by Darrell L. Williams, Ph.D., and Tamika Boone
Around the nation, schools have had great difficulty addressing student suspensions. Unfortunately, MPS has one of the highest suspension rates in the nation.
Over the past year, significant improvements have been made in this area. This school year there has been a reduction in suspensions which has resulted in more student contact time.
Although this is great news for MPS, one local high school (James Madison Academic Campus) is ‘on a mission’ to increase instructional time for all students, even those considered to be disruptive. JMAC has implemented an alternative program to drastically reduce suspensions altogether.
At JMAC, we strive to ensure that every student receives a quality education by being On Time! On Task! On a Mission! We also have several programs to assist students to achieve their academic and social goals.
One opportunity that students of JMAC have as an alternative to suspension is participation in Restorative Practices.
Students that may have otherwise been sanctioned through detention or suspension, get yet another opportunity to rebuild the community in which they have disrupted.
Students participate in Students circle processes with their peers, on restorative practices for building community and repairing harm.
Students within the circle offer support to the student accused of the offense and alternative measures for action in situations such as the one being discussed in the circle.
The new and innovative alternative to suspension option that students at JMAC will have is participation in the “JMAC Success Academy.”
Recognizing the high expectations of all students to comply with the basic tenets that allow a school to function, we recognize that there are some students who impede the learning process and prevent other students from learning.
Redirecting the negative energy and behavior of students is a tremendous challenge. As we address such issues on a daily basis, we must keep in mind that all students have the right to learn, but no student has the right to stop others from learning.
The JMAC Success Academy is a component of our Zero-Suspension Initiative. This program allows students who have extreme difficultly succeeding during day due to behavioral issues an opportunity to access school and succeed while redirecting their behavior.
Students experiencing such difficulty during the traditional school day have an opportunity to learn in the evening from 4-7 p.m.
In essence, this program was designed for students who despite our most valiant communication and assistance efforts during the traditional school day–they refuse to comply with the basic expectations of our school. In essence, these few students refusal/failure to comply is preventing other students from learning.
Traditionally, students who exhibit such extreme and inappropriate conduct at school are suspended. Additionally, suspended students are not allowed on school property.
Often times, many of the students who are suspended repeat the same or other offenses. Thus, JMAC, like many schools exert a lot of effort trying to refocus many of the same students who are often suspended.
While such efforts are needed and necessary, such distracting behavior prevents the majority of students who come to school On Time! On Task! On a Mission! from getting a quality education.
Therefore, in this day and time education has evolved in manner which allows us to differentiate how, when, and where we can provide the best educational options to meet the learning needs of all students.
You either change with change or be consumed by change. At JMAC, we are changing to provide better service and educational opportunities for our students.
Hence, instead of suspension, on the dates the student would have been suspended, the student is allowed to stay in school—through the JMAC Success Academy.
Participating students will attend this program for one week. After being successful, the students will transition back into the traditional school day. It is expected that returning students exhibit appropriate conduct that will allow all students to achieve academically and socially.
Participating JMAC Success Academy students enter through exit #4 at 4:00 p.m. Next, the students report to the computer lab in room 332. At this time, the teachers meet and assist each student with retrieving and completing their assignments online.
The students receive the same lesson as the day students—as the teachers must post their daily lessons in a folder for the students participating in this program. This is a very unique program that is designed to facilitate academic success for all students.
Ms. Boone, educator who co-developed and directs this initiative said, “I am very confident that we can achieve greater success for all students. This program allows teachers to teach and students to learn with minimal distractions.
As well, it gives students with an additional opportunity to reflect, refocus, and change their behavior while staying up to date with daily school assignments.”
She further said, “This unique program provides inspiration for those students who for many reasons have a hard time making through the regular day. The staff wants to see those students succeed. Therefore, we developed this program with that goal in mind.”
What are students saying about the JMAC Success Academy?
“This program was better than I thought. I didn’t want to come at first, but I came and got all my work done.”
“It beats sitting at home suspended for 3 or 5 days, plus you can get your work done.”
“Can I stay in this program because I get my work done and I don’t be getting in so much trouble?”
“This is a great idea because when certain kids are in class, we can’t learn. But when they are not in class, the teacher can at least teach.”
“I almost like this better than day school.”
“It’s straight! I was able to focus better at night because you don’t have all these students bothering you.”
What are parents saying about the JMAC Success Academy?
“I think it’s a good idea to try help these students even though they know they done messed up.”
“If they don’t take advantage of this program, they are not trying to get an education.”
“I think it’s a great program and I see you all are trying to help these students. I just hope these students want it for themselves!”
“This a good program because my child is still in school and still learning—just at a different time.”
What are staff members saying about the JMAC Success Academy?
“This is a great idea. It gives students an option to learn.”
“I think this program will help students realize how important education is today.”
“I think this program will help those students who come to school to get an education but can’t because of those students who constantly act up. It will be great.”
“This program has changed the tone in the building. These students are taking school more seriously, especially the juniors and seniors.”
JMAC Success Academy Goals:
1). Refocus students on the value of education.
2). Increase student achievement
3). Create a learning environment that results in academic and social success for all students
4). Increase student attendance
5). Decrease student suspensions
We welcome you to visit JMAC, “Where students are On Time! On Task! On a Mission! and where students Cooperate! Participate! Graduate!”