As I have reported previously, I worked hard to get the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) to adopt its new Behavior Education Plan, which went into effect at the beginning of the current school year. However, while it was a good step forward towards teaching appropriate behavior instead of removing so many children from education, I expressed concerns about the failure of MMSD to set specific outcome goals and to provide sufficient training and support to assure effective implementation of this ambitious plan.
Recently, local media reported stories of MMSD teachers complaining that implementation of the Behavior Education Plan was not going well and that their schools were more chaotic than ever. Moreover, while the Behavior Education Plan has indeed resulted in fewer suspensions, racial disparities have actually increased! Despite these glaring problems, the school district’s first quarterly report continues the pattern of failing to identify specific outcome goals so progress can be measured and implementation can be adjusted as needed.
In response to these concerns, MMSD Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham wrote an OpEd in which she declared that Madison schools are “aiming for excellence, equity.” That sounds great, but with equity actually getting worse, it is remarkable that her OpEd follows her pattern of refusing to set specific outcome goals.
Perhaps the biggest concern in failing to set reasonable outcome goals while the Behavior Education Plan is attacked from within is that parents and teachers who want safe schools will demand the repeal of this otherwise excellent plan. These concerns must be met with clear goals and better training. The tools are there. Teachers just need training and support.
In Gainesville, Florida, for example, teachers are using a multi-tiered approach to support behavioral needs because they understand that:
“If a child is not behaving there’s a need not being met, and that’s the premise I always go on.”
MMSD’s new Behavioral Education Plan represents a sea change in how we teach our children. It has the opportunity to keep students in school, teach them appropriate behavior, improve academic performance, and close racial disparities. However, if MMSD continues to fail to set reasonable outcome goals, and does not provide sufficient training and support for its staff, it will all be for naught.
For more information on how Jeff Spitzer-Resnick can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact him by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.