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D.C. charter school students disciplined 1.58 times less than DCPS students

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Charter schools have been criticized from practically the time of their creation for being able to obtain higher academic results than the traditional schools because they were somehow able to self-select their student bodies. Charter proponents have consistently refuted this argument, pointing out as if there was a continuous playback loop that charters are public schools just like the regular ones and that they have to accept whoever shows up at their door. Usually the statements fall on deaf ears as the average citizen confuses charters with private schools because they are given autonomy that neighborhood schools lack. Some have even referred to the proliferation of these alternative schools as the privatization movement.

Now we have concrete evidence to combat the notion that charters can somehow manipulate their enrollment. A major study by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education has found that DCPS expels or gives children suspensions at a rate 1.68 greater than charters. The Washington Post quotes Scott Pearson, the executive director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, as commenting on these findings, “We’ve been getting beaten up for three years about the fact that DCPS doesn’t expel kids. Turns out they suspend a lot of them.”

Still there is much work to be done to reduce the number of serious school disciplinary actions against students. For example, the study found that male students were 1.68 times more likely to be disciplined than female students. Black students were disciplined six times more than white kids. Low income children were 1.3 times more likely to face disciplinary action compared to those who do not qualify for free or reduced lunch. Those with disabilities were 1.4 to 1.7 times more likely to be disciplined compared to those who do not receive special education services. Finally, the Post states that 181 pre-school students had out-of-school suspensions during the 2012 to 2013 term. The report recommends that three and four year olds never receive these type of suspensions. The observation resulted in D.C. Councilman David Grosso introducing legislation yesterday to make this suggestion a reality.

The report and its conclusions are important because suspensions and expulsions result in children limiting their future years in school and increases the likelihood that they will end up committing acts of crime and ending up in jail. Here is an excellent area where charters and DCPS can partner to figure out the best methods for keeping kids in school.

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