National Commission and will feature posts from educators, community leaders, and researchers who want to add their perspective on how learning happens. The blog is here. (Note: you can see three free articles per month by registering; beyond that, a subscription is necessary.) And you can submit your own entries to the blog by emailing LearningIsSocialAndEmotional@gmail.com.

Government Accountability Office findings support Obama-era federal guidance on school discipline 
Last month, Congress's Government Accountability Office reported on a study that found that black students, boys, and students with disabilities continue to be disciplined at US schools more often and more harshly than other students.

This calls into question claims made by the Department of Education under Betsy DeVos that policies dating to 2014 regarding school discipline need to be re-examined and potentially rescinded.

The New York Times wrote, "The G.A.O. found that not only have black students across the nation continued to bear the brunt of such policies, but the effects were also felt more widely than previously reported - including by black students in affluent schools." The report also refutes claims that the 2014 guidance forced schools to cut suspensions and imposed new mandates.

The findings are likely to bolster arguments for preserving the 2014 guidance and undercut claims that the Obama-era guidance has resulted in federal overreach and a decline in school safety.  
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