June 18, 2015

Educators 4 Excellence-New York teachers call for restorative justice pilot program, increased support around school climate at end of year event

New Teacher-Authored, “Climate Change: Creating Safe, Supportive Schools for All Students,” Advocates For Greater Support, Transparency and Innovation

June 18, 2015 (New York) - Educators 4 Excellence-New York, a teacher-led organization that seeks to elevate the voices of teachers in policy discussions, unveiled preliminary recommendations for both New York State and New York City around the issue of school climate and the creation of safe, welcoming communities. The paper was released at E4E-New York’s year-end event, alongside an open letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio, as well as a video featuring teachers, students, advocates, and City officials.

“Last year, there were over 53,000 suspensions in New York City schools, which means lost class time for students. Research and experience show that a safe, supportive environment is most conducive to positive academic performance,” said Evan Stone, co-founder and co-CEO of Educators 4 Excellence. “Seventy-five percent of E4E-New York teachers we surveyed know an educator who has left the classroom because of school discipline issues. School climate is central to the issue of teacher retention, and that’s why these teachers have come together to prepare extensive and specific recommendations for both New York City and New York State.”

“As a teacher at a school that doesn't suspend students, I know the benefits of positive school climate policies.” said Maura Henry, a teacher at The Young Women's Leadership School of Astoria. “We believe that students who can behave well will behave well. Conversely we believe that if a student is not behaving well, it is because she has a lagging skill. That student should not simply be dismissed from the classroom, isolating her and exacerbating existing academic issues. Rather, she should be integrated even further into a helpful and supportive educational community. I know that school climate reform can make our schools better for both students and teachers.”

Specifically, these New York City teachers are calling on the district to:

  • Provide support for schools by establishing and studying a restorative justice pilot program; creating a school-based tracking program for student removals broken down by teacher; requiring schools to include a school culture goal in their Comprehensive Education Plan.
  • Provide support for teachers by expanding trainings in restorative justice practices; funding teacher career ladders dedicated to non-punitive discipline models; creating a classroom management, school climate, and de-escalation framework that is shared with teacher preparation programs.
  • Provide support for students by establishing a minimum school counselor to student ratio of 250:1; eliminating suspension as a possible punishment for first offenses of insubordination; creating a clear process for removing metal detectors in schools.
  • Ensure transparency and accountability by featuring disaggregated suspension and school climate data on school report cards and requiring schools struggling with climate issues to establish and use a school-wide system for improving culture.

In addition, these teachers are proposing that New York State:

  • Create a competitive grant program to incentivize schools and districts to tackle this issue.
  • Require the public release of school-level climate data disaggregated by demographics and infractions, including rates of suspensions, number of students suspended, and frequency of school arrests.
  • Require teacher prep programs to survey teacher preparedness, and publicly release the results.

“These proposals will require a shift in the way our district and schools think about school culture and student discipline - and that’s because that’s exactly what our schools need,” Stone added. “We can’t pull kids out of class, and expect them to keep up. We can’t allow the possibility of bias to creep into disciplinary issues. And we can’t expect students and teachers to feel motivated if their school is not a welcoming and safe environment. We are encouraged that the Mayor’s office and DOE are taking on this important issue, and we will continue to push them to make serious reform.”

E4E-New York recommendations were released today as an executive summary in advance of a full policy paper to be published in coming months.