Sixty years ago the United States Supreme Court eloquently stated the necessity of our public schools to make good life-long members of our community. The Court noted that quality education is the” very foundation of good citizenship.” Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 493 (1954). Public schools in Massachusetts educate just shy of one million students each year (955,739 students in 2013) with over 70,000 teachers, with a total budget of over $13.3 billion dollars in 2012. The responsibilities of the public school are numerous.
In the 2013-2014 school year, Massachusetts had 408 distinct school districts, comprised of 1,860 public schools, 81 Charter schools, and 26 Educational Collaboratives, with a total of 313 middle/junior high schools and 393 high schools. While our education system that is frequently ranked top in the nation (http://www.aecf.org/m/databook/2014KC_profile_MA.pdf ) and we have much to be proud of, we know that there is still work to do in order to assure that all youth in the Commonwealth are successful in school and in the world beyond.
The resources below reflect some of the work needing attention at the national, state and local level.
The School Discipline Consensus Report
The new report, The School Discipline Consensus Report: Strategies from the Field to Keep Students Engaged in School and Out of the Juvenile Justice System, focuses on reforming low-level disciplinary actions within school. This report has a wealth of information and practical suggestions for those who are working to keep kids in their classrooms. With a keen eye on the disparate results of school discipline on marginalized groups of young people (by race/ethnicity, by disability, and by sexual and gender orientation), this report offers over 60 specific policy and practice recommendations. The complete report from the Counsel of State Governments Justice Center can be found here:
Drop Out Prevention
The most recent data shows that nearly 6,000 youth across the Commonwealth dropped out of school. The Massachusetts Secretary of Education is addressing this crisis by bringing together leaders to make recommendations on how to identify students who are at risk of dropping out, and create successful prevention, intervention, and dropout recovery strategies. The report can be found here:
Making the Connection, A Report of the Massachusetts Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery Commission, 2014. http://www.doe.mass.edu/infoservices/reports/dropout/2013-2014/summary.pdf
Middlesex County School-Court Initiative
Middlesex County was selected in the Spring of 2014 as one of 16 sites nationwide to participate in a reform effort targeting school pathways into the juvenile justice system bestowed by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ). Honorable Jay Blitzman, First Justice of the Middlesex County Juvenile Court, and local JDAI co-chair, is the lead on the project and has been convening meetings to improve school-and-court dialogue and relationships. With the support and assistance of NCJFCJ, Middlesex County plans to improve data collection at the courthouse, better relationships between the court personnel, District Attorney’s Office, schools, juvenile defenders and police, and minimize disciplinary spillover from schools into the juvenile courts.
Massachusetts School Safety Report
Massachusetts Task Force Report on School Safety and Security issued a report on July 2014. This new report provides recommendations to local communities and to state level actors to ensure that all children feel safe in their schools and to assure that schools are able to respond to emergencies. Specific recommendations include promoting a positive school culture and how to best utilize School Resource Officers.Massachusetts Task Force Report on School Safety and Security file size 1MB
Federal Guidance on School Climate and Discipline- by the Federal Departments of Education and Justice:
The guidance is for public schools in meeting their obligations under federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin. That guidance and accompanying documents to help guide state- and locally controlled efforts to improve school climate and school discipline can be found at http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/school-discipline/index.html
Recent Changes in Massachusetts State Law and Regulation in relation to Student Discipline
In 2012 the Massachusetts Legislature passed new laws related to school discipline. The purpose was three fold.
- To respond to belief that zero-tolerance policies adopted by some school districts were unfairly depriving students access to educational services
- To create consistency across the state in disciplinary procedures and outcomes
- To permit students to make academic progress during periods of exclusion from school
Further information about the new law may be found through the links below.
- Department of Early and Secondary Education (DESE) guidance relative to the new law
- DESE Student Discipline Resources and Information
- An Act Relative to Student Access to Educational Services and Exclusion from School
- Regulations- Student Discipline- 603 CMR 53.00
- Massachusetts Advocates for Children- School Discipline Resources