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Urban Schools 'Zero Out' Zero-Tolerance Policies

Urban Schools 'Zero Out' Zero-Tolerance Policies

A number of urban school districts in the country are abandoning zero-tolerance policies and picking up a new process called the "whole-child approach."

Last month, "New York City's Department of Education, under Chancellor Carmen Fariña, called for an end to principal-led school suspensions without prior approval—a practice that grew in popularity during the Bloomberg years as part of a focus on 'broken windows,' or small crimes that herald disorder," according to an article on TheAtlantic.com.

"And the Los Angeles Unified School District made a similar move two years ago, when it banned suspensions for 'willful defiance,' punishment that had a disproportionate impact on students of color," the article said. "These large cities are at the vanguard of a shift away from zero-tolerance school discipline toward less punitive strategies that emphasize talking it out and resolving disputes among students to keep them in school."

According to the article, "to some extent, these massive districts are rejuvenating the 'whole-child' approach integral to what's known as 'progressive educaticon'—a model that was once viewed as incompatible with urban school systems."

"The contours of this model, which is often vaguely defined as schooling that is 'child-centered' and focused on 'active learning,' are outlined by the educator Tom Little and writer Katherine Ellison in Loving Learning: How Progressive Education Can Save America’s Schools," the article said.

"Little [who died last year] toured 45 so-called progressive schools in 2013 and found several consistent features: attention to relationships; the students’ freedom, within limits, to follow their interests; and hands-on, creative projects," the article continued. "But despite the allure of progressive education, Little's findings illustrate the challenge of scaling the model up to districts with large, high-poverty schools. After all, the campuses he identified are small and either private or dependent on a charismatic, passionate leader. And for the most part, little convincing evidence has existed to demonstrate that progressive education is more than just an ideal—until now."

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Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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