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Sunday, 17 November 2013

In-School Suspension: A Learning Tool

In-School Suspension: A Learning Tool

While educators agree that keeping suspended students in school is better than having them home unsupervised, schools need more than a room and a teacher for in-school suspension to change behavior. Structured programs that address multiple issues can help students get back to class faster and stay there. Included: Tips for creating successful in-school suspension programs.
As schools strive to keep more students in school, even disruptive ones, in-school suspension programs are seeing more students. But there is a big difference between having an in-school suspension program and having an effective one, educators and researchers said.
"The big plus of an in-school suspension program is that students are still in school, with all the potential for engaging them," said Anne Wheelock, a research associate with the Progress Through the Education Pipeline Project at Boston College's Lynch School of Education. "Suspending students out of school means schools pass up the 'teachable moment' when they can connect with students, build relationships, and communicate that they belong in school.

"Having said that, in-school suspension programs can be little more than window-dressing designed to pull down out-of-school suspension numbers," Wheelock continued. "Poorly conceived and inadequately staffed programs, even though they are better than out-of-school suspensions, may be little more than holding tanks -- just a pro-forma stop on the route to out-of-school suspension or exclusion."


The unappealing idea of students serving out-of-school suspensions roaming their communities during the day, possibly getting into more trouble, prompted some schools to create or expand their in-school suspension programs. In Louisiana, state officials became so concerned about suspended students missing instructional time that the legislature began funding in-school suspension programs.
The Kentucky Department of Education encourages school districts to develop policies that include well-rounded academic offerings for those students who stay in school during suspension.
The most effective in-school suspension programs have components to address students' academic and social needs, educators said, since frequently, suspended students have both academic and behavioral problems.
At the same time, in-school suspension often remains the final step before out of school suspension.
To be an effective learning tool, in-school suspension programs "should be one part of a school-wide strategy for creating and sustaining a positive, nurturing school climate, based on respectful relationships between teachers and students, teachers and teachers, students and students," Wheelock said. "Such a strategy would acknowledge that conflicts of all kinds occur in schools and should be based on a thoughtful set of approaches to resolving conflict and solving problems."
According to Wheelock, characteristics of good ISS programs include:
  • Ways to ensure in-school suspension is appropriate; in-school suspension is unlikely to resolve a truancy or homework completion problem that should be resolved through other means.
  • A term limit; students should not be suspended indefinitely.
  • Problem-solving and/or mediation (including peer mediation) sessions among teachers and students or students and students, which result in written contracts that spell out future expectations.
  • Ensuring students come to the program with academic assignments to complete.
  • Professionals to staff the program, such as a teacher who can assess students for unidentified learning difficulties, assist in assignment completion, and by a counselor who can explore root causes of problems, refer students to community services, and engage with parents.


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