The Wyoming Department of Education is shrinking the data reporting burden on schools in response to changes at the federal level, but school equity advocates caution against shedding too much of the load.
The U.S. Department of Education no longer requires states to gather data on incidents related to drug use, alcohol use, violence or weapons possession, which results in the student being removed from their regular classroom setting for at least an entire school day. The change is the result of new versions of the Gun Free-Schools Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
But Russ Skiba, Director of the Equity Project at the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, said that research shows that suspension and expulsion lead to poor academic outcomes. Therefore, he cautioned that data on incidents that result in disciplinary action shouldn’t be overlooked.
“In some cases that might be good for schools to be able to document if they have new programs in place that their rates of suspensions and expulsions went down, or for the state to document that they are improving.” Skiba added that without good data, “it would make it more difficult to document improvements in school discipline as well.”
But Skiba acknowledges the burden reporting puts on schools. “One has to weigh that against the need for accountability, and just general school improvement that we lose by losing data collection”
The recent changes only eliminate reporting on specific incidents leading to removal from school, but there are other means of tracking disciplinary action still in place at the federal level.
Under the Every Student Succeeds Act all districts must include rates of suspensions, expulsions, school-based arrests and referrals to law enforcement in state report cards. Similar data is also collected by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
Currently, Wyoming does not do a comparative analysis of disciplinary actions in districts across the state.