This week in school choice: Lost in the clatter

Travis Pillow

This week, a new report on charter school discipline touched off a predictable controversy when it singled out charters for disproportionately suspending certain groups of students. Black and special needs students are far more likely than their peers to be suspended from school, but the problem spans district and charter schools alike.

The Atlantic argued the core problem was “lost in the clatter” over charters. ThinkProgress got to the heart of the matter.

Last year, for example, Stanford researchers found that black students were more three times more likely to be suspended or expelled. According to that study, teachers interpreted student misbehavior differently depending on the child’s race. For example, although teachers may not have let racial stereotypes guide their reactions after a student’s first infraction, after the second infraction, teachers judged a black student’s infraction more severely than for a white student. Another report from the Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative found that 25 percent of black students with disabilities received at least one suspension in the 2009-2010 school year.

Study author Dan Losen called out some specific schools:

Take a school like Roxbury Prep in Boston that suspended 57.8% of students with disabilities at least once, according to 2014-2015 data. Now that suggests to me that they should have been flagged along time ago and raises this question of what it means to say that a school is high performing. High performance should include a range of indicators, including whether a school is effective for ALL kinds of students. We should be looking for charter schools that have low suspensions, low attrition rates, and are also performing well academically.

Perhaps what’s needed is transparency. If schools, charter and otherwise, release timely and accessible discipline data, parents and the public can hold them accountable for bias or overly harsh practices — or choose to send their children elsewhere.

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers offered some charter-specific recommendations. Some charters are rethinking their approach to discipline already.


Some simple sector comparisons looked good for school choice: Student achievement at Indiana charters. Both charters and vouchers in Milwaukee.

NPR, The Atlantic, The 74, Christian Science MonitorDemocrats for Education Reform and others examined presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders’ confusing stance on charter schools, but Sara Mead managed to cut through the noise and explain why this really matters: Public education is being redefined, and not everyone agrees what that means.

Last week: New political momentum for D.C. Vouchers. This week: The Washington Post editorial board endorsed the renewal of the Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Louisiana’s new governor proposed new curbs on charters and vouchers. Back to bad schools on the bayou?

The Kentucky state Senate voted to legalize charter schools. But many doubt the House will follow suit.

New York lawmakers pushed changes that could penalize charters.

A bipartisan push for tax-credit scholarships gets underway in Maryland.

Chartlotte-Mecklenberg debates re-de-segregation.

Should the federal government fund education savings accounts for Native American students?

Oklahoma ESA legislation is stalled, but Gov. Mary Fallin is still pushing the concept. What would the fiscal impact of the program have been?

Understanding the fiscal impact of Nevada’s ESAs.

How do teachers handle choice for their own children?

No, vouchers don’t hurt Latinos.

The voucher regulation debate, continued.

Chris Stewart, on fire: “It takes a nation of empty robes to hold us back.”

Quote of the Week

“I like accountability, and it’s why I made the jump. Test data helps me understand my students’ thinking, and it drives my instruction. I’ve seen struggling students make a complete turnaround because of it.”

– Longtime educator Tracey Hertzog, on how school accountability policies prompted her to leave a private school for a public one.

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This Week in School Choice is out weekly roundup of national news related to educational options. It appears Monday mornings on the blog, but you can sign up here to get it Sundays. Did we miss something? Sends tips, links, suggestions and feedback to tpillow[at]sufs[dot]org.

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