In 2013, employees at Bruce Randolph High School sent an open letter to the superintendent of Denver Public Schools, complaining about the district’s mandatory discipline policies. “The disproportionate amount of time and resources that in the past would have been spent on improving instruction is instead spent by our entire staff, including administrators, instructional team, support staff, and teachers, on habitually disruptive students that continually return to our classrooms,” they wrote.
Five years earlier, Bruce Randolph’s leaders had sought and won increased autonomy, so they could turn around the failing school. One change was a disciplinary crackdown: If students continued to disrupt their classes, after efforts to help them change, the school expelled them.
Free of constant disruption, student learning improved. Then in 2011 to 2012 the district – intent on reducing suspensions and expulsions – adopted centralized policies that made it difficult to use those tools. Expulsion and suspension rates dropped, but so did the quality of education in some schools.
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