Settle Down, Please: Keeping Order in the Classroom

What constitutes chaos in the classroom? For teachers and parents, it differs.

What constitutes chaos in the classroom? For teachers and parents, it differs.
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Credit: Point by Point. Source: Public Agenda and Common Good

That teachers would like to get a better handle on their students' disciplinary problems is common knowledge. But, according to a recent study by the nonpartisan opinion-research group Public Agenda, with support from Common Good, parents and teachers don't share the same view of what those problems are -- or of how to solve them.

For most teachers, the top priorities are old-fashioned classroom disruptions like talking, horseplay, cheating, lack of respect, and tardiness. Less than half of teachers see illegal drugs -- that media favorite -- as a serious problem, but it's something parents are more likely to worry about.

This difference may explain the divergence in what parents and teachers see as solutions to the problems: Parents tend to want school uniforms and armed police officers but are relatively disinclined to give more authority to principals. Teachers, on the other hand, favor increasing power to that top cop -- the school principal -- and are less interested in dress codes and armed police officers. (According to teachers, cheaters are a top disciplinary problem in suburban and low-poverty schools and are unlikely to be dissuaded by military might.)

This article originally published on 9/14/2004

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