Suspension numbers are down in Hillsborough
Early in Tuesday's marathon Hillsborough County School Board meeting, Superintendent Jeff Eakins updated the board on the district's efforts to cut down on lost instructional time due to student suspensions. That problem is most pronounced for black students, and district leaders hope a change in discipline policies will reduce and eventually eliminate that gap.
Among other things, principals must get permission from their area superintendents to suspend a student for more than five days. In addition to keeping kids in school, the district is trying to satisfy the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, which is investigating allegations of racial disparities in both education and discipline.
Numbers are in for the first four weeks of school, and Eakins shared them in this Powerpoint. They are district-wide, not school-by-school, and they show a reduction among all ethnic groups and both genders, in all kinds of suspensions.
The numbers also show students gained 3,718 instructional days -- measured in hours, the number is 22,308 -- as a result of the new approach.
Board members had questions about the reporting, some wanting to see school-by-school numbers. The Tampa Bay Times wants school-by-school numbers too, and we put in a public records request for those several days ago.
There were also questions about the impact on classes, and how teachers are reacting. Eakins promised more information on a regular basis.
Since he took over as superintendent on July 1, he has emphasized school culture with this wheel-like graphic that includes components such as mentoring and behavior management. "We had a lot of conversations around school culture," he said.
With the start of the new school year, "there is strong advocacy for kids.There is increased intervention at our school sites prior to suspensions.There is increased communication between principals and our area superintendents.
"It's about instruction. It's about kids learning. It's about staying in class so they can do that."
Eakins said he is proud of the results so far. No word yet on the OCR's plans to conduct a field visit this year as part of its Hillsborough investigation.