Executive SummaryIn 2011-12, every one of the nation’s 95,000 schools was required to report its school discipline data, including charter schools.I can tell you - from the tweets and stories - that reaction has been huge in the charter school community and those who oppose charter schools. Over at UW's Center on Reinventing Public Education, they could not write fast enough to find flaws in the studies and say, "We need productive research on discipline, not polemics."
This report, along with the companion spreadsheet, provides the first comprehensive description of the use of suspensions by charter schools. This report, which covers more than 5,250 charter schools, focuses on out-of-school suspension rates at the elementary and secondary levels. It specifically examines the extent to which charter schools suspend children of color and children with disabilities at excessive and disparate rates.
The report lists the highest-suspending charters in the nation for several racial/ethnic groups, and also describes the discipline gaps by race/ethnicity and by disability status. Here are some examples:
On the other hand, some readers will also be surprised to learn that lower-suspending charter schools are more numerous than high-suspending charters. One can reasonably infer that, like non- charter schools, there are likely many effective charter schools that reserve suspension as a measure of last resort. Therefore, while this report suggests that many charter schools with excessive suspension rates are contributing to the school-to- prison pipeline and that some are likely violating he civil rights of their students, it also suggests that other charter schools likely offer excellent examples of effective non-punitive approaches to school discipline and could help close the pipeline.
- In the 2011-12 school year, 374 charter schools suspended 25% of their enrolled student body at least once.
- Nearly half of all Black secondary charter school students attended one of the 270 charter schools that was hyper-segregated (80% Black) and where the aggregate Black suspension rate was 25%.
- More than 500 charter schools suspended Black charter students at a rate that was at least 10 percentage points higher than the rate for White charter students.
- Even more disconcerting is that 1,093 charter schools suspended students with disabilities at a rate that was 10 or more percentage points higher than for students without disabilities.
- Perhaps the most alarming finding is that 235 charter schools suspended more than 50% of their enrolled students with disabilities.
Hilariously, they also say:
At CRPE, we are committed to an honest assessment of equity and performance in charter schools and we are as interested as anyone in calling out bad actors.That has not been apparent to me as they operate as a Gates-funded research mouthpiece for charter schools. Their idea of "honest assessment" is an occasional "tsk-tsk."
The UCLA authors even acknowledge that the self-reported data on which their report is based (submitted by schools to the federal Office for Civil Rights) are extremely limited.But wait! The Atlantic to the rescue as writer Emily Deruy points this out:
The OCR survey data provide no way to track trends over time, and no way to ensure the numbers are reported consistently.
A new report has charter-school advocates crying foul and their opponents cheering. In the process, the broader point that some schools have seriously questionable student-discipline practices is being lost in the crossfire. This isn’t exactly surprising. Nothing sparks an uproar in education like a charter-school debate, but it’s worth taking a step back to focus on what’s actually going on.
Charter opponents glommed onto the findings as evidence that charters are bad, while proponents played defense by saying that the disparities exist in traditional public schools. This is true. The report’s authors don’t deny this.However,
The report stems from the fact that since charters took off two decades ago, this is the first time they’ve had to report discipline data to the federal government.Wait, what? If charter schools are public schools, why haven't they been required to report their discipline data? For 20 years? That's yet another "regulation" they get to walk away from? Not good.
“This is a matter of civil rights,” he said. Losen is worried that charter networks like Success Academies, which has touted its strict discipline practices, are driving the conversation about what discipline in charter schools should look like and making it harder for charters that support concepts such as restorative justice (the practice of using mediation and dialogue to resolve issues instead of suspensions) to gain a foothold.What about students with disabilities?
The authors also express concern that some charter schools are dissuading children with disabilities from enrolling, which may contribute to the high marks some zero-tolerance schools report. Nationally, charters enroll a lower percentage of kids with disabilities than traditional public schools. Success Academy, New York City’s largest network of charter schools, was criticized last year when a “Got to Go” list created by one of its schools of children it wanted to leave came to light and raised questions about whether some charters succeed by pushing some students away. While private schools have the option to limit who they enroll, charters, the authors argue, should not be permitted to discourage certain students from enrolling.I just want to observe that Success Academy is the same chain that had the video of the first grade teacher shaming and bullying a student in front of the entire class over an answer the student had missed.
As states work to determine how they will implement the new Every Student Succeeds Act, the United States’s federal education law, some have the option to exempt charters from certain requirements. The report urges states not to do this, and argues that charters, which are publicly funded but privately run, are in a unique position to reform how they administer school discipline because there are fewer political barriers standing in their way. “There is no reason why charter schools cannot help to establish best practices that could, in turn, inform all public schools,” the authors write.More on Success Academy from The Guardian:
Success Academy, the largest charter school network in New York City, also has some of the highest test scores. Critics have alleged that Success Academy achieves this in part by driving low performers out.
A Guardian analysis has found that Success Academy loses children between the third and fourth grade, the first two years of New York state testing, at a rate four times that of neighboring public schools. Success lost more than 10% of its enrolled student population from grade to grade, compared with the average rate of 2.7% at public schools in the same building or nearby during the same years.
Within testing years, the enrollment drop rate observed at Success Academy is greater than the enrollment drop rates at next door public schools 70% of the time. Furthermore, in 61% of these cases, this difference is so large that we can reject the hypothesis that it occurred due to random variation in attrition rates, at the 5% significance level.”
Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation who focuses on education policy, said: “It could be that Success is counselling out weaker students, encouraging them to leave, or it could be that Success is not backfilling [replacing students] in the same way that traditional public schools do, or it could be a combination of those two things.”
Whatever the cause, Kahlenberg said the decline “provides a tremendous advantage to Success that we have be aware of when we compare the test scores”. Not replacing lost students with new ones in later years could provide Success a significant test score advantage, since highly transient students tend to do worse in school.
In January, 13 parents filed a civil rights complaint with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, alleging that Success Academy discriminated against their children because of their learning disabilities and repeatedly suspended them without due process.