Washington — Statement of AFT President Randi Weingarten on this year's Quality Counts report.
"This year's Quality Counts rankings offer further proof that focusing on collaborative, evidence-based strategies; teaching over testing; and investing in rather than destabilizing public schools is essential to helping all children learn, grow and succeed in life. That's what the top-ranked states—Maryland and Massachusetts—and the nations that lead the world in student achievement focus on, and it's what we should be building on.
"These rankings also stand in sharp contrast to StudentsFirst rankings, which prioritized politics and ideology over improved teaching and learning—giving the top-ranked state of Maryland a D+ for failing to embrace the StudentsFirst agenda of testing, sanctioning teachers and divesting from public schools.
"The new report, 'Quality Counts 2013: The Code of Conduct—Safety, Discipline, and School Climate,' also makes clear that creating safe, nurturing learning environments is critical to ensuring that teachers can teach and students can learn. And it highlights the dangers of discriminatory discipline practices that disproportionately impact African-American and Latino students and students with disabilities—children cannot learn if they are not in the classroom. The report highlights that educators say they do not have the support of administrators and parents to effectively deal with disciplinary problems.
"Creating safe and nurturing learning environments requires a comprehensive and balanced approach, including interventions that have track records and buy-in from educators, administrators, parents, students and others in the community. Our experience in Cleveland offers one road map to improve safety, order and learning conditions for educators and students. Cleveland implemented a districtwide approach focused on a social and emotional learning program that helps elementary students understand, regulate and express emotions; student support teams for students who exhibit early warning signs, including a referral process to respond to student needs in a timely, coordinated, and effective manner; and planning centers, which replaced in-school suspension with a learning-focused approach that focuses on student needs, helps students learn self-discipline, and aligns with the student support teams and the social and emotional learning programs.
"Over the course of four years, the district reported improved teacher ratings of student attentiveness; improved student attendance; improved student behavior with reductions in disobedient and disruptive behavior, fighting, harassment and injuries; and reduced use of out-of-school suspensions as a disciplinary action. Investing in wraparound services and community schools is another effective solution to creating rich, supportive learning environments and improving neighborhoods.
"The AFT remains committed to confronting problems associated with out-of-school suspension, particularly its disproportionate effect on some students, and to building school environments that help all students succeed."