New Haven Gets Creative: New Initiatives Target Student Misconduct and Disengagement

Apr 27, 2015

Detentions, suspensions, and expulsions: these are the time-honored  and well-worn enforcements of many a scorned teacher. Even student arrests are not uncommon in some troubled school districts. The practice of addressing bad behavior in the classroom with an even worse punishment has long been the norm.

But things are starting to change. According to a report released in February of this year by Connecticut Voices For Children: between 2008 and 2013, statewide expulsions declined 31 percent; in-school arrests dropped nearly 35 percent; and suspensions fell by almost 50 percent.

To what do we owe these changes? Many experts believe that changing attitudes towards behavioral misconduct is key. They say that rather than fighting fire with fire, schools should be focusing their efforts on student engagement.

This approach, outlined in New Haven Public School's Superintendent Garth Harries's School Change Initiative, promotes early intervention by experts and educators -- often in unconventional ways --before a student's actions necessitate dismissal or arrest.

This hour, we talk about these unconventional methods of behavioral intervention as well as what challenges remain, both to educators and to the children they serve.


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John Dankosky and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.