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School Reduces Suspensions, Increases Teacher Retention by Engaging Students in STEM

School Significantly Reduces Suspensions, Increases Teacher Retention By Engaging Students in STEM

As the debate continues about how to properly discipline students so as to not disrupt their learning while also not disrupting the classroom, one middle school in Tampa, FL is setting a good example on how to do both.

According to The Tampa Tribune, Greco Middle School was in a much different spot last year than it is now.

Last school year, there had been a total of 258 suspensions for a total of 1,308 days distributed by Dec. 7.

This school year, however, there have only been 96 student suspensions for a total of 313 days, a difference of an astounding 995 days.

And while suspensions and missed school days are on the decline, attendance and teacher retention are on the rise.

"When Principal Yinka Alege first came to Greco four years ago, an average of 18 to 22 teachers left the school every year. This year, only eight left. He started with nine teachers deemed “less than effective” by state evaluations, and now he is down to three less-than-effective teachers,” the Tribune said.

Attendance has increased school wide by two percent in just a school year.

The change is best described as dramatic, so what is Greco Middle School doing so right to elicit such improvement?

School administrators say school behavior and culture has improved because of an increased focus on engaging students, particularly through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning.

"Alege took a simple approach to improving retention and discipline in his school: He asked the students what would make them excited to show up every day,” the Tribune said.

Increasing STEM offerings has proven to be one of the ways to get students excited. 

Tribune reporter Anastasia Dawson described in her article the “chorus of gasps and chatter” after watching the delivery of a 3D printer to the school’s Engineering STEM Academy class, a class that Dawson says is well-attended by females and minorities, two oft-underrepresented groups.

School administration is starting with STEM classes to see how implementing different practices will work school-wide.

"In STEM courses, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students started the school year with a mixer, where the younger students are paired with an older buddy. They were given questions to ask each other and shared tips on what to do, and what not to do, in classes. They’ll meet back up in January. Principal Alege said he’s watching how the initiative works with the smaller STEM groups to see if it could be implemented school wide.”

In addition to increasing peer relationships in class, the school has also increased its focus on supporting suspended students. It has increased its offering of support services and is working to more closely monitor students after returning from suspension.

Certainly, Greco Middle is becoming a success story of Hillsborough School District’s efforts to support a "renewed focus on adding new clubs, career academies and courses to help students get engaged in school.”

Read the full story here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

12/14/2015

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