The transfer program, meant to give students a second chance in a traditional school away from their friends, would not be open to violent offenders or to those who require suspension to a separate alternative program under state law. But Grier, who recently floated the idea with principals, said transfers might be granted for students who are frequently tardy or who get caught drinking beer at a football game, for example.
“What intrigued the principals about this is that many times they have seen that kids moving from one school to another school in a year — many times because parents just stayed ahead of the rent collector — do better in different environments because they’re not around old friends,” Grier said.
The transfer students and their families must agree to a contract with the new school, and each child is put on a behavior-intervention plan, which could require meetings with a social worker or an outside social services agency, said Michael Haggen, deputy superintendent of the Recovery School District. A school psychologist also checks in with the students.
If the students misbehave, they can be kicked to an alternative school. Otherwise, the change of setting is permanent, Haggen said. The students do not get to return to their home schools.
Last year, 82 New Orleans students were given discipline transfers while 442 were expelled to special alternative schools, according to Haggen. That’s out of 35,725 students.
[New Orleans school superintendent Paul] Vallas said the Philadelphia school district, which he used to run, had a discipline transfer system, but he acknowledged it didn’t work. Gwen Morris, who worked as Vallas’ chief of alternative schools in Philadelphia and now consults in New Orleans, agreed. She said the old Philadelphia system did not offer students any supports or help them change their behavior.
The idea for Houston is that the transfer school would have money provided to them for mentors for these students, who would have entered a similar contract before transferring. It sounds like there are still a lot of details to be worked out, and there’s not much of a track record for the idea as yet. I refer you back to my interview with Gayle Fallon for the case against making this change.
Something that I still don’t think has been adequately explored in all of this:
According to HISD data, only a quarter of the 2,441 referrals to CEP last school year were for mandatory reasons.
Level III acts include misconduct for which an administrator may suspend the student, place the student into in-school suspension, or, if the administrator finds the Level III misconduct to be serious or persistent as defined in this Code, refer the student to a district-level Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP). The principal or other appropriate administrator makes the disciplinary determination on the basis of the severity of the misconduct. The period of the suspension is limited to three days per occurrence.
Click the link to see the long list of Level III offenses. Fallon has told me that generally speaking it takes six or seven of these offenses for a kid to be labeled persistent and get referred to CEP. What needs to be clarified here is how many of the 1800 or so non-mandatory referrals to CEP were for fewer than, say, five Level III offenses. Superintendent Grier has said that some referrals to CEP are for minor infractions. I want to try and pin down what he means by that, and how often it happens.