THOMPSON: Out of the Closet
A recent study in Education Next prompted a great discussion at the Core Knowledge Blog. Robert Pondiscio has long argued that the "time on task gap" aggravated by chronic classroom disruptions, explains much of the Achievement Gap, and 77% of teachers have agreed that discipline problems undercut their instructional effectiveness.
Researchers identified 4.6% of the children in a school district of 30,000 as coming from households where domestic violence charges were brought by a parent. Elementary school boys exposed to domestic violence performed at the 37 percentile academically, as opposed to boys not exposed who ranked in the 52nd percentile. Forty-three percent of the boys exposed to domestic violence had disciplinary incidents as opposed to 25% of boys not exposed.
The study also found statistically significant negative effects on the peers of the children exposed to domestic violence, such as increasing disciplinary infractions of classmates by 16%. Adding one troubled boy to a class of twenty decreased the male classmates’ test scores by two percentile points. (That is 7% of a standard deviation.) And that is before the domino effect of chronic disruption spreads into middle school and beyond!
Fortunately, the study found that
the negative spillovers associated with children from troubled families are smaller after the parent files the case than before the case is filed. ... 87 percent of the respondents indicated that the reporting of the incident "helped stop physical abuse." ... "We find substantially larger effects for the proportion of peers with unreported domestic violence (that is, those whose parents had not yet filed for the injunction) than for those with past domestic violence."
In other words, we must come out of the closet. Schools, like families, have fought to protect their dark secrets. The 85% of teachers who report that the "school experience of most students suffers at the expense of a few chronic offenders" are maligned as having low expectations and making excuses. Nobody wants to add to the suffering of our more troubled children, and simple solutions do not exist. We can not serve those children and their classmates, however, without frank discussions. - John Thompson