Education

In Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools, fewer kids are being sent to the office. Here's why.

The overall number of students in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools with one or more referrals during the first semester decreased by 18 percent, from 510 to 418.
The overall number of students in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools with one or more referrals during the first semester decreased by 18 percent, from 510 to 418. CHCCS

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools says restorative practices, in which students meet with those they have wronged to make amends, is helping to bring disciplinary referrals down.

The school board got some promising news Thursday night in an update of the district’s equity plan. The report looked at disciplinary and academic data.

Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services Rydell Harrison said office discipline referrals for the district were down 24 percent, from 1,004 in the first semester of last school year to 759 for the first semester of this school year.

An office discipline referral is an incident that a teacher or staff member writes up and sends to the school administration. The schools keep records of all these incidents.

Referrals for black students were down 36 percent, from 386 to 246.

Referrals for Latino students were down 11 percent, from 167 to 149.

For exceptional children, referrals were down 29 percent, from 350 to 249.

The overall number of students with one or more referrals during the first semester decreased by 18 percent, from 510 to 418.

Harrison said the district looked at referral data rather than suspensions because the number of suspensions across the district is very low.

“It gives us a better picture of what’s really happening across the districts,” he said. “Specifically, what we understand is when a referral goes through the office, and the principal or assistant principal or whoever is working with that student who’s been in trouble, that student is spending time outside of the classroom.”

Harrison said much of the credit goes to the increasing use of restorative practices in the district, which get the offending student together with the wronged parties to talk about ways to make amends.

Sometimes restorative practices come after a referral, but sometimes teachers are able to employ them in the classroom instead of referring an incident to the office, Harrison said.

“When you talk about putting specific interventions in place for students,” Harrison said, “when we’re getting down to 418 students [with one or more referrals], those are manageable numbers that we can really target with some specific interventions.”

Proficiency rates

The study also included quarterly reading and math testing data that the district began implementing this fall, broken down by race. The report compared benchmarks from the fall quarter to the winter. The overall percent of proficient students increased slightly, from 73 percent in fall to 74 percent in the winter.

Overall proficiency for black students was flat from fall to winter, but elementary math proficiency increased from 35 percent to 40 percent. There was significant math growth for black students in third grade, with proficiency increasing from 27 percent in fall to 40 percent in winter. Second grade reading proficiency for black students increased from 32 percent to 46 percent.

Overall proficiency for Latino students increased from 48 percent in fall to 51 percent in the winter. The percent of proficient Latino students in elementary math increased 42 percent in the fall to 48 percent in the winter.

In 2016, CHCCS looked at long-range goals to bring down the achievement gap between white and minority students after receiving a troubling report showing a persistent gap and poor comparisons to state averages. The push includes efforts to recruit more minority teacher candidates by reaching out to historically black colleges and universities.

Matt Goad: mattgoad@gmail.com

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