Suspensions rose in 24 of the 26 JCPS schools that have had a behavior coach since the position’s 2014-15 inception, according to a document obtained by Insider Louisville via an open records request.

Behavior coaches, a $2.5 million investment, are under review in Jefferson County Public Schools.

JCPS labeled the coaches, who typically help special needs students with behavior issues, as one item on a short list of larger financial investments the district is reviewing ahead of its budget priorities for the 2019-20 school year.

In a presentation to the local school board last Tuesday, district officials said the coaches had “no consistent impact” on behavior in their schools. JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio acknowledged that some schools saw an increase, with the single-page spreadsheet JCPS provided shows the majority had an increase.

Some schools saw less than 10 additional suspensions, according to the document; others saw hundreds more.

Stuart Middle School reported 578 more suspensions since its “baseline,” which is the number of suspensions the school reported in 2013-14 before the coaches began.

The suspensions at Doss High School, the only school on the list to have two coaches, increased by 430 in the same time frame.

On average, schools with behavior coaches since 2014-15 have seen 117 more suspensions, according to the document.

It is unclear how much correlation implies causation in this situation, or how much impact rising student populations impact the numbers.

“When the job was added, there were no clear parameters about what the job was and what it was supposed to be,” JCPS Spokeswoman Renee Murphy said, pointing to Pollio’s Tuesday comments on the position. “It was used differently at different schools. This is something that we will learn from.”

Only two schools that have had a behavior coach the full term of the report — Knight and Crosby Middle Schools — have reported a drop in suspensions. Crosby had over 200 fewer suspensions, and Knight had around 150 fewer.

Three coaches were added in 2016-17, with two of the schools seeing lower suspension rates the next year. Two more coaches were added each in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

At Tuesday’s meeting, board member Chris Brady defended the investment while stressing the importance of “learning from failure.” Pollio blamed the outcome on the district not giving a clear job description, rather than a school-by-school issue.

 

Olivia Krauth
Krauth reports on education in Louisville, including JCPS, the University of Louisville and state policy.Before joining Insider Louisville, she covered technology and business as a reporter at TechRepublic. She also spent time on the data team at the Austin American-Statesman in Texas as a Dow Jones intern.Krauth graduated from UofL, where she was an award-winning editor of The Louisville Cardinal and obtained a degree in investigative journalism with a minor in Russian studies.Email Olivia at [email protected]