Yesterday, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin convened a hearing on the “school-to-prison pipeline,” a way of describing the way some school policies and practices may simply push students – particularly low-income students and students of color – out of school and into jail. Zero tolerance policies, school closings, high-stakes testing, and other factors contribute to this devastating situation.
This was an unprecedented hearing, and, unlike the panels of corporate reformers we more often see gathered to share their positions, this time the Senators heard from affected students and grass roots groups that work closely with them.
The Advancement Project (AP) reported that over 400 youth and adult activists packed the hearing room and an overflow space.
AP also reports that the deadline for submitting written testimony has been extended for an extra week. Although the hearing has taken place, you can still enter your story of perspective on the problem into the official Congressional record. AP suggests that students think about how this changed your life and how it made you feel about school. Help the Senate understand what you experience has been. Parents can reflect on how school discipline and other policies have impacted their children. Organizations can help provide context to the problem facing our nation. Share the stories from the community in your backyard and those that you work with.
Statements are due no later than Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 5:00PM and should be emailed to Stephanie Trifone at Stephanie_Trifone@Judiciary-dem.Senate.gov as soon as possible, please also cc Scott Roberts, SRoberts@advancementproject.org
PURE submitted testimony which focused on high-stakes testing/retention and inappropriate charter school discipline policies.
PURE’s recommendations included the following:
❖ End wholesale retention of students. Retention has been shown by decades of research to increase the drop out rate. Retention should be used only when parents and the school agree that it is in the best interest of that individual child. Other options include developing individualized education plans for at-risk students and creating student portfolios to get a better understanding of the student’s strengths and weaknesses.
❖ Hold an extensive, public review of enrollment, discipline, and other policies to minimize the potential for schools to push students out and maximize the opportunities for student support and cooperative problem solving.
❖ Increase both the number and the effectiveness of high school counselors through adding positions, training, and clear communication to students and parents about what to expect from the counselors. Make sure that all students and their families receive extensive, ongoing information about college and other further educational opportunities.
❖ Require every high school, with the Local School Council, to create a plan for increased parent outreach and participation. This should include offering parents workshops on their rights and on proper high school policies, opportunities to volunteer and observe in their children’s classrooms, and clear information about the school curriculum and programs.