Charter School Study on Discipline; Some Suspend Sped/Children of Color at High Rates

One of the hottest stories out recently is about a study from UCLA's The Civil Rights Project.  This is what those researchers found.

Executive SummaryIn 2011-12, every one of the nation’s 95,000 schools was required to report its school discipline data, including charter schools.

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:
  • ŸŸ 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.
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.
 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." 

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.

The OCR survey data provide no way to track trends over time, and no way to ensure the numbers are reported consistently. 
But wait! The Atlantic to the rescue as writer Emily Deruy points this out:
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.
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.


Anonymous said…
Who has the ability to get this into Inslee's hands pronto?

Anonymous said…
And we'll put a counter argument, from a program right here in his own backyard, in his hands simultaneously. Not everyone so easily scoffs at the work of CRPE as Melissa.

Citizen Kane
What "program right her in his own backyard?" Being cryptic doesn't help the discussion.

As well, look at my update for Success Academy. Exactly what we've said all along about some of these high-flying "success" charter schools. All is not what it seems.
Anonymous said…
Program from right here in his own backyard = CRPE. The Governor of the State of Washington tends to give some credence to programs out of the University of Washington. And on top of that, governors of our state also rightly avoid demonizing Bill Gates and Microsoft. That's a heavy rock for you to push up a hill.

Citizen Kane
NO 1240 said…
I would like for someone to compile a list of research produced and promoted by CRPE. Then, I would like to see how many of those projects were put through a peer-review process. I do understand that CRPE has a tendency to publish their research- without a peer review process.

I don't recommend giving the Governor CRPE 'research' that was not put through a peer review process.

Washington state charter schools are exempt from some of Washington state laws- including discipline. Superior court was unable to rule on this issue because case law hasn't been established. Essentially, someone in a charter school needs to file a lawsuit before the issue can be dealt with on a legal basis. For me, discipline/charter schools are another area of concern.
Anonymous said…
Are you suggesting, NO 1240, that the UCLA study referenced here was peer-reviewed? Let me answer --- it was not.

And thanks for the unsolicited advice re: working with the governor. I've had a long history of working with various governors' policy staff. Your recommendations are noted (but will likely be ignored).

Citizen Kane
CK, CRPE is only located on the campus of UW and UW has nothing to do with their work. I know this because when I complained to UW years back, that's just what they told me. So that linkage to UW means nothing.

I said nothing about Microsoft. And I'm certain the Governor knows the yin and yang of the relationship the Bill Gates and his foundation has with this state.

No on 1240, is it me or does CK seem a bit overwrought?
Anonymous said…
Typical Melissa. When someone gives you as good as they get, you turn to snide insults.

As for CRPE's affiliation, they must have lied to you (or more likely, you misunderstood). CRPE is under the UW-Bothell Office of Research, Academic Affairs and is clearly affiliated. See

Citizen Kane
Overwrought is a snide word? I thought I was just pointing out the obvious.

Tell you what, I'll call UW on Monday.
seattle citizen said…
Melissa, (evidently) we shouldn't comment negatively about either CRPE -it's reports or its funder, Gates - and Inslee would do well to not poke those bears, because that's just not done: they have money.

Inslee should accept any report from Gates/CRPE at face value. It's an uphill battle to go against rich policy makers in this state.

Besides, CRPE's two Gates employees are "affiliated" with the UW, so they got THAT goin' for 'em.
CRPE is a self-sustaining organization affiliated with the University of Washington. Our work is funded entirely through private philanthropic dollars, federal grants, and contracts.
Funding Information:

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 2012-2014; The Joyce Foundation 2011-2013; US Dept. of Education 2012-2013; Carnegie Corporation of New York 2013-2015; Walton Family Foundation 2012-2014; Nellie
Mae Education Foundation 2011-2014

Affiliated doesn't mean UW direct or oversees their work.

That link is to all the "affiliated" centers and institutes. UW doesn't run them.
seattle citizen said…
Dora Taylor, on her Seattle Education blog has this 2015 post with everything one needs to know about CRPE (pronounced "creepy".) Pure privatizing, charterizing, policy-buying secret society ala' ALEC. Gates, Walton, Broad....all the usual suspects.
Anonymous said…
CRPE ideology disguised as "research" is quite frequently debunked. They have frequent issues with methodology, draw conclusions that don't match the data, and usually neglect to state their bias. Their "research" most often is simply advocacy.

This professor hits at Marguerite Roza's non-peer-reviewed work being touted as "research" by the USDOE - he calls it "hack research"

CRPE = CRAP when it comes to true research. They excel only in ideology and propaganda.
(Just an aside, how are those portfolio districts and Recovery/Achievement School districts doing......those CRPE pet projects based solely on ideology...,)

Cheezman said…
I say yes, turn this over to Inslee immediately. Man, I hope he's reading this blog, red text and massive innuendo and conspiracy theories and National Enquirer writing style and all. He'll see you've gone quite off the rails. I go to sleep comforted that your vessel of argument is empty.
Well, if you want to highlight text, you do that with bold or color. That's something most writers in media do (outside of newspapers.).

I hope I don't use much innuendo because I try to go for facts.

As for National Enquirer, I haven't read it since my Grandma died and that was more than 25 years ago. So I wouldn't really know what it is today but Cheezman, I would guess you do.

No, I think what I'm truly doing is hitting a nerve.
NO 1240 said…
CRPE has been busy flying staff from the Mary Walker School District around the country. They are looking at charter schools in Oakland, Denver etc. Of course, Gates provided them with the funding to do so.

Anonymous said…
I agree with you, Melissa, that what you're truly doing is hitting a nerve. Your opposition to charter public schools affects the real lives of children and their parents. Threatening the well-being of other people's children strikes a nerve every time.

Additionally, your opposition to charter public schools in our state --- which serve predominantly poor students of color, along with your very public fight with Africantown, your public opposition to the city HALA recommendations, and your leadership in the Opt Out movement --- which exists primarily among white, middle class families --- tells a real story. A pattern has begun to emerge with your activism. And it ain't pretty. And people have started to notice.

Citizen Kane
Anonymous said…
Citizen Kane:

Are you threatening Melissa? What is this "people are starting to notice" crap? Which people are those? Would you like to name them? Would you like to tell us what they, or you, or anybody else, intends to do about it, if they don't like what they read here? Why in hell would Melissa put a blog online every day if she didn't want people to notice?

-- Ivan Weiss
seattle citizen said…
People who criticize charters "affect the real lives of children" and "threaten...children" because charters are exempt from criticism even as they demand our tax dollars.

People who use children as shields and rhetorical devices to pluck heartstrings and impugn the humanity of those they disagree with in important policy discussions, on the other hand,
are the gentle protectors of children, defending them against those mean, inhumane bloggers...
Anonymous said…
Ivan, I'm not threatening Melissa in any way; that is, unless you think exposing the pattern of her advocacy for the self-interests of white, middle-class North Seattleites is a threat.

Long-time readers like you I'm sure remember that it got so bad during the Africatown stand-off that Charlie had to come in to calm the waters.

And you probably remember a few months ago when Melissa shut down all comments and moderated the webpage. It's because she had gotten into a heated Twitter flame war with a couple of pro-density, pro-transit activists. Even The Stranger admonished her for your anti-HALA comments to the City Council.

And just last weekend (or the weekend before), Melissa got into another Twitter flame war, but this time with a Black Lives Matter activist and education reformer.

People who follow city politics, including housing, education, social services, transit, etc. are starting to notice. I'm not going to call them out by name.

Citizen Kane
NO 1240 said…

Thanks for calling attention to this story:
Anonymous said…
Bottom line, charter and public schools have a lot of work to do. Sadly, this has become another political push button to score hits.


"...your public opposition to the city HALA recommendations, and your leadership in the Opt Out movement."

1) CK, you give me a lot more credit for my activism than I would have thought. I'm the reason the charter school argument may be failing?

2) I had no "public fight" with Africatown. I pointed out how I thought their actions hurt our district and themselves. That's usually allowed in public discourse even if the other side doesn't like the opinion. They didn't like it but I never had a "fight" with them. (That one person associated with them misguidedly tried to take me to court over my ability to speak out - and lost her case in about 30 seconds - is not my fault.)

3)I am NOT in opposition to the HALA recommendations (not all of them.) I pointed out issues around the report making schools sound like amenities (when they are infrastructure) and that they initially had any housing building by the City where there was space for a school, would go to a charter school. Again, I'm allowed to read the report and have an opinion especially in my area of expertise.

4) I am not a leader in the Opt-Out movement. I support it but I have never been to any meeting or even know who is in charge of the Seattle group.

CK, you seem to want to make this personal and it is not. This is my work.

Ivan is right; I am thrilled if people notice the blog, good or bad. As for that kind of finger wagging "people are noticing," if you think I have done this work day in and day out, for over a decade and I worry about what people "think" you'd be wrong. Because it takes a peculiar kind of skin and stomach to hear what people say. But it's not going to shut me down or drive me away.

That is one of the beauties of not having a boss or funders. I can say and do what I believe is in the best interests of public education in our city and state. No one has to listen if they don't want to. But apparently, pointing out truths when people don't want you to look behind the curtain is upsetting to those people who own the curtain.

As for that tired of canard of who I am and where I live - I have said, many times, I am not all white. Sorry you make such pronouncements on people you do not know. You don't know my background which informs my work. And, if you need people, from around the city to tell you how I have consistently supported schools and students around this district,just ask around.

The Stranger? They love me and do Google my name and theirs and see what comes up. If I said something they disagreed with (once), that does not make an argument.

I didn't get into any Twitter flame war - that was a couple of back and forths with a guy in Minneapolis who, like CK, was trying to make my advocacy against charter schools personal.

"People who follow city politics, including housing, education, social services, transit, etc. are starting to notice. I'm not going to call them out by name."

One, great! If that drives more people to read the blog, I'm fine with that.

Two,of course you aren't going to "call them out by name" - you don't even sign your own.
"And you probably remember a few months ago when Melissa shut down all comments and moderated the webpage."

Sorry, I missed that. That was NOT about the pro-density people. (Roger Valdez reading this blog? That's hilarious. He has better things to do with his time.)

I shut down the comments because there was a troll afoot who was trying to wreck nearly every thread. I know who it is and many of you do as well. This person pops in from time to time because he/she is a sad person who has nothing better to do.

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