Reducing school suspensions not always a sign of improvement

Julie Bishop (Bishop targets school performance February 08, 2007) is on the right track when she calls for publication of key school performance measures. The opposition to the idea mainly stems from the fact that government schools, particulary in Victoria, have so little local control over where and how they improve. Take suspension data as an example. Suspension is a signal to parents that their child has temporarily lost their right to attend school due to misbehaviour. Some students, with problems way beyond the resposibility or power of the school, repeat highly disruptive behaviour again and again. In Victoria, schools belong to the government, not communities, and so are forced to keep such students virtually regardless of repeated misbehaviour. School leaders may be keen to reduce suspension rates, but as expulsion is virtually impossible, they see the only way as lowering standards and accepting an increasingly dysfuncional behavioural diversity.

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