CUSD is out to lunch on frosh policy

‘Data-driven’ decision defies the data

A professor of political science at Chico State, Beau Grosscup co-hosts KZFR radio’s Peace and Social Justice Program.

On May 28, the CUSD Board of Trustees approved, by a 4-1 vote, Chico High School’s plan to keep freshpersons on campus at lunch, as Principal Jim Hanlon told the CN&R, for “structure and discipline.” Following Ronald Reagan’s advice to “trust but verify,” I analyzed the empirical data said to justify the plan and concluded:

First, the data do not connect to the discriminatory lunch policy.

Second, if one pretends the data are connected to “at risk” students, all Latino and “Other” (i.e. non-White/Asian/Latino) students would be kept on campus.

My conclusions are based on data sets CHS submitted to me in mid-September, among which the only grade-level data referenced suspensions.

• Grade distribution: Latinos and “Others” have the highest number of F’s in all grade levels, and Latinos have the highest percentage of F’s and D’s.

• Five years of API testing: Latinos have the lowest scores.

• Suspensions: Ninth grade does have more suspensions but with no significant growth over the three surveyed years.

It is an ontological fallacy to conclude, therefore, that all freshpersons should have closed lunch.

At the May 28 board meeting, Mr. Hanlon referred five times to “the data"—none of which referred solely to ninth graders.

Board member Rick Anderson supported the proposal “philosophically” but made no mention of empirical need. Board member Kathy Kaiser asserted that CHS students, motorists and residents were all “at risk” at noon but offered no proof that the freshpersons were responsible. Board member Rick Rees stated the plan was “data driven,” though he had neither seen nor asked for any data. Board member Andrea Lerner questioned why a closed campus for ninth-graders only?—to which Mr. Hanlon referenced gender and class surveys of the entire student population.

Finally, a consensus emerged that students would not use lunchtime to do homework or visit classrooms to constructively lower “risk” but, as Dr. Kaiser put it, “use the time to fill up their friends’ social schedule.”

It is very disappointing that CHS and CUSD officials would suggest that a discriminatory public policy is “data driven” when it is not. I don’t know if I favor a closed campus or not. I do know I am against discriminatory public policy lacking a sound empirical basis.

But, maybe I am wrong to insist public policy be “data driven.” Say, I heard a few anecdotes of white heterosexual males at CHS engaged in vandalism, fights, etc. Maybe it is time to ban all white heterosexual males at CHS from playing on the football team to improve “structure and discipline.” Public howls for “data-driven” evidence are already ringing in my ears.