Tracking Re-visited: old measures for new times.

Year: 1998

Author: Edwards, Brian

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The focus for this paper is on the use of suspension as a sanction for student misbehaviour. The data is drawn from a case study which examines seven years of a secondary school's use of suspension and compares it with the state-wide data for suspension. Allied to this is a thirteen year study of the school's development of a "Student Management System". The school's suspension rate is similar to the state-wide average.

Suspension operates as a hidden dimension of the school's operation - never publicised and rarely in print. Similarly the annual suspension data published by the Department of Education does not name schools. The school's operation of suspension is swift, documented and often lacks due process. Suspension strategies are known to the students and teachers but rarely others unless the parent(s) of the suspended child heads to the local newspaper for redress.

In the light of this silence it is instructive to reflect on the contribution of the school's discipline procedures to student misbehaviour, alienation, disaffection and marginalisation. The data suggests that tracking and streaming practices starting in Year 7 can result in the inevitable fulfilment of the prophesy made by teachers in Primary school, leading to student suspension and failure to complete secondary education. As a long-standing "insider" as a teacher in the school (20+ years),the author seeks to address through the role of insider/teacher/researcher,the issues related to particular aspects (the 'micro-politics) of the teachers role, ie,the hidden agendas,institutional assumptions, ideological "givens" behind the teachers' use of 'discipline' policy, segregation measures and suspension related to student discipline, which in this study was found to be often arbitrary, ad hoc and reactive.

Finally, it is suggested that student misbehaviour has its origins more in the inappropriate, lock-step curriculum practices of schools than in student/family pathology and that suspension is often a private act of failure by the school.