Charter school students 11 times more likely to be expelled: CPS

Written By BY BECKY SCHLIKERMAN, FRAN SPIELMAN AND ART GOLAB Staff Reporters Posted: 03/28/2014, 08:58am
Array Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett (left) talks with Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, at the Board of Education meeting Wednesday. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

Charter school students in Chicago are 11 times more likely to be expelled than students in traditional schools, according to newly released Chicago Public Schools data.

That troubles Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who said he hopes charter operators will follow CPS’ new, gentler discipline policy.

“I can’t make ’em. But, I can persuade them, show them a different model,” the mayor said Wednesday. “And we think they’re going to be cooperative and work with us because it’s so promising what we’re seeing at CPS.”

The district has been touting the effects of its revised Student Code of Conduct, which limits disciplinary actions — such as out of school suspensions — that take kids out of the classroom.

At the monthly Chicago Board of Education meeting, CPS officials acknowledged that while high school numbers are down — a 36 percent drop in suspensions over the past several school years — the numbers aren’t good when it comes to elementary school kids.

About 15 percent more elementary school kids were suspended last school year compared with the 2011-2012 school year, CPS data shows.

And though black kids make up just 41 percent of CPS students, 75 percent of all out-of-school suspensions were handed out to black students.

“We know this is an issue here,” said Aarti Dhupelia, CPS’ chief of college and career success.

Of the 25 schools with the top expulsion rates last year, 22 of them were charters, the newly released data also show.

Andrew Broy, the president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, said charters will work with CPS to address the issue, though he noted that simply stopping expulsions and not addressing the issues leading to the discipline isn’t a solution.

“We want to figure out why [charters have high expulsion rates] and try to fix it,” he said. “Ultimately the goal is to keep students in school and get them prepared to graduate with college-ready skills.”

CPS didn’t highlight the charter school data in detail, though Dhupelia told the board that charters haven’t been able to use the district’s alternative to expulsion programs — though now they will.

Dhupelia also said charters don’t have to follow the same expulsion hearing process that traditional CPS schools do.

Charters do have to have a hearing process but we “don’t have clear visibility” about what that is, she said.

Another hot topic at the meeting Wednesday was the Illinois Standards Achievement Test boycott by teachers at Maria Saucedo Elementary Scholastic Academy.

A day after teachers at the Little Village school announced they would refuse to administer the test, 453 students had submitted letters to opt out of the ISAT, said Sarah Chambers, a special education teacher at the school. She said about 700 or 800 kids are supposed to take the test, which is scheduled to be administered beginning Monday.

Chambers said administrators at the school told teachers that substitutes would be used to administer the test if teachers refused to do so.

CPS officials declined to comment.

When asked Wednesday whether teachers who refuse to administer the ISAT should be punished, Emanuel said: “Barbara’s going to address that,” referring to CPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

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