Wednesday, April 3, 2019

And the latest updates from Worcester and systemic bias

Worcester Magazine is reporting that the superintendent released disciplinary data to date in an effort to demonstrate changes are underway. I sat down to take a look at it alongside the data the district reported to the state last year, and I quickly found that I couldn't do much with the data. Here's why:
  • most importantly, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reports from districts, including Worcester, percentages of students disciplined; as the information page says, "The Student Discipline Report includes the number of students in each group and the number of students disciplined." What was released today was the number of incidents of discipline, which doesn't tell us anything about the number of students. We aren't comparing like to like.
  • The superintendent hasn't given any total of students disciplined, which is what the rest of this works off of. We also should have how many students there are in each category, to make comparisons accurate. 
  • The superintendent has not related the number of emergency removals, which has been an ongoing issue of concern to many in and out of Worcester, as the city has been such an outlier in the high number of them. You can find those numbers reported by the district from last year in the last column at the Department's page. 
  • The state has no "long-term suspension" category; it is unclear why the district has reported this here or what it should be included in.
  • One should be able to find some relationship between the percentage of students disciplined (as reported to the state) and the number of disciplinary actions as the superintendent released today, though, which is why I'm finding it difficult to square a report that says that Worcester had 800 total in-school suspensions last year through February (as the superintendent reports), when the 3.3% of the total population, or 910 students, had in-school suspensions last year for the full year. That would appear to require a severe tapering off of such disciplinary measures in the fourth quarter of the school year. Likewise, assuming one should add the long-term suspensions to the out-of-school suspensions for a like comparison, the superintendent reports 1524 incidents as of the end of February last year, when the year's total for students out-of-school suspended was 1517 (5.5%) by the end of the school year.
  • That of course doesn't even get into what's reported for this year, which even still shows substantial gaps, but it's difficult credit a drop in numbers when the numbers from last year aren't even internally consistent. Again, the numbers the Department has are the numbers the district gave them. It's up to the district administration to square them. This report doesn't do that. 

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