Baltimore City schools have got a suspension problem — over 10,000 suspensions a year, district-wide. And that’s particularly an issue when you look at the link between out-of-school suspensions and test scores. On the 2012 Maryland School Assessments, “students who attended school regularly scored 22 percentage points higher in math and 17 percentage points higher in reading.”
The school system decided that out-of-school suspension ought to be used only as a last resort. So in January 2012, the district used nearly $700,000 in federal money to fund an incentive program that pays teachers at nine troubled schools in the city $5,000 to $9,500 for lower suspension rates for nonviolent offenses (as long as the teachers maintain satisfactory evaluations and attendance).
It worked — at least on paper. Suspensions were reduced. But some, such as the heads of the Baltimore Teachers Union and the city’s principals union, criticize the program. Teachers Union president Marietta English believes that violent incidents have been under-reported since the inception of the bonuses, even though those suspensions are not counted in the program. Principals Union Jimmy Gittings says that not suspending students “who need to be suspended” is causing “mass disruption.”
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