Team Members: Catherine Caruso, Jane Coffrin, Iris Fung, Katie Marlowe
The data say that a higher school performance correlates with a lower number of out of school suspensions. In addition, schools that only administer in school suspensions perform higher than schools that administer out of school suspensions. We want to tell this story because we’d like to advise the Louisiana State School Board against current methods of discipline that may not be good for the student or the school as a whole. We would like to recommend that all out of school suspensions become in school suspensions, or something of the sort. Our Audience is the Louisiana State School Board.
When a child acts up in school, there are many ways to discipline him/her- in school suspension, out of school suspension, even expulsion. However, some methods are better than others when it comes to the student’s academic trajectory and success throughout high school. Out of school suspension may seem like an attractive option for the school because then the child is off school grounds, and is no longer the school’s responsibility. However, out of school suspension is problematic for the child. Now, a child that is already having behavioral issues no longer has the structure, schedule and supervision that comes with being in a school. Removing a child from school may place them in an unsupervised home situation, or in an even worse situation on the street.Ultimately, out of school suspension may make the child less willing to follow rules and pay attention in class, causing his/her academic performance to decline. If there are enough out of school suspensions, the performance of the entire school may be negatively affected. (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/112/5/1206; http://www.teachsafeschools.org/alternatives-to-suspension.html)
We targeted the Louisiana State School Board because school board members are in a position to actually make beneficial changes to the system in a way that parents or teachers cannot. It is also worth noting that Louisiana is notorious for strict disciplinary procedures – other groups have also worked to try to reduce or ban school suspensions (https://www.louisianabelieves.com/schools/public-schools/louisiana-safe-and-supportive-schools-initiative-(lsssi); http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/04/louisiana_student_suspensions.html) but they have not been successful yet. In addition to showing that schools with few out of school suspensions perform much higher than schools with many out of school suspensions, we also included information about the difference in school performance for schools that administer in school vs. out of school suspensions. The schools that only suspend students in school have a much higher school performance, which makes the case that in school suspensions are a better option for the students and the school as a whole.
Our choice to represent the data using a 3d diorama-like structure is a nod back to the grade school days of creating dioramas, a staple of school projects. The materials – pipe cleaners, construction paper – do the same, and the colors we chose are vibrant and eye-catching. The movement of children from middle school on the left to high school in the middle to graduation on the right leads the viewer’s eye from left to right to read the graph. The pipe cleaner colors – yellow for high performing schools and purple for low performing schools – contrast each other well, and yellow often represents high achievement in academic settings. The suspensions are represented in red, a color commonly used to mean warning or stop. We only represented seven of the highest performing schools and seven of the lowest performing schools to simplify the information and to make the distinction between the two groups visually striking. Complete information about the schools we included, their suspension rates, and their school performance appears on the back of the sculpture for anyone seeking additional information. The inset about in school vs. out of school suspensions serves to offer a viable solution to the problem we have presented, in hopes of motivating the board members to not only absorb the information, but to also start thinking about what action they can take to remedy the situation.
While a data sculpture is a rather unconventional method for presenting such serious information in a formal setting like a school board meeting, we thought our novel approach would surprise the board members, and pique their interest, giving us the opportunity to engage them on the topic and talk about the information and the issue at hand in more detail. It is also a tongue-in-cheek reference to projects their own students might be creating.