Three years ago, the story about how Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA, tried a new approach to school discipline and saw suspensions drop 85 percent struck a nerve. It went viral – twice — with more than 700,000 page views. Paper Tigers, a documentary that filmmaker James Redford did about the school — premiered last week to a sold-out crowd at the Seattle International Film Festival. Hundreds of communities around the country are clamoring for screenings.
After four years of implementing the new approach, Lincoln’s results were even more astounding: suspensions dropped 90%, there were no expulsions, and kids’ grades, test scores and graduation rates surged.
But many educators aren’t convinced. They ask: Can the teachers and staff at Lincoln explain what they did differently? Did it really help the kids who had the most problems – the most adverse experiences? Or is what happened at Lincoln High just a fluke? Can it be replicated in other schools?