District 117 Doing Statistical Analysis on School Report Card Discipline Numbers

By Benjamin Cox on December 6, 2023 at 2:30pm

Jacksonville School District 117’s administration is currently undertaking a deep dive into the district’s discipline numbers.

The 2023 School Report Card completed by the State Board of Education showed a less than commendable rate on achievement – docking the school district for a below average graduation rate according to their metrics as well as below average scores in English and math standardized testing.

Superintendent Steve Ptacek says that the report card should simply be taken at face value, with more nuance found in certain students’ situations at the school level, which is why he’s commissioned the administration to take a deeper look at the discipline numbers.

According to the 2023 Report Card, the district had over 1,300 total discipline instances which resulted in either in-school or out-of-school suspensions or expulsions. The highest demographic that had the most instances of those discipline problems are low-income students.

Ptacek said last month that the district hadn’t had the time to get as far into the discipline numbers as they were able to dig into the lower graduation rate: “We have done the analysis to the depth we did with the graduation rate yet. That analysis has started. One of the things that we are finding is that a substantially high percentage of our incidents are being done by a very small number of students. If you take that overall suspension rate and compare it our number, it presents a picture that is worse than it actually is.”

A preliminary analysis, according to Ptacek, was that some of the coding in the state reports needs corrected among other things: “We are finding in a couple of areas that we either need to code differently or we need to talk about the level of infraction we have given a student. These are small things. I’ve been around here long enough that if you are providing a threat to the students, that if you are providing a threat to the staff, if you are substantially disrupting the academic atmosphere, then we need to address those issues. If that is through suspension or other placement, we’ll do that because the vast majority of our property taxpayers are sending their kids to school to be in a safe, academically focused environment. The board and I are in agreement that we are going to hold that to be absolutely important. We are not going to go down the path of saying ‘Don’t suspend kids’ or ‘Don’t discipline kids.'”

Despite the fact-finding, Ptacek says the district’s mission on discipline is clear, despite that mission may in some cases diverge from leadership at the state level: “We are always analyzing our discipline processes. We are always analyzing and making the changes that we feel are necessary. My youngest child graduated last year, but I would readily have no problems sending my kids to any of our schools. They are an absolutely safe environment. [The numbers] are an indication that there is a large community issue going on here. The community has probably heard me say this before and I will say it again that many of these issues are community problems and not school problems. So, the solutions have to be community solutions not just school solutions.”

As the school year has gone on, police calls to certain schools have gone up. WLDS News will follow up on the district’s discipline numbers at their December board meeting.