EDITORIAL: Discipline effort a good step, but more is needed

June 25, 2014 

The effort by the Bibb County school system to rein in discipline is a good start. The plan is to open a Professional Learning Center at the Hutchings Career Center that will give students who have fallen behind at least one grade a chance to catch up. Students who have fallen behind are more likely to be the troublemakers in class. The number of in-school and out-of-school suspensions in the Bibb system last year -- 14,600 -- is astounding, even if you know the bulk of those suspensions come from 5,700 students, many of them repeat offenders.

The system is caught between a rock and a hard place. If it doesn’t have a plan in place for students with discipline issues, these students, already behind, get further behind while suspended and the graduation stage gets removed from their mind’s consideration and their behavior issues escalate. Opening the PLC is a good step whether a grant to fund it is received or not. It takes students out of their home schools and places them in a different environment in smaller classes where they can get the attention they may need to advance. It also gives the students hope that, with a little effort, they could eventually cross the stage to receive their diplomas. However, the system should take it a step further.

The system has the test score data that can pretty accurately predict a student’s progress toward graduation even before they officially enter high school. It should use that data to assist those at risk before they become problems, not only in the discipline area, but in the progress toward graduation area.

School systems tried a number of methods to address these students, from ninth-grade academies to innovative tutoring programs. It’s clear, with the number of students in the discipline pipeline, that the system will have to use a number of methodologies to meet their needs.

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