Restorative practice is ‘alive and well’ in Lawrence school district, administrator says

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The Lawrence school board on Monday heard a report from administrators on steps the district is taking to make high levels of achievement more equitable for students, including a restorative approach to behavior incidents. 

Administrators highlighted programs and initiatives within the district as well as third-quarter data on attendance, behavioral issues and responses and academic achievement. One method the district has adopted to more positively address behavioral  issues is restorative practice.

Out of 949 behavior entries – recorded by teachers or administrators and followed-up by administrators – during the third quarter, 782 were met with restorative practice. That means restorative practices were used in 82.4% of those recorded incidents across all schools, which is an improvement, according to Cynthia Johnson, executive director of inclusion, engagement and belonging.

“I just want to say for the record that restorative practices [are] alive and well,” Johnson said.

Restorative practices are also meant to reduce in-school and out-of-school suspensions. 413 of those 782 incidents, or 52%, kept students in class rather than resulting in ISS or OSS. ISS and OSS across all schools decreased from the second quarter.

Middle school behavior events in the second quarter had shot up from the first quarter, specifically at West, Billy Mills and Liberty Memorial Central, which was a focused concern during administrators’ last equity report to the board. Behavior events decreased from the second quarter to the third quarter, according to the report.

Board member Kelly Jones said she would like to see data comparing outcomes before utilizing restorative practice and outcomes now as a result of restorative practice. That way she could glean a better understanding of its direct impact, she said.

Board member Erica Hill shared a concern that larger class sizes next year could make it more difficult for teachers to be responsible for conducting restorative practices. The board voted March 27 to close Broken Arrow and Pinckney elementary schools, so those students will be transferring into the remaining schools. 

Board President Shannon Kimball disagreed with Hill, though, saying that class sizes may actually be more balanced out due to the consolidation. 

“Certainly you could make an argument that class sizes go up and discipline issues are going to go up,” Chief Academic Officer Patrick Kelly said. “That was a choice. We had those competing values that were there and then we have to, as a district, look at what happens, look at what the data tells us, and respond to that and give the professional development that’s needed. If it’s so high, we could come back to you and say we need more for class size and bring that down and those are the choices that you all have to make.”

The district uses the Comprehensive, Integrated, Three-Tiered (Ci3T) Model of Prevention, according to the report. Tier 1, the foundation of the model, focuses on preventing harm, while Tiers 2 and 3 focus on reversing and reducing harm, respectively. Action toward progressing restorative practices for next school year will include targeting Tier 1 training at the elementary level over the summer as well as Tier 2 and 3 training at all levels, Johnson said. She added that administrators will work to communicate and involve parents with the process, as well as collaborate with student equity groups.

As restorative practices were initially introduced in the district to target middle school behavior incidents, all four middle schools currently have restorative practice support facilitators, Johnson said. The goal is to have six to eight teachers or staff members at each building trained in restorative practices, she said.

Also according to the report, chronic absenteeism — meaning students who have missed at least 10% of classes for any reason — has slightly increased to 33.1% of all students from 31.6% during the second quarter. At the high school level, 42% of students are considered chronically absent. Average daily attendance districtwide this school year, though, is slightly higher than it was in 2021-22, according to the report.

The district’s chronic absenteeism remains above the state average, according to the report.

Addressing issues in student behavior and attendance contribute to academic achievement, Johnson stressed, as the district aims for students to be proficient in reading by third grade and in math by eighth grade as well as graduate on time and prepared for life after high school. State assessments wrapped up at the end of April, and the district is awaiting those results. When they’re available, families can view students’ scores on Kite Parent Portal.

Visit this link to view more from Monday’s presentation.

In other business:

• New middle school course added: As part of the board’s consent agenda, items that are routinely approved at once unless pulled by a board member for further discussion, the board on Monday approved a new middle school course.

Despite the board-approved middle school curriculum changes that resulted in fewer elective options for students, the new course, called Applied Learning Lab, will allow students to continue participating in programs such as Future City and Model UN as classes.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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