Closing the Gap: Leveraging Technology to Connect with Students on Out-of-School Suspension

Managing student suspensions has become more of a challenge for schools as student populations increase. School districts are required by law to provide adequate academic services to students during suspension. However, many districts face budgetary challenges in staffing and training, as well as a lack of alternative locations for students serving short-term, out-of-school suspensions. 

Suspension presents difficulties to students as well. If students are required to serve their out-of-school suspension at an alternative location, they and their families are faced with the challenge of finding transportation and making other arrangements necessary for attendance. When students do not fulfill their suspension commitment, schools are impacted through the loss of attendance aid, and the academic needs of students are not met, further contributing to the achievement gap. Studies show that students who are placed in long-term, out-of-school suspension programs generally do not achieve positive learning outcomes throughout their education.

Gina Spagnoli works as a New York State public school educator in a district with high suspension rates: “When students receive a short-term suspension, the district most likely will not have enough home-school teachers that are willing to take on an assignment that is less than five days. Some schools have tried to tackle out-of-school suspension issues by offering alternative short-term suspension locations. However, speaking from personal experience, short-term students simply do not end up attending for many reasons. These reasons include the timing and location of the alternative program. Students do not get in and out of school at the same time and place as other students. Transportation issues arise when students do not have a way to get to and from these alternative locations. When students do not attend, then the same problems arise.”

The iTutor Advantage

The iTutor Virtual Suspension Class (VSC) is designed to serve as a positive intervention service for districts faced with the challenge of keeping students connected to a safe and supportive learning environment while on suspension. Virtual Suspension Class provides districts with virtual seats for students under the supervision of a dedicated Certified Educator. iTutor Educators observe students’ behavior at all times, take attendance, and provide guidance and assistance with the mandated coursework. Students are be able to connect from any location—either from home or a district-provided location. Open seats may be used to meet other immediate short-term needs, at the discretion of the district. 

Students enrolled in VSC will spend a portion of their mandated time with our Certified Educator developing a positive mindset through goal-setting activities and reflective practices. The social and emotional component to the VSC program utilizes best practices in self-awareness and social awareness, in addition to skills in self-management, relationship-building, and responsible decision-making. This goes beyond the usual minimum to provide students with the skills and support to make better decisions and avoid further interruptions and setbacks in their achievement.  

Spagnoli continued: “Students access the classroom and their Educator from the comfort of their homes. The student and their family don’t have to worry about transportation, and the district doesn’t have to worry about teacher shortages. Students receive educational support, which helps to provide a seamless transition back into the classroom environment, and districts receive their attendance aid.”  

Smithtown School District Keeps Students Serving Suspension on Track

One such district to utilize our virtual suspension program is the Smithtown Central School District in Smithtown, New York. 

District Superintendent Dr. James Grossane shared his experience in working with iTutor to design their successful in-school virtual suspension program. iTutor worked with students during the early portion of their morning where they completed core academics and electives. Dr. Grossane shared his thoughts on the impact: “These kids are in school every day, they’re actively engaged, they’re socializing with their fellow students….It’s having a really profound effect on them getting re-acclimated to school. In fact, some of the students have already fulfilled their suspension commitment, have returned to their schools, and are doing very, very well.”

Dr. Grossane went on to elaborate that, “in addition to the academic piece, the piece that is even more important to me is the fact that these are kids that would normally be home, isolated. Once their two-hour structure period was over they’d be playing their XBOX or out in the community making poor decisions. Instead, this program is connected with the school, and they feel like a part of something again. So it really helps reconnect them back to school to be productive and successful.” 

If you would like more information on how iTutor can design an alternative in or out-of-school suspension program for your district, download our white paper, What Every School District Should Know About Successful Alternative In-School Suspension Programs, or feel free to reach out to our team at learnmore@itutor.com.