What is the cause of the Australian school behaviour crisis?

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Who should we believe? Should we believe the education academic who thinks talk of a behaviour crisis in Australian schools has been manufactured?

“Despite claims of a crisis in student behaviour – particularly in disadvantaged communities – my research team saw little evidence of student-driven disruption.”

Or should be believe the research reported in the Sunday Herald Sun:

“A LaTrobe University study into teacher-targeted bullying found 80 per cent of teachers were victims of harassment in the past year… 10 per cent of teachers reported being hit or punched by a student… Kids yelled and swore at teachers, assaulted them, made disparaging remarks both in person and on social media and damaged their personal property.”

How can two such contradictory views of Australian schools coexist and how can they be reconciled with international evidence that suggests Australian students suffer from a relatively large amount of lesson disruption?

Someone is spinning the facts to suit an ideological agenda, but who is it?

One answer is that people like The Herald Sun journalists and, er, me are trying to whip up a moral panic in order to impose neoliberal policies on schools. It is certainly the case that many Charter Schools in the US, and Free Schools and Academies in the UK, have used their autonomy to develop the kind of transparent behaviour policies that committees of education bureaucrats would likely never support.

And yet it seems odd to assume that people like me have invented all of this. How could we influence surveys of teachers and students?

One clue as to what is happening can be found in the Herald Sun when it discusses the, “Spiralling rates of mental illness among students.”

One interpretation is that we are clearly in the midst of a mental health crisis. Another is that behaviours that would previously have been seen as simply bad, and that would have resulted in a punishment and a moral lecture, are now being used as diagnostic criteria. There are hints of evidence of this when you look at the criteria to diagnose Oppositional Defiant Disorder. I would not advocate returning to past approaches to discipline but I do wonder if we have experienced an over correction.

Does it matter whether mental health issues have increased or been renamed? Are the effects not the same? No. If you construct misbehaviour as being part of a disorder then sanctioning that behaviour or suspending a student from school begins to look like discrimination.

There is an entire arm of education research that looks at the correlation between school suspensions and other negative outcomes and then heavily implies that the former cause the latter (e.g. here). The alternative view, that behaviours that are likely to lead to suspension are also likely to cause the other negative outcomes, is swept aside. It is a case of using hard data to tell something far from an established truth.

And when policymakers listen to these researchers, they make it harder for schools to act to manage problem behaviour which, in turn, increases the pressures on teachers and leads to the kinds of survey results reported in the Herald Sun.


38 thoughts on “What is the cause of the Australian school behaviour crisis?

  1. Louise Kuchel says:

    Very interesting perspective Greg. Have you heard of the DDA and DSE? Do you realise that whether it’s your opinion or not, that a child has a disability such as ADHD or anxiety, that you are legally obliged as a teacher, to make adjustments that allow that child to access the curriculum on the same basis and their peers. This is no just my “lenient” opinion. This is the law! Please stop spreading hate and stigma about children with disabilities. Please stop encouraging teachers to discriminate against children in a school setting. Thank you.

    • Jay Jam says:

      This comment say it’s “the law!” to make “adjustments” but what are penalties if a teacher fails to make or prove they made adjustments? I haven’t heard of any teachers getting sued or sacked. Perhaps others have. Whether a teacher has made an adjustment, or not, could be quite a complex area to sort out. For instance, just because an adjustment is documented doesn’t mean it happened or was effective. And of course, the opposite also applies. If teachers are getting sacked or sued for not making ‘adjustments’ then I predict a lot of teachers will quit asap. Why would someone put them self at risk of such an arbitrary ruling?

      • JK says:

        The key issue is that behaviour often arises from skills deficits and not motivation deficits. Many of these skills deficits are the result of neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD. You can argue diagnostic inflation but screening and awareness is so much better now and s as I kids are more effectively picked up. A kid needs to be significantly impaired before they get a diagnosis. I don’t think teachers should second guess medical experts. It’s not really appropriate or professional.

        The main issue is that school discipline policies and most classroom management practices approach behaviour from a motivation deficit orientation. It’s wrong. You can’t punish a skill into child if they don’t have it. Diagnosis debates are a red herring. It just shifts attention away from the real issue and that is that most schools aren’t approaching behaviour from a skills deficit viewpoint. Until they do – which includes implementing training and support – then issues will remain. They need to look at Ross Greene’s work.

        You can try to blame kids or doctors or DSMs but it’s just a diversion. You’re essentially arguing punishment as a solution to skills deficits and developmental delays and that the construct of disability and mental health is constraining your ability to punish. I’d argue that’s the wrong way to be looking at it.

        There’s a more insightful and compassionate way to see it that’s more helpful and effective.

      • “You’re essentially arguing punishment as a solution to skills deficits and developmental delays and that the construct of disability and mental health is constraining your ability to punish.”

        You appear to have imagined this.

      • You can argue diagnostic inflation but screening and awareness is so much better now and kids are more effectively picked up. A kid needs to be significantly impaired before they get a diagnosis. I don’t think teachers should second guess medical experts. It’s not really appropriate or professional.

        This is so far from the truth as to be comical.

        Ask any working teacher, or, for that matter, any honest GP. Parents these days will shop around until they get a compliant GP who’s either too lazy or too afraid of legal action to resist signing a form giving the world’s flimsiest diagnosis. Want to know how many of these shenanigans I’ve heard about over the years?

        The consequences of this are twofold. First, the kid is made to believe that he (and it is usually a he, incidentally) can get away with virtually anything in class. This is made both implicit and, at times, explicit as well. Second, the school is made to put in place often ludicrous “adjustments” with no thought whatsoever to all the other kids in the class. And the inclusion ideologues scream about “equity” for God’s sake! It’s brazen hypocrisy.

    • This comment is unpleasant and does not clearly relate to the argument in my post. I have not argued that teachers should avoid making reasonable adjustments. I have discussed diagnostic criteria as part of my argument and I believe it is reasonable to do so. To characterise this a ‘spreading hate and stigma’ is hyperbolic.

      In terms of the DDA and DSE, it should not surprise you to learn that, as a teacher, I do know about the legal obligations to make reasonable adjustments for students as described in the DSE. Here’s a refresher:

      “For these Standards, an adjustment is reasonable in relation to a student with a disability if it balances the interests of all parties affected…

      In assessing whether a particular adjustment for a student is reasonable, regard should be had to all the relevant circumstances and interests, including the following:

      (a) the student’s disability;
      (b) the views of the student or the student’s associate, given under section 3.5;
      (c) the effect of the adjustment on the student, including the effect on the student’s:
      (i) ability to achieve learning outcomes; and
      (ii) ability to participate in courses or programs; and
      (iii) independence;
      (d) the effect of the proposed adjustment on anyone else affected, including the education provider, staff and other students;
      (e) the costs and benefits of making the adjustment.”

      There is plenty to discuss around the application of these standards. What is the right balance between the interests of all parties affected, including the education provider, staff and other students? That issue does appear to be related to my post and the research highlighted by the Herald Sun. As a teacher, I feel I am well placed to take part in such a discussion and I will continue to do so. This in no way impinges on the right of you or anyone else to do the same.

      For what it’s worth, I think your authoritarian approach and hyperbolic language damage your cause.

  2. Soph says:

    I find it really out of date and out of touch as a teacher that you have these views, and I must agree with Lou. Do you think that depression, bipolar are real or just “behaviours”? What about hearing impairment? Perhaps these children are just not trying hard enough and not listening. So, therefore, a behaviour? You also seem confused if neurological conditions are behaviours? MS for example? Neurological or behavioural? Maybe they are just seeking attention? There are so many invisible issues that people and especially children deal with that lazy teachers just try and punish.

    To solve a “behaviour” look at what is driving it. Look at the issues. Don’t just punish and expect change. Children need understanding and guidance. If you can’t do that, don’t be a teacher. There are so many amazing wonderful teachers out there that are so much better at this than you.

    It really bothers me that you are espousing to be a teacher. All children, no all people need to be understood. Most importantly by parents, but the second biggest influence on a child’s life is their teacher.

    So either accept your responsibility or stop teaching.

    • You obviously know the person who wrote the previous post and you have responded in a similar style. All I can suggest is that you do not appear to be responding to what I actually wrote and that you should try to avoid being so unpleasant.

    • Jay Jam says:

      If you read Robert Plomin you’ll find teachers have negligible systematic effect on their students. Let’s be realistic about this.

  3. Chantal says:

    You have some valid points – well one that reasonated with me and that is “I do wonder if we have experienced an over correction.” But this more to do with consequences and more to do with when children become teenagers, a lot of they way we were brought up we can’t do now as parents, for example allowing our children to ride to school under 12, however I don’t agree that bad behaviors are now part of the diagnostic tool. This comment tells me that your not looking at the cause/ trigger of the behavior you don’t like – in my opinion children in primary school are still learning (whether they have asd,adhd,bipolar or any other mental health issue) how to communicate their needs and frustrations and generally speaking they communicate through behaviors, generally. If we can get them before they trigger then we can make a massive difference. We need to look at what’s happening in their environments both at home and school –

    • Bad behaviours clearly are part of the diagnostic tool for ODD as I show in the link. Do you believe that all behaviours are the result of a trigger and communicate something? This is not how we deal with eg violent patients in hospital. Is this a difference in age? If so, when does that kick in and how do we best prepare young people to be ready for that?

  4. Caitlin Elliott says:

    I would take the peer-reviewed journal article over the tabloid newspaper personally! Maybe that’s just me.

    It’s true that we see things differently to the past and will see things differently in the future. Most of the time, hopefully, it’s progress.

      • Caitlin says:

        I would have to read the original research. At the moment I can’t get past the paywall – all I’m saying is that I don’t particularly trust that newspaper.

        As for the wider question that you raise in your post, I don’t really have an opinion on to what extent behaviour should be used for diagnosis. I think that’s a question for health professionals and researchers rather than teachers like you or parents like me. I know with some conditions they heavily rely on observed behaviour because that’s all there is to go on. I’m sure it can sometimes lead you up the garden path because it’s subjective. However, if I’m reading you correctly, you seem to be suggesting that the existence of diagnostic criteria based on behaviour could be causing that behaviour. I don’t really think that’s the case.

        I also think most behaviour probably is communicating something (not necessarily a diagnosis). Challenging behaviour is a maladaptive way of dealing with the world. That doesn’t mean the behaviour should be excused but understanding and empathy can go a long way to solving problem behaviour, especially with children. Ross Greene’s CPS model is particularly impressive in this regard – if you’re not familiar with it, I suggest you check it out.

  5. TJ says:

    This article has had me pondering all evening. Your blog posts I have read to date have been around the teaching of reading, and I have found them insightful, based on evidence and reasoned. Maybe it’s because I agreed with you. Tonight I came across this post, and spent the evening clicking on links to other blogs you have written on behaviour and ADHD. I cannot reconcile the two. Maybe it’s because this is personal to me now. As a person with ADHD with family members at school with ADHD, I have personal and lived experience of it. I am not a blogger and a speaker and a leader in education, but you are, and your words have effect. And I have to tell you that blog posts like this cause real pain, and a deep level of misunderstanding and feelings of isolation for those of us living this each day. My reaction is not reasoned or logical (although I have spent many years now looking at evidence and best practise to formulate responses and arguments and pleas for understanding) but it’s the real face of us on the other side – the parents of and the people with neurological and mental health disorders.

    • I understand that this is a personal reaction. However, if you are going to suggest that, “blog posts like this cause real pain, and a deep level of misunderstanding and feelings of isolation for those of us living this each day,” then I believe you should explain why, particularly given that this post does not even mention ADHD. A common theme of the negative comments on this post is that none of them explain what it is that I have written that they disagree with. If you can do that then perhaps we can all learn. Otherwise it just seems like this topic is taboo and that is not in the interests of anyone.

  6. A. Concerned Parent says:

    Dear Greg, all I can say is thank God that I nor my children have had you or a person like you as a teacher in our years of schooling, your personal views on behaviour are so far behind the times that it isn’t even funny. I have had to put up with some stuff from teachers during my schooling life as a person with neurological disabilities and physical disabilities and I have stood up to teachers for myself and my oldest son. Someone who calls them self a leader should present all sides of the story and not just what they believe to be “factual or truth”

    • Has my post been shared on a Facebook group or something? I seem to be getting a large number of similar comments in which people have a go at me personally but don’t explain what it is about my post that they actually disagree with. Can you explain what you disagree with?

    • Matthew says:

      All I can say is thank god for teachers like Greg, and I say this as a parent of three and as someone with a number of teachers in my family.

      • Chester Draws says:

        I agree Matthew. Teachers like Greg, who take time to research an issue and then the balls to stick his head up over the parapet are a treasure.

        There seems to be a group here who take offence at any discussion which does not validate their personal issues.

        If you write “as a person with x”, then you are making it about you. It’s not about you and those like you. It’s about teachers having to teach everyone. And if adjustments made to help a single person destroy the behaviour in a class as a result, it harms everyone. And it does no good to pretend that bad classroom behaviour isn’t a problem because it destroys learning faster than anything else.

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  8. I said:

    “You’re essentially arguing punishment as a solution to skills deficits and developmental delays and that the construct of disability and mental health is constraining your ability to punish.”

    You replied: “You appear to have imagined this”

    That’s clearly not true Greg. It’s very clear in your following statement.

    “If you construct misbehaviour as being part of a disorder then sanctioning that behaviour or suspending a student from school begins to look like discrimination.”

    Could it be any clearer? This is my point. You are clearly positioning disability as a constraint to punishment due to disability law. I’m not imagining anything.

  9. Sorry, one last comment – the one assertion you do make is that these kids are headed for trouble regardless of suspensions and punishment. You cast doubts on the research which shows consistent correlation between school exclusion, school failure and the juvenile justice system (the school to prison pipeline). On what basis would you refute these connections? Is it because you believe that schools have no impact on the social and emotional development of children and that kids with disabilities and behaviour support needs are just ‘lost causes’ that are beyond any help? That seems to me to be an abrogation of the role of educators to take responsibility for student well being and any aspect of the social and emotional development of their students. It’s a pretty shocking idea to hear from a teacher.

    You really should watch a ‘The Kids We Lose’ documentary I linked you to earlier. I hope you watch it. I would be interested in what you think afterwards to see if it changes your views on this issue at all. I think every teacher should watch it.

    I’m interested in how you respond to the idea of police officers handcuffing young primary school students to escort them from school or dragging them to seclusion rooms and restraining them. I’m interested to know if you stand by those practices and if you think there is really no relationship between being handcuffed by police at school when you are 8 years old and winding up in a prison at 17. You don’t think there’s any ‘messaging’ involved in that experience for the 8 year old about where they belong in society? I find that pretty hard to believe as much as I do that teachers really think that schools have no impact in this area at all. And yet these kinds of practices (mostly used on kids with disabilities) are a logical extension of the idea that you propose – ie that these kids are headed that way anyway.

    I am very much hoping your views are in the minority amongst teachers.

    • “You cast doubts on the research which shows consistent correlation between school exclusion, school failure and the juvenile justice system (the school to prison pipeline)”

      No I don’t. I accept this correlation. However, correlation is not causation. To what extent is school exclusion a cause of entry into the juvenile justice system? It seems to me that a third factor could both cause a child to do something in school that leads to exclusion and also cause them to do something outside school that leads to exposure to the justice system. This explanation seems highly plausible. In reality, the causes are probably complex and overlapping.

      We also know that failure to learn to read is highly correlated with exposure to the justice system. We know that with the right teaching and intervention, we can get virtually all children reading. There is also a highly plausible mechanism by which young adults with poor literacy are not able to get a good job and are then drawn into crime. I therefore think improving the teaching of reading is a top priority. It is a good in itself and it may impact on the school to prison pipeline.

      I believe schools do have an impact on the social and emotional development of children and I do not think kids with disabilities are lost causes. If I did, I wouldn’t spend so much time proposing various interventions.

      I am not interested in watching a documentary but I would point out that no, I am not in favour handcuffing young primary school children.

      You will find my views are widely shared by many teachers although they may not have read as much research as me and they probably keep their views to themselves. Any attempt at reform that ignores the perspective of teachers, particularly one that seeks to blame them for societal problems, is doomed to fail.

    • Is it because you believe that schools have no impact on the social and emotional development of children and that kids with disabilities and behaviour support needs are just ‘lost causes’ that are beyond any help?

      In my (relatively considerable) experience, kids diagnosed with the various versions of Circular Reasoning Disorder (and no, that’s not hearing impairment, Asperger’s or the rest) tend to get on a good deal better both at school and in later life if they are held to standards that their parents often don’t hold them to. They’re certainly not beyond help. They just need a different kind of “help” than the type that their parents often envisage. The help that consists of structure, standards and mutual respect. And this in turn is beneficial to the other students in the class, too (the ones who are always completely forgotten in these discussions).

      • JK says:

        Mike – it’s really clear that you are hostile to children with disabilities and verge on being a disability denier – and you are a teacher. This is a pretty shocking reflection on the profession. In various (poorly informed) replies, you name adjustments as ‘ludicrous’, you resent having to make them as a teacher, you seem to misunderstand them and what they are for, you blame parents for disabilities in their children and you make up pejorative phrases like ‘Circular Reasoning Disorder’. That’s quite some list there my friend. Ever thought about leaving the teaching profession?

  10. [Sorry – not sure what’s happening in the comments here – I’ve tried to reply to your clarifying statement above, but it doesn’t seem to go through. This comment was written before my above comment and relates to the post as a whole – read this one first and the above second!]

    Then what are you proposing as solutions to your alleged ‘crisis’? You don’t say. It appears to be all complaint and no solution.

    Your post is entitled “What is the cause of the Australian school behaviour crisis?”

    It appears from the title you’ve already decided there is one, but by your own admission researchers are conflicted on this issue. Given this lack of agreement then perhaps it should have been titled ‘Is there a behaviour crisis…?”

    You then go on to imply that one of Australia’s most senior researchers in the field, Linda Graham, is “spinning the facts to suit an idealogical agenda” and yet you declare none of your own (I refer back to the title of your post).

    As you would know, Linda Graham has an extensive list of peer reviewed publications and a great many competitive research grants in this area. I imagine you’d be prepared to admit she is one of Australia’s leading researchers in the field. You may be far enough in to the PhD to know that peer reviewed articles can’t just be ‘ideological agendas’. They need to be based on a defensible method, robust data and defensible findings or they are not recommended for publication by peer reviewers. Perhaps the difficulty you have with Linda Graham’s work is that it implicates teachers in the behaviour of students and she does not position them as victims or passive agents in classroom behaviour contexts. That could be somewhat confronting. The suggestion that teachers may not be adequately trained and students are not well supported is also possibly also confronting on a professional level. It doesn’t need to be and there is evidence to suggest this is a significant problem. But I digress…

    If you think there are flaws in this research then perhaps you could write a scholarly article that approaches the issue with some academic rigor. If the field is as conflicted as you say, then that’s an invitation to explore it further don’t you think? I’ll look forward to that article.

    So to be clear, my issue is that you make this disparaging comment and yet, you don’t critique her research at all. You simply suggest it’s driven by an ideological agenda and provide us with no argument. I think that’s not respectful.

    Possibly you are suggesting all inclusive education research is nothing more than an ideological agenda? Is that your view? It almost feels like it is.

    Perhaps it’s just that you don’t personally ‘like’ this modern approach to teaching, regardless of the fact that it is informed by substantial research evidence and guided by UN charters on human rights to which we are signatories?

    I find it all very confused. No ‘causes’ are provided in this post as the title promises. No solutions are offered either. You just cast doubts about a researcher and make a series of disconnected points about disability diagnoses, mental health (another alleged ‘crisis’) and suspensions.

    • Most of this is just fallacious argument from authority which I won’t respond to. I will criticise ideas whatever their source and you will find more detailed critiques of the comments in question elsewhere in this blog.

      There are plenty of peer-reviewed articles that pursue ideological agendas if you look for them.

      LaTrobe university research suggests 80% of teachers have been the target of harassment in the last year and 10% have reported being hit or punched by a student. That fits my definition of a behaviour crisis. It may not fit yours. We can disagree.

      It seems that it suits your agenda to repeatedly try and paint me as old fashioned and personally challenged – you say ‘confronted’ – by certain arguments. You are not in my head and you would do better to refute what I have actually written.

    • If you think there are flaws in this research then perhaps you could write a scholarly article that approaches the issue with some academic rigor. If the field is as conflicted as you say, then that’s an invitation to explore it further don’t you think?

      If you check through Greg’s blog you’ll find countless instances of his picking apart flimsy, biased or outright flawed research in Ed. Anyone who’s followed Ed debates and research for long enough is well aware that peer review is a million miles from a guarantee of objectivity, validity or a lack of ideological bias. The “peer review, SO THERE!!” refrain is neither more nor less than a means of shutting down debate.

      • Jk says:

        Mike – you seem to have missed some key words in my reply. These are ‘scholarly’ and ‘academic rigour’. Blogging opinions about research is great, but it’s not a serious contribution to scholarly knowledge on a field. It’s opinion.

        The accepted way to contest research is to produce your own which contradicts it with data and evidenced based argument that passes peer review itself. Unless you are advancing conspiracy theory? I know we live in a post expert world and all, but seriously Mike, surely you can understand the content of my reply.

  11. Greg – this is reasoned debate here, and it’s about a very important topic. I’m not ‘painting’ you, I am critiquing the ideas you are putting forward in your public writing. You blog about ideas and you challenge the ideas of others, as you are doing in this piece. It seems to me that if you are doing that then you are putting up your ideas for public debate and are ok about others critiquing your viewpoints. Am I wrong?

    Further, I am trying to engage productively in your ideas and extrapolating them to their logical conclusions. I think it’s clear from your positions in these two articles that you see behaviour as a ‘crisis’, that it’s largely a student issue, and that punishment is constrained by disability law. You suggest that child behaviour is pathologized in ways that are somehow unproductive and making the job of the teacher somehow harder. You then cast doubts on research that offers alternative viewpoints. You haven’t, in these posts at least, presented any of your own ideas on solutions to this perceived crisis.

    Is this a reasonable summary, or am I misunderstanding the points you are making?

    It’s a shame you won’t watch a documentary. It has been made by Dr Ross Greene’s organisation ‘Lives in the Balance‘. As you may or may not know, Ross Greene is one of the leading academic researchers into behaviorally challenged children. He has developed and tested ways of assisting children that see it through a learning difficulty and developmental delay framework. He has a particular interest in the use of punishment and correction in the the school system and their relationship to the school to prison pipeline.

    I imagine that if you do explore this issue more deeply in your work then you will come across his work quite quickly. You might also be interested to know that he is also an adjunct professor at UTS and they now have a public clinic conducting a range of evidence based research trials right here in Australia.

    Given the relevance of this work to things like school discipline policies and ways of supporting disabilities, then I think they should have a good look at what he is doing. It’s a huge opportunity. It’s value lies in the shift of the lens towards learning difficulty. This resonates with anyone who has more than a passing connection to this issue.

    I’m pleased that you see and accept the impact of reading difficulty. This stands immediately beside this work in many ways. You just need to add the most common neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD and ASD to the picture. These are also in extremely high prevalence in prison populations. They can all be seen through a learning difficulty framework only the difficulties can present across different areas.

    Viewing them this way provides an opportunity for systematic positive intervention. Further, given the prevalence of this combined group of learning difficulties and disorders, one would think that should be cause for immediate action in schools, especially now that NCCD money has been provided. That it isn’t and there is no clear plan is a major problem in the school system. This is why it cannot be simply characterized as a student centered issue.

    Schools are currently failing these children because in the state school system a great many of these conditions are not even recognized for the purposes of support. Independent schools and the catholic system are getting the money but it is very unclear what they are doing with it and exclusion practices are opaque.

    I would like to elevate the debate up a level here so that it’s not the usual trope of ‘bad kids/poor teachers’ in order to have a cold hard look at what is really going on. NSW has just been shocked into this in the past month or two in parliament when they were asked to provide the figures on what proportion of kids they were suspending had disabilities like ADHD. They didn’t know and couldn’t answer the question because they do no automatically collect and report this data. Independent studies were showing that almost 1 in 4 kids with ADHD were being suspended in school and on average 3.7 times per child.

    After the minister took the questions on notice, the department spent time making the data correlation they didn’t routinely make and came back to tell parliament that they’d discovered that 42.6% of all suspended children had a recorded disability (and this would not account for the kids who had not yet been diagnosed). That’s a shocking figure I’m sure you’d agree. Unsurprisingly, this has now prompted an investigation into what is going on and the department is starting to look at it from a more system wide, ecological perspective. This should have happened years ago, and other states haven’t even started looking at their data.

    So if you think the DDA/DSE is constraining suspensions, these numbers would suggest otherwise.

    This is the value in objective data collection and shows how the largely emotional trope of bad kids/poor teachers isn’t helpful. It is so clear what needs to be done that a high school student could probably tell you the answers. At the same time state schools haven’t even worked out what to do with their NCCD money for the most common low level disabilities or those kids with imputed disabilities. There’s no strategy.

    Lastly – I can see the conflict between working as a teacher and wanting to defend the profession. It’s quite understandable on that level largely due to the fact that the system is also failing teachers. But to really look at it objectively I believe that departments of education have a huge amount of work to do to get the house in order from a leadership perspective so that schools are systematically supported via the available funding so that evidence based interventions can be happening in a timely fashion and long before a suspension is even considered. Allocate that money and provide that training across all primary schools in the country (where developmental delay is most sharply presented) and watch the suspension rates and ‘Incidents’ fall. PBL/PBS is just a framework unless the investment is made into training and support.

    Thanks for taking the time to reply.

    • Throughout these comments you have manifestly failed to critique my ideas. You have suggested my position is due to me being old fashioned and feeling confronted by supposedly more modern positions on this topic. That is not a critique of my ideas – it is a critique of me. Do you understand the difference?

      You have also repeatedly ascribed positions to me that I do not hold and then you have argued against these positions. When I have pointed this out, you have not acknowledged it and you have simply moved on to the next false claim about what I think.

      For instance, in your latest comment, you have written, “I think it’s clear from your positions in these two articles that you see behaviour as a ‘crisis’, that it’s largely a student issue, and that punishment is constrained by disability law.” I do believe we have a crisis but I have never claimed it is largely a student issue – it’s quite the reverse in my view – and I do not believe that punishment is somehow constrained by disability law. Some people have occasionally claimed my views are at odds with disability law but they are not. The DSE, for instance, seems pretty reasonable and balanced to me. Some people campaign for changes in the law to force schools to exclude fewer students and I am opposed to top-down policies such as this for the reasons I have outlined many times in these posts and comments.

      Good debate – which I welcome – involves responding to the ideas someone has actually expressed. Please feel free to read my posts and argue with points I have actually written. We can both learn from such a process.

      I do not feel the need to watch a documentary on this issue but if you wish to link to an article by Dr Greene that summarises his arguments then I will read it.

      Yes, schools do need to take into account neurodevelopmental disorders. You keep repeating that I haven’t presented any ideas for possible solutions. And yet I have discussed schools that I think I doing great things on behaviour, Positive Behaviour for Learning, the lessons from behaviourist research and the response to intervention model. I also pointed you to an article on approaches to dealing with ODD. You cannot have missed all this because you have commented on some of it. I even teamed-up with Professor Pam Snow to write an article for American Educator where we discuss the best ways to help kids with developmental language disorder:


      I agree with some of your final comments, but again you cannot help attributing motivations to me, suggesting I want to somehow defend the profession. Is it possible – just possible – that I make the arguments I make because I believe them to be true?

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  14. Hmm, I’m late to this, but I clearly remember school days full of kids who were narcissistic bullying thugs, more concerned with extortion, thumping other kids, gang bashing them and generally being physical bullies and indeed criminals pinching their money, ignoring teachers and making the classroom hell.
    I didn’t agree with the physical punishment meetted out to them and noted that there were tough non-nonsense teachers who didn’t need that recourse. Nevertheless, some kid are simply bad. Not sick, disabled or stupid. Just bad.

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