Classroom discipline needed for learning

Published 3:04 pm Friday, August 17, 2012

The teacher is explaining a key element in her lesson for the day. In the back of the classroom, two students are talking, softly at first, then louder. They’re taunting each other. The teacher stops to restore order, but the taunting escalates to the verge of a fight. The other students stand to watch. The teacher calls for help, and the pair involved in the confrontation are removed. Order is restored. The bell rings. The learning opportunity is lost or at least postponed.

Educators know this is not a far-fetched story. Situations similar to this occur on a daily basis in classrooms across the state. …

How the schools achieve the discipline and control necessary to foster learning by their students can be difficult, seemingly impossible in some districts, but it’s doable.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The U.S. Department of Justice accused officials in east Mississippi of operating a “school-to-prison pipeline” that incarcerates students for disciplinary infractions, some as minor as dress code violations. The DOJ letter to the governor, state attorney general and Meridian and Lauderdale County officials focused mainly on how the students are handled by the justice system after they are arrested, and gives only one side of the story, but if the schools are routinely calling the police to have kids arrested, the schools must be struggling for control.

And then there’s the Hattiesburg Public School District, where a trial program of teaching and quizzing students on behavior issues produced dramatic and positive results last year. …

The issue of school discipline and control should be part of the discussion by lawmakers if they consider implementing merit pay for teachers statewide, an initiative supported by Gov. Phil Bryant that is basically a good idea.

The state Department of Education is using federal grant money to pilot merit pay for teachers and for administrators in some districts. They’re also revamping their evaluations for teachers and administrators as a part of the state No Child Left Behind waiver. What’s missing, as was pointed out by one of The Clarion-Ledger’s Jackson Voices bloggers (a teacher), is the acknowledgment that the playing field is not the same for all teachers. In some districts, teachers who are able to shepherd the students and themselves through the day safely, deserve merit pay. Never mind test scores. …