Are Denver Students Out of Control?

Children with teacher at school.
A new survey from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, a union that represents Denver teachers, has found that one-third of teachers in the city don’t feel safe in their own school, amongst many other surprising findings.

According to the data, 60% of surveyed teachers said that discipline issues affected their mental health; about 41% said it negatively impacted their personal life; and a whopping 78% said it affected their planning time. As a result of the discipline issues, 32.87% of surveyed teachers considered moving districts.

What the survey does not address, though, is how students’ disciplinary issues affect their grades. Disruptive behavior, such as talking in class, lateness, sleeping in class, using phones or other electronic devices in class, or challenging teachers’ authority, can all have a negative impact on the students’ academic success.

According to a 2010 study published in American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, disruptive students can lower the test scores and academic achievements of an entire classroom. Teachers who have disruptive students in their classroom have to spend additional time managing behavior, which reduces the amount of time they spend teaching.

Students’ disruptive behavior can also potentially affect their futures, too. In 2013, about 1.6 million students took the SAT test. The College Board, which administers the SAT, defines a college-ready student as being one who passes the SAT with a score of at least 1550 points, out of a possible 2400 points. Only 43% of students who took the SAT in 2013 met the college preparedness standard. While this certainly does not prove that negative behavior can keep students from being college-ready, it is most definitely one of the factors impeding students from moving forward to higher education.

However, some question the survey’s reliability.

“I think that any time an interest group with very strong views purports to do a survey, that the purported results of those surveys should be taken with more than one grain of salt,” Superintendent Tom Boasberg told Colorado Public Radio. “I don’t think that one would look to the Republican National Committee survey results about Hillary Clinton as the most accurate gauge of Ms. Clinton’s image.”

Boasberg also noted that district suspensions have dropped by 68% over the past seven or eight years.

“We need to both ensure our schools are safe, absolutely,” said Boasberg. “And we need to provide very significant emotional, social and mental health support for our schools, training for our teachers and our school leaders and through all that, have shown we are able to reduce our rate of out of school suspensions and expulsions.”

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