Long-Term Suspended Students A large school district hired Edstar to evaluate the effectiveness of a federal grant-funded program designed with the goal of having long-term suspended students re-enroll and succeed in school after serving their suspension. The grant paid for Transition Counselors to case-manage the students while they were out of school, connect them to services, and enroll them into the school system’s alternative schools while suspended so that they could earn credits, and not fall so far behind. The goal was to have more of these students re-enroll after being suspended, instead of dropping out. The school system contracted with a private firm that ran the alternative high school. An objective of this program was to get the kids to enroll in this alternative school. Although far more students were suspended than this school’s capacity, the alternative school was never even half full. The school system did not understand why. Although nearly all suspended kids could enroll in this alternative school, the Transition Counselors hired to case manage the suspended kids reported to Edstar that most of the suspended students got letters from the school system that said “No Offer” next to the name of the alternative school. Both Edstar and the Transition Counselors confirmed with the school system's office that sent the letters that with few exceptions, kids could enroll in this school. The term "No Offer," on the letters was a mystery for the first year of the grant-funded program. The Transition Counselors were very frustrated and did not know how to resolve this problem of the students receiving "No Offer" for enrollment in the alternative school. The first year of this grant, as in the years prior to the grant, very few students enrolled in the alternative school when they were suspended. The relevant staff, Transition Counselors, the Assistant Superintendent, and Edstar staff met after the first year to figure out where the breakdown was. During that meeting, we discovered that the Office of Due Process used the "No Offer" field in their database to indicate they are waiting on a response from the family. She hadn't look at the letters, as a secretary printed and mailed them. The secretary didn't read the letters, either. Neither of them was not aware that the letters said "No Offer" on them. They explained that when the data system was designed, they had not realized they would need a field to keep track of whether the parents had completed the paperwork. When they realized they needed this, they were informed adding a field would be very expensive. Because they didn't expect to need the "No Offer" field, they just used it for keeping track of whether the paperwork was complete or not. This had been going on for years. Because no one talked to students once they were suspended, they had not realized that the kids and their families thought they had “No Offer” to enroll in the alternative school. These Transition Counselors thought the same thing when they saw the letters. After the first year of the grant, the school system got this fixed. The alternative school, which had been mostly empty for years, then filled up. Once students were enrolling in the alternative school, another glitch was discovered. The alternative school was a private school, and the courses did not have the course codes used by the school system. Students often did not get the credits they had earned at the alternative school because the data manager at their base schools did not know how to enter the courses. In some cases, the data managers were deciding how to translate them, and they were not doing it all the same way. In other cases, they simply told the kids they couldn’t have the credits. Edstar then worked with the school counselors and the data department to create a standard way to translate the course codes. Minority students were disproportionately affected by the problems with the suspension resources. Which beliefs were influencing their Equity Lens? Click to check your answer. B.1 Cause and Effect B.2 Expert vs. Evidence B.3 What At-Risk Means B.4 Desired Outcomes and Goals B.5 What is STEM and Why We Need to Fill STEM Pipeline Which skills were influencing their Equity Lens? Click to check your answer. S.1 Knowing What Can Be Known S.2 How to Identify Kids to Align Services S.3 How to Classify Things S.4 Working With Data S.5 Understanding Data Details S.6 Understanding Federal Data-Handling Laws BeliefsB.1 Cause and Effect The real cause of the lack of enrollment was the glitch in the letters that were sent home. Until the Transition Counselors existed, no one from the school system had reviewed the letters. The underlying assumption was that students did not want to enroll in the alternative school. This reason was described in the Needs section of the grant proposal. B.2 Expert vs. Evidence After two years of the grant, the school system developed a table for matching alternative school courses with school system courses. From then on, credits were consistently given. Prior to the grant, and two years into the grant, data managers in schools used their professional judgement to decide whether students received credits for courses they took at the alternative school. And if they did receive credit, there was no consistency as to what courses the credits would be for. B3. What At-Risk Means Because the program served suspended students, staff did not need to identify the target population any other way. B.4 Desired Outcomes and Goals The goals and objectives were always to have more students enroll in the alternative schools, then re-enroll in their school rather than drop out. What changed was their strategies for making progress toward these objectives. They thought they would need to change the attitudes of the students and families. Instead, they needed to correct the school system letters, and develop a process for transferring the credits they earned. B.5 STEM Pipeline NA SkillsS.1 Knowing What Can Be Known No one in the Office of Due Process had reviewed the letters that were being sent to the families. S.2 How to Identify Kids to Align Services We learned that sometimes students would be suspended, then enroll in a substance abuse program. Completing the program allowed students to re-enroll in school so their suspension was then removed. Often, if their parents failed to make the final payment for the program, the suspension would be re-instated. At first, these students were falling through the cracks because they were not on lists of newly suspended students that were used for making contact. Students were identified by lists of who had been suspended. S.3 How to Classify Things Classifying "paper work not complete" as "No Offer," certainly caused big problems. S.4 Working With Data NA S.5 Understanding Data Details The office that generated the letters did not read them, and did not realize that they told families students had "No Offer" to an alternative school. No one knew that students were not getting credit for classes they took in alternative schools. Until the Transition Counselors, the students who re-enrolled had no advocates to help them navigate the system. S.6 Understanding Federal Data-Handling Laws A third party vendor managed the data system for the Office of Due Process. The alternative school was a vendor. Edstar obtained service data from the Transition Counselors, and student data from these vendors. It was not clear that the vendors understood FERPA laws. Edstar ensured that FERPA laws were followed for the grant activities.