Student explusion and suspension rates should be part of D.C. charter school ranking

Much has been written in the past week about a recently released study by the Center on Reinventing Public Education regarding how Washington, D.C. and New Orleans are handling public school student expulsions and suspensions.  The authors come to the conclusion that both rates have declined in the nation’s capital over the past three years primarily because of the release of Equity Reports that make these statistics publicly available for individual schools.  From the investigation:

“Since D.C. officials published the first School Equity Reports for the 2012–2013 school year, schools have shown some encouraging trends. Between the 2012–2013 and 2014–2015 school years, the average overall suspension rate across all city schools dropped from 12 percent to 10 percent, as shown in Figure 3. The suspension rate for students with special needs, the group of students most frequently suspended from the city’s schools, fell from 23 percent to 19 percent. The suspension rate for black students, the racial group most frequently suspended, fell from 16 percent to 13 percent. Strictly by the numbers, the city’s schools are suspending and expelling fewer students: the citywide expulsion rate fell from 0.22 percent (22 per 1,000 students) to 0.13 percent (13 per 1,000 students).”

Data from the DC Public Charter School Board states that the out of school suspension rate has gone from a four year high of 14.5 percent in the 2012 to 2013 school year to 10.7 percent in the 2014 to 2015 term.  Moreover, a four-year peak expulsion rate in the 2011 to 2012 school year of 0.8 percent dropped to 0.3 percent during the 2014 to 2015 school year.  These are impressive numbers.  In my interview with Scott Pearson, the PCSB executive director, he himself attributed the two-thirds decline in suspension proportions to making these statistics public.

Still, the CRPE questions whether these indicators could be even smaller if they were included in the tiering of schools that resulted from scoring on the Performance Management Framework.  I have to admit I like the idea.  This information should be incorporated into the PMF not simply because it could help drive down student suspensions and expulsions, but because it gives a fuller picture of the operation of the charter, just as I’ve argued in the past the report card should encompass a grade for board of directors governance and financials.  Parents and their children will benefit from the inclusion of these important school characteristics.

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