After downloading data for the two most recent school years available (2015 and 2017) on discipline of students with disabilities from elementary schools in my home school district, Seattle Public Schools, I came up with a list of questions I wanted to ask of the data. Some of these questions were: Were there more instances in 2015 or 2017? Which types of discipline were most common? Did some elementary schools discipline disabled students more often than others? I came up with the following (rather basic) charts:
If I’d had more time on this one, I would’ve cut out more data. I already removed all of the schools that had deviation of less than or equal to 1 between years, but it’s still hard to read. Ideally (and maybe for the final) I’d spend time finding 5–10 schools of similar sizes and racial and socioeconomic demographics and compare only those.
For my next chart I just used excel, since it’s a simple bar graph. I think there’s some stand-out data that interests me here, and it points me in the right direction for which schools are disciplining the most disabled students, but as a visualization for publication it’s (like the previous chart) pretty much useless because it has so many different schools it’s hard to read. I think next week I’ll spend some time deciding which schools have the most interesting story.
Looking for inspiration, I came upon this very helpful compilation of data visualizations related to education. Here are a few charts that were especially interesting, both visually and in subject matter, to me:
I definitely want to learn how to make these types of charts, and think that the first and last would be particularly helpful for my final project. I’m picturing something like the last one to break down SPS by neighborhood, and then by school, but I’m not sure how I would start or how this type of chart is even made.
Some published work and official documents I’m reading to learn more about this topic are:
- “Disciplining Students With Disabilities” by Kevin P. Dwyer, NCSP
- “School Discipline: The Rights of Students With IEPs and 504 Plans” by Andrew M.I. Lee, JD
- “Why Schools Over-Discipline Children With Disabilities” by journalist and author Katherine Reynolds Lewis.
- The Seattle Public Schools 2020–2021 Discipline Matrix
- Basic Rules of Seattle Public Schools
- Seattle Public Schools Students Rights and Responsibilities
If I were to publish a reported story on this topic, I’d first and foremost want to speak with disabled students who’ve been disciplined in Seattle elementary schools and their families. After learning their stories, I’d reach out to the teachers and administrators involved in their disciplinary histories. In order to get a better sense of Seattle Public Schools policy, I’d send an interview request to their Discipline Office at email@example.com. Unfortunately, but perhaps intentionally, the SPS website doesn’t list any specific employees or administrators who work in this office. Finally, I’d want to speak with an expert on school discipline who has no connection to SPS in order to get their input on what I’d learned so far and place my findings in a larger context.