Out-of-school suspensions and expulsions that keep students away from classrooms are down slightly from last year citywide, but charter schools are still kicking students out five times more than those run by Chicago Public Schools.
CPS reported the figures, which compared 2015-16 only to the 2012-13 school year, hours before Mayor Rahm Emanuel was scheduled to give a speech about public safety. For the past three years, the district has presented its annual suspension and expulsion numbers in February or March.
CPS credits many of the improvements to a change in 2012 from a very punitive student code of conduct to one stressing restorative justice programs instead. District spokesman Michael Passman said CPS spent $11.2 million last year on social and emotional learning that helped solve disciplinary problems, up from $8.4 million in the 2012-13 school year.
Critics say the cash-strapped district hasn’t funded those programs as well as it should.
While the biggest drops in discipline problems occurred right after that, from the 2014-15 school year to 2015-16, expulsions per 100 students in charter schools and district schools have been essentially flat. At CPS-run schools, they dropped from 0.3 students per 100 to 0.2, and at charters from .11 students per 100 to .1.
Even though charter students make up just one-fifth of total enrollment, they continue to expel students at rates that are five times higher. The privately managed, publicly funded schools expelled 281 students during the 2015-16 school year, more than five times the 48 told to leave schools operated by CPS.
Passman said the charters’ expulsion rates have declined 11 percent this past year compared to a year earlier, but CPS can’t require the schools to follow district disciplinary rules.
The highest four expulsion rates happened at schools run by the Noble Network of Charter Schools. Noble spokesman Cody Rogers said the charter chain’s students graduate from high school and attend college at higher rates than CPS students.
“We’re moving alongside all public schools to critically assess and improve our discipline practices, and we will do it while maintaining high expectations and a safe learning environment for all of our students,” he said in an email.
Racially, there are still wide disparities in who gets suspended and expelled, with African-American students suspended and expelled at higher rates than kids of other races. About 250 black students were expelled in 2015-16 from schools in the district that’s about about 40 percent African-American and 9 percent white, but just two white students.
CPS tracks suspension rates only among its own schools, and reports that in-school suspensions — which the district has encouraged schools to use instead of sending children home — also have dipped from 13.01 per 100 students to 12.08, and out-of-school suspensions from 8.18 to 8.07 per 100 students in a year.
CPS said the decline of both stats means that schools haven’t just substituted one punishment for another.
“These results clearly show that our focus on restorative practices, along with our commitment to social-emotional learning, is keeping more students in the classroom where they belong,” CPS top education officer Janice Jackson said in a statement.