Thursday, January 13, 2011

Go to the Office!

I've spent the majority of my week attending in-service trainings. Boyfriend summed it up best: "I bet you're thrilled to be sitting through more courses after graduating, huh?" You have no idea. I went into the week with a rather whiny, grumpy attitude, but in actuality, the in-services have not only been useful, but interesting.

The major themes of the trainings were cultural awareness/sensitivity, academic trending, and disproportionality in education and discipline. We discussed a lot of issues regarding race and ethnicity, and how it affects how we interact with/teach our students and how the students learn.

Before we broke for lunch today, we had "Team Time" where we discussed Patterns in Office Referral Data by Grade, Race/Ethnicity, and Gender by Kaufman, Jaser, Vaughan, Reyonds, et. al. (2010). The authors examined the office referral data for an urban school district. All males were found to be written up more than females, especially for external behaviors, such as physical aggression. Females have their own relational aggression that's going on, of course, but because males behaviors are more observable (i.e. more fighting and less bullying), they tend to be written up more often than females. The article also reiterated the disproportionality that black males experience when being written-up for behavior problems.

The most interesting and important part of the article, personally, was that the results showed a pattern in types of office discipline referrals across grade levels that related highly to the developmental level of the students being referred. Huh? What does that mean you ask?
  • Elementary school students had more referrals for acts of aggression (fighting, verbal, and physical threats). This is the developmental time that students are trying to make friendships and establish relationships.
  • Middle school students had more referrals for acts of disrespect (use of profanity and disrespect towards adults). This is the developmental time that students are working toward identity development and autonomy.
  • High school students had more referrals for attendance issues (skipping class and leaving the building without permission). This is the developmental time that students are trying to increase their independence.
I definitely see this pattern in my building. Although we only have students PreK-8, I definitely see more referrals for younger students getting into physical altercations (biting, hitting, slapping) and for middle school students mouthing off or using severe inappropriate language towards staff. I think that more research needs to be done to establish if this pattern is being seen elsewhere in the nation, but it's an interesting theory!

Cool, so what do we do with that? As a table, we discussed the need for teachers to be re-taught about children's developmental levels and what's "going on" at each age. If you're like me, you had that information in Psych 101 or in a child development class, frantically memorized all of Erikson's Developmental Stages, Freud's Psychosexual Stages, etc, and either filed it into the dark recesses of your mind or promptly forgot it. Having a booster review for staff will be the first step in helping them to effectively address the behaviors. The mantra in my building, and probably in others, is that the staff needs to both be taught how to deal with problem behaviors effectively (instead of just sending the student to the principal--real effective), but also how to teach the student to perform correct behaviors.

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