A new policy report out from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) asserts that decreasing suspension rates by 5 percentage points, in districts with above-average rates, would lead to almost 5 percentage point increases in math proficiency, and 3.5 percentage point increases in reading proficiency.
Erin Richards posted the findings and a brief interview with the report’s author, Mike Ford, on the Journal-Sentinel blog on Wednesday, April 10th.
The report is great, and I highly recommend it as a resource to anyone that is interested in education reform. These kinds of efforts with meaningful steps to improve student achievement across school sectors should be given serious consideration by districts, independent schools, and their boards.
After reading the report, I was interested in how independent charters compared to traditional public schools, in terms of suspension and expulsion rates. A common refrain from opponents of independent charter schools is that charter schools don’t educate all children and they hand-pick students for their schools. This myth goes on to say that schools “kick out” kids, leaving traditional public schools to educate those students.
The problem with this complaint, as is often the case with broad criticisms of independent charters, is that available data do not support these unfounded claims.
In fact, in 2011, Milwaukee independent charter schools’ suspension rate was 35% lower than the district average. Expulsion rates contrasted even further, with independent charters’ rates coming in at 42% lower than the district averages. See the tables below for the actual numbers, including the statewide averages and a link to the raw data from DPI.
Independent charters should and will continue to explore alternatives to suspension and expulsion- no one would argue that there isn’t room for improvement in these areas. Some independent charters have much higher expulsion and suspension rates than either the citywide or charter school average, and these issues should be addressed by the boards and leadership of these schools. But the fact remains that independent charter schools continue to be, on average, the highest-performing sector of public schools in Milwaukee while ensuring that all students have access to the quality education they deserve.