Up with teacher prep, down with "one strike and you're out"

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In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook, school safety and discipline policies, particularly so-called "zero-tolerance" rules, are coming under greater scrutiny. As much as everyone wants to reduce the risks our kids face, throwing students out of school for relatively minor infractions is driving suspensions and expulsions sky-high and is not doing much to increase safety.

Some supporters of zero-tolerance policies say that schools have no choice but to crack down in the face of the deteriorating home lives of their students. But if disruptive behavior stems from an unhealthy home environment, will suspending students be that much help to them?

There's a better way to nip indiscipline in the bud. Teachers trained in effective classroom management techniques can keep their classes on task and redirect disruptive behavior before it escalates. Better classroom management isn't a panacea, but it can reduce the overall level of disorder that some schools face and enable school leaders to concentrate their efforts on kids whose troublemaking might be the result of something more serious.

No wonder a recent survey of AFT members put improvements to classroom management training at the top of their wish list for teacher prep reform. Right now we're shoulder-deep in data about teacher prep programs' expectations regarding classroom management training. Look for the results in our Teacher Prep Review this spring.