WICHITA, Kan. — Leaders of the Wichita school district are offering a plan to reduce the rising number of discipline problems in the district, particularly in the elementary schools.

Data shows suspensions, detentions and trips to the principal’s office have increased dramatically in the last four years. In elementary schools, discipline incidents have increased more than 53 percent during that time, The Wichita Eagle reported .

District leaders unveiled a plan this week that will clarify expectations, monitor data more carefully and help teachers better understand students’ diverse backgrounds. The district also plans to increase teacher recruitment and retention, with an emphasis on placing more veteran teachers in high-poverty schools, Superintendent Alicia Thompson said.

“If people are on the same page, (if) there’s conversations happening . I believe you’re going to begin to see the trajectory of what’s happening with the behavior change,” Thompson said.

Michele Ingenthron, assistant superintendent of elementary schools and a former principal at three high-poverty elementary schools, joined the district’s central leadership team in March. She said principals will receive new training that emphasizes setting behavior expectations and dealing with misbehavior.

“We’re bringing this back to the forefront to make sure that all of our buildings are on the same page,” she said.

Thompson wants principals to revisit the Multi-Tiered System of Supports, a districtwide plan from seven years ago that also was designed to improve student achievement and address behavior issues.

The plan calls for clear expectations in classrooms, hallways and common areas, and for school employees to agree on what types of misbehavior should be referred to the principal. It also seeks to limit office referrals and to avoid out-of-school suspensions.

Under the plan, teachers try to “catch” a child doing something good – taking turns, helping a classmate, sitting quietly – at least three times for every one time they react to misbehavior.

Ingenthron said revamped training for school employees will emphasize understanding and valuing cultural diversity.

The majority of teachers are white, middle-class and female, while Wichita schools’ are experiencing greater racial, ethnic, linguistic and economic diversity. Last fall, for the first time, the number of Hispanic students in Wichita schools surpassed the number of non-Hispanic white students.

School board member Joy Eakins said she supports efforts to reduce discipline problems but she wants to ensure the data is accurate. She said teachers have told her some principals return misbehaving students to the classroom too often, in part to lower the number of office referrals.

Thompson said leaders plan to conduct “deep dives” into discipline data, as well as visit schools regularly to make sure behavior procedures are in place.


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com