The irony of a recent report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is that it purports to “separate fact from fiction” about charter schools. Unfortunately, in addressing 21 “myths,” it embraces fiction whenever useful to push advocacy goals, thus perpetuating its own myths and fictions about charter schools. Since it relies overwhelmingly on other advocacy documents, it does not give a balanced or thorough examination of any of the 21 “myths.” But the exercise provides a useful opportunity for this review to walk through the various claims and succinctly address each. Among the areas addressed are the financial equality of charter schools, lower teacher qualifications, student selection demographics, academic outcomes, segregation, and innovation. While the NAPCS report itself may provide only sound-bite fodder for advocates, we hope that the two documents combined— report plus review—offer an overview of issues that does advance comprehensive understanding.
To read the report in full, go to NEPC.
From Chalkbeat New York
New York City charter schools suspended students at almost three times the rate of traditional public schools during the 2011-12 school year, according to a Chalkbeat analysis, though some charter schools have since begun to reduce the use of suspensions for minor infractions.
Overall, charter schools suspended at least 11 percent of their students that year, while district schools suspended 4.2 percent of their students. The charter-school suspension rate is likely an underestimate because charter schools don’t have to report suspensions that students serve in school.
Not all schools had high suspension rates. One-third of charter schools reported suspending fewer than 5 percent of their students, and many schools said they did not give out any out-of-school suspensions. But 11 charter schools suspended more than 30 percent of their students — a figure likely to draw added scrutiny amid a nationwide push to reduce suspensions and a debate over allowing more charter schools to open statewide.
Chalkbeat’s analysis is based on data that charter schools report to the state education department and the more detailed reports of suspensions in district schools. It includes data from 130 city charter schools open in 2011-12, the last year for which data is publicly available. [More on our analysis here.]
The analysis offers a clearer picture of how out-of-school suspensions are used to deal with misbehavior in the city’s growing charter-school sector, which now serves more than 83,000 students, most of whom are black or Hispanic.
Meanwhile, some of the city’s charter-school networks that have long championed “sweat-the-small-stuff” discipline practices say they have been moved to change their policies.
“When you make the numbers visible, when you hold up a mirror, you’re able to see your actions,” said Ron Chaluisan, who oversees the charter schools run by New Visions for Public Schools network. “When you’re able to see your actions, you’re able to change your behaviors.”
An ongoing debate
Unlike traditional district schools, charter schools are free to craft their own discipline policies, and some have used that autonomy to establish strict behavior codes. Escalating consequences for misdeeds like chewing gum, tardiness, talking out of turn, and dress-code violations are standard, and students who break rules repeatedly can find themselves suspended quickly.
Schools say suspensions maintain order, keep children safe, and allow teachers to focus on instruction by removing the most distracting students. Strict discipline has long been a cornerstone of the charter-school movement, and supporters argue that those policies have led to better academic outcomes for a majority of their students.