MODESTO — Modesto City Schools is paying the price for kicking too many special-education kids out of school for discipline problems. But the district decided to tackle suspensions and expulsions districtwide, working to bring consistency to a hodgepodge of services and uneven enforcement.
At its meeting tonight, the board will hear an update on student discipline with a focus on ethnicity.
The state notified Modesto City Schools in July that the number of children with disabilities disciplined and of white children identified as emotionally disturbed were too far outside the norm. Regulators mandated corrective action, projected to cost $800,000 this year.
A dry-erase board covered with notes on different intervention ideas and efforts used throughout the district covers one wall in the office of Associate Superintendent Ginger Johnson. She's working on consistency, she said.
District figures show suspensions for all races are dropping. Total suspensions are on track to fall about 20 percent from 2011-12, when there were 2,052 elementary suspensions and 3,697 from junior high and high schools. Students can be suspended multiple times during a school year.
Expulsions, where kids usually leave for the rest of the year, also dropped, from 20 elementary students two years ago to 10 this year, and from 204 tweens and teens through 2010-11 to 39 in the first half of this year.
Black students are the most likely, by far, to lose school days over discipline issues, the district figures show. In the upper grades, they were suspended at three times the rate of white students, comparing number of incidents to enrollment. Latino students were also more likely to face suspension than whites.
Suspensions of two weeks or more for special-education students also dropped significantly: to 13 in the first half of this school year, compared to full-year counts of 92 in 2010-11 and 71 in 2011-12.
The report for trustees details what's been done districtwide to improve how schools manage and prevent behavior problems.
An alternative to suspensions is offered to students with parent support. The program works with Stanislaus County probation and addiction recovery services and the Modesto Police Department. Of the 28 students who started the program, nine failed to finish and six are still working on it, the report notes. Of the 13 who completed the sessions, it says, only one has reoffended.
Efforts also ramped up this year to prevent discipline problems from starting, the report says:
All elementary schools are training kids to be PeaceBuilders. The program works to develop social skills among young children with lessons to be nice, play fair and give praise.
Staff training in Schoolwide Positive Behavior Supports is in place at 11 schools, paid for by a state grant, with 12 more expected to finish this year.
Some 100 teachers took a course in classroom management, getting strategies to keep kids on task.
The Modesto City Schools board will meet at 6 p.m. in the staff development center, 425 Locust St. The agenda is posted at http://bit.ly/MCSmeetings.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2339, and on Twitter, @NanAustin.
MODESTO CITY SCHOOLS WATCH
Other items on the agenda for Monday:
HIGH SCHOOL BOUNDARIES: The board will consider shifting students from Beyer to Davis and from Enochs to Johansen and Beyer. Final vote on the shift is planned for Feb. 4.
ENOCHS POOL: Trustees will be asked to move ahead on building the pool and hire an architect, though full funding is not yet in place. Initial cost is estimated at $260,000 out of a projected budget of $3.5 million, with construction to finish by spring 2015.
ENOCHS ISSUES: In a cryptic agenda item, Patrick McGrath will address the board "regarding the handling of certain events at Enochs High between Aug. 20 and September 2012." No details were given.
FINANCES: A chance to save $89,890 over four years on $2.5 million remaining in 2001 certificates of participation will be up for a vote. The board will consider pacts with support staff, managers and associate superintendents to reinstate the three furlough days already in place for teachers. The outside audit for 2011-12 will be discussed; no findings, but tighter controls on student body accounts were recommended.