Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Chalkbeat: There May Be Fewer Suspensions. Or More. Or the Same Number.

That's the sense I get from this mystifying article in Chalkbeat. The headline asks whether schools are underreporting suspensions, but doesn't really answer. It starts with a whole bunch of caveats. For one thing, the report comes from the reformy Fordham Institute. I'm not at all sure how reliable they are, or whether they're grinding one axe or another here. For another, the actual results are confusing. It suggests underreporting could be an issue.

That finding, however, comes with important caveats: The survey includes 1,200 teachers across the country, including over 200 in New York City, but the question about unreported suspensions was limited to a smaller subset of 92 city educators, making that specific finding less robust.

That's a pretty small sample of NYC teachers. I'd say "less robust" is an understatement. 

Many educators said suspensions had not declined in their school, and so weren’t included in this aspect of the survey. 

How many is "many?" That's a pivotal question, especially when your conclusions are derived from such a small sample. Another question, which evidently eluded both the Chalkbeat reporter and the Fordham Institute, is how the hell do teachers even know how many suspensions are happening in their schools? Does the principal hang up a sign? Does he place a number in email messages? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say no, absolutely not.

So do teachers just get a vibe? I feel like there are more, fewer, or the same number of suspensions in my school? I'm the chapter leader of a very large school and I haven't really got my eye on suspensions, except when they involve issues brought to me by members. Only recently, after the latest contract, has security been required to share stats with me, Even so, what do I compare them to? 

I have to question how many teachers really know about this. You'd think that would be the reporter's job, but reporters are still publicly asking whether or not Trump is racist. We may as well debate whether water is wet.

It's an important question, actually. Back in the bad old days of Bloomberg, incident reporting was problematic, to say the least. Klein made a big thing out of reporting incidents, claiming he wanted transparency, but then ran around closing schools that complied. It's more than likely that was the death knell for Jamaica High School. My school survived, but who knows whether or not my principal reported everything? Not me. 

For my money, this Chalkbeat report ranks with the one when E4E sent them a hundred signatures supporting more work for less pay, or whatever they were pontificating about that week. (For the record, I wrote Chalkbeat, asked them if they'd publish something I got a hundred signatures for. I got a hundred signatures asking for better treatment of ELLs. It took me half an hour.  A Chalkbeat reporter contacted me, and they did nothing with it.)

There's a bright side, for me at least. It's tough finding things to write about in the summer. I understand. I have to put this blog out most days, and I always wonder what I'm gonna do next. I'm grateful that outlets run preposterous things to help me out. 
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