The state has made some changes in how school systems report disciplinary actions as part of a larger movement to be proactive to discipline problems, rather than reactive.
Gainesville’s Director of Learning Supports Jarod Anderson explained the new discipline matrix to the school board at its Monday work session.
Originally, when discipline problems were reported to the state, the majority were classified as “other.”
“So, they added a few categories,” Anderson said, such as attendance issues or dress code violations.
He said, previously, around 70 percent of disciplinary cases were marked in that ‘other’ category. The new method should more accurately portray the incident and the action taken by changing the coding input of infractions and responses.
“The matrix is quite more extensive than the previous discipline codes were,” said Eloise Barron, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning with Hall County Schools.
The statistics gathered also count for a percentage of the school’s rating system in the College and Career Ready Performance Index.
“The discipline reporting is going to have an impact on the school climate rating,” Anderson said. “I know there’s a certain amount of points that you lose for having to displace students out of class for out-of-school suspension or bus suspensions. So, they’re really doing things to kind of deter schools from having to suspend students as much.”
A teacher fills out a disciplinary form, and then gives it to an administrator who makes sure the correct information and code is used. The information is then put into a database. At the end of the school year, the state collects the data.
“The Department of Education tells us that the reason they’re taking this action is because they want to be able to review student discipline data to determine the trends, or to identify things that are odd,” Barron explained.
Both area school systems are implementing a variety of programs to prevent or intervene in disciplinary cases before students get in trouble. For example, the Gainesville school system is moving away from in-school suspension rooms, instead calling them student support rooms, and using a mix of traditional and online learning, or blended learning, programs.
Hall County is using reward-type programs to encourage students. Director of Student Services Susan Bagwell said when students have choices, they are less likely to have discipline problems.
“Schools approach choice in different ways,” Bagwell said. “I think almost as a reward of academics, they are on better behavior as they’re going through the week because their lessons match their abilities, their interests. They are more engaged.”
Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said that the school system has been working for years to change the system.
“The discipline matrix change in Georgia is part of a national movement, really, in policy,” she said. “It’s the need to focus more on prevention and intervention methods, (rather) than waiting until students or children get into trouble.”