Schools look at ISS plan

SUWANEE - A task force has recommended Gwinnett County Public Schools adopt measures to make the in-school suspension program more academically meaningful.

The 14-member task force composed of teachers, administrators and central office personnel surveyed middle and high schools to see how each implemented its in-school suspension program, said Bryan Long, the district's director of student discipline and behavioral intervention and task force chairman. The group found schools were implementing the disciplinary program in different ways.

In-school suspension programs lacking academic rigor put students at risk for falling behind in class, Long told the Gwinnett County Board of Education on Thursday.

At the three high schools that did not make adequate yearly progress during the 2006-07 year, about 50 percent of students in the subgroups that caused the school to fail to meet its goals had served time in in-school suspension, said Keith O'Carroll, the assistant director of student discipline and behavioral intervention.

"Principals need to take a look at what goes on in ISS," O'Carroll said.

In 2007, the school district revised its student discipline policies and procedures, which resulted in a decrease in the number of disciplinary panels and an increase in the number of in-school suspensions. In 2007-08, there were 31,531 in-school suspensions, an increase of 2,937 from the year before.

O'Connell said the task force had six recommendations for the program:

n Improve academic rigor for students while in ISS to minimize lost instructional time, thereby allowing students to return to the regular classroom on pace with the rest of their classmates.

n Improve the effective component of ISS in the hope students will learn from their behavior and not repeat the same poor decisions that resulted in their assignment to ISS.

n Improve standards and training for ISS coordinators to provide personnel that are able to effectively implement the increased standards and vision for ISS.

n Improve standards of instructional materials and support to allow students to maximize their instructional time in ISS. That includes placing in each ISS classroom at least two copies of textbooks for each core subject area, at least one copy of textbooks for each elective and two to three student workstation computers.

n Improve technology through the creation of an ISS database to simplify, expedite and organize the process for assigning students to ISS.

n Increase training of ancillary employees on their role in an effective ISS program, including training of administrators in flexible use of the ISS program and training for regular classroom teachers in providing appropriate assignments to students while in ISS.

Bobby Crowson, the associate superintendent for academic support, said the school district is always looking at ways to improve its programs. The recommendations will help schools make a consistent effort to reach a pocket of students who have been removed from their regular classrooms for causing disruptions.

"If we've got the greatest curriculum and the greatest instructional strategies, all that's for naught if it's not getting to all the students," Crowson said.