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Should we just let DC public schools expel anyone?

If DC Public Schools are to compete with charter schools, let them expel any students who keep other students from learning. Special safety-net schools, perhaps run by the Department of Youth and Rehabilitative Services, could fulfill our duty to provide mandatory education.


Photo by Sean MacEntee on Flickr.

Does this sound crazy?

Charter schools get to do something similar. If that's fair (and some say it is), shouldn't DCPS get to do the same?

Emma Brown reports in the Washington Post that "DC charter schools expelled 676 students in the past three years, while the city's traditional public schools expelled 24."

Charter schools thus get rid of the problem students and often boost their own average test scores in the process. DCPS schools cannot expel elementary students and must convince judges to expel older students. Charters have no such restrictions.

Where there is no level playing field, there is no competition. That's why, as I've written before, we will never leverage innovation in education until we level the playing fieldin neighborhood preference, common lotteries, funding and facilities access... and maybe expulsion policies, too?

Of course, I don't really support allowing DCPS to expel anyone into DYRS safety net schools. Instead, charters need to operate under the same expulsion policies as DCPS.

That's basically what the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education proposed to do last August. As Brown reported, however, "charter leaders mounted a vigorous opposition."

Why should charter schools get competitive advantages that traditional public schools don't get, and vice versa?

Isn't competition, competition which leads to innovation benefiting students, the point of charters? You'd be surprised how many people disagree with that statement.

Education reformers abandoning competition as a goal

Why do we have choice in education? Is it because we want parents to have a dozen specialty programs from which to chooseMontessori, Chinese-immersion, and so on? That's one benefit, but the reason charters became part of the DC education system is to make schools compete to attract parents and students, creating pressure for them to do better.

Most DC residents still assume that competition is the point of school choice. Post reporter Mike DeBonis, for example, writes that "Charter schools exist to give competition to traditional public schools" and that "debate rages over whether the playing field is level."

However, it seems like the goal for education reformers has drifted from competition to having lots of charters, on the premise that lots of charters is a sign of competition. Proposals that limit charter success, like neighborhood preference or common expulsion policies, are thus anti-reform, even if the point of the proposal is to stimulate competition.

Yesterday, StudentsFirst, the reform advocacy organization led by former DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee, released state-by-state report cards grading progress in school reform. Many states, like Tennessee, were graded low for their slow processes for "charter establishment and expansion" and lack of "equitable access to facilities" for charters.

However, no unfair competitive advantages charters enjoy, like freedom to expel, lack of neighborhood preference and lack of a common lottery, were counted against states. Eric Lerum, VP for National Policy for StudentsFirst, told me that "competition isn't [the] goal. Better schools for kids should be."

The Brookings Institution, similarly, recently ranked urban school systems on "choice and competition." DC ranked 3rd, largely because 41% of public school students attend charters. That report distinguished charters from traditional public schools in the report as "schools of choice."

I always thought the point of choice was not to have lots of charters because there's something magical about charters. The point was to have competition, because competition leads to innovation.

The Federal Trade Commission, which is in charge of protecting competition in private consumer markets, said last week that "the FTC's mission is to protect competition, and not individual competitors." Education reformers appear to have lost that same focus on competition, not individual competitors.

Charter autonomy isn't autonomy from educational challenges kids pose to DCPS

Charter advocates challenge proposals to adopt neighborhood preference in charter admissions or common expulsion policies as an infringement on charter autonomy. But the point isn't to grant charters as much autonomy as possible so that they will be as successful as possible.

The point of charters is to provide competition to traditional public schools, competition which leads to innovation. But competition requires a level playing field.

That means it makes sense to give charters autonomy in how they address educational challenges for their students. Their teachers don't have to be union members. Their budgeting doesn't have to follow DCPS budget rules.

However, charters shouldn't have autonomy from the educational challenges themselves from the kids. If they do, then we don't really have competition, which is the point of charters.

Total autonomy isn't what leads to innovation. Competition leads to innovation. In fact, autonomy from the educational challenges posed by kids to DCPS undermines innovation.

I believe in charters because I believe that competition leads to innovation. We won't really know what the charters can innovate, and what DCPS can innovate, until we create a truly competitive market for schools in DC.

Most DC residents are not ideological about education. They don't think charters are a conspiracy to privatize education. And they don't think concerns about charters are a conspiracy of unions to defend their turf. They want innovation in urban education for their kids and kids across town.

It's up to this pragmatic majority of DC residents to start demanding a reasonably level playing field between charters and non-charters through neighborhood preference, common lotteries, common expulsion policies, and equal funding and facilities access for charters.

Ken Archer is CTO of a software firm in Tysons Corner. He commutes to Tysons by bus from his home in Georgetown, where he lives with his wife and son. Ken completed a Masters degree in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America. 

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"Competition" and "innovation" and all sorts of buzzwords may be the stated, public goal of things like charters, but their real value lies in exclusion. Mass expulsions of problem children are, as they say, not a bug but a feature.

"Leveling the playing field" is antithetical to parents' (rational) selfish self-interest, because they want the playing field tilted - in their kids' favor. And that tilt, more than any other factor, determines the outcomes.

Just as warehousing poverty in housing projects and blighted neighborhoods does nothing to solve poverty and produce better socio-economic outcomes, so too does warehousing the children of poverty in public schools not produce favorable educational outcomes. 40 hours a week of the most innovative education on the planet is only going to have a marginal effect compared to what goes on the other 128 hours of the week.

But, of course, de-concentrating poverty in schools is a highly unpopular policy, personally and politically. Busing would not play much better today than it did the first time around.

by Dizzy on Jan 8, 2013 1:55 pm • linkreport

I think DCPS should be able to expel students thaat purposely interfer with other students learning and they dont want to learn anything themeseleves

by Jerome on Jan 8, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

It seems weird that you didn't cite the following from the article:

"Many charter schools — 60 out of 97 campuses — did not expel students in 2011-12. That same school year, seven expelled at least 10 students.

YouthBuild, a school that targets high school dropouts and students older than 16, expelled 30 that year, nearly one-third of its enrollment. Friendship’s Collegiate Academy expelled 56 students, or 5 percent of its student body."

Rather indicting charter schools as a whole, it seems that there is a problem with a relatively small number of them. Clearly there should be a mechanism to prevent this kind of abuse when it does occur, but that doesn't mean it's ok to malign all charter schools equally.

by Alan B. on Jan 8, 2013 2:06 pm • linkreport

It would be very interesting to see when the kids are expelled from these schools during the year. Anecdotally, the handful of kids who I've known over the years to get expelled from a DC charter school, all got expelled in mid October to mid November. Now I know why. Once you make it past the October 5 threshold date, they get to keep the money paid to them to educated the kid for the entire year. Basically...it is a ploy to keep as much money as they can.

by Anon543 on Jan 8, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport

The idea that charter schools should not be allowed to expel students in order to "ensure a level playing field" between these schools and public schools is to fundamentally misunderstand the concept of charter schools. Their entire reason for existing is the promise that, if freed from the structural constraints of public schools (inability to fire/promote teachers, modify curriculum, and yes, expel problem students) students will perform better. If we insist that charter schools be hobbled by the same rules that constrain public schools, then while we will have kept the playing field level, we'd also likely keep the score tied. It is these very innovations, which often are somewhat politically unpopular (and hence, why they were not adopted by the politics-driven public school system) that can help identify what improves student outcomes.

Admittedly, something will need to be done with the problem students that are expelled. But if they are placed in the public school system, and it causes further disruption amongst the student populations there, then all that will show is further evidence that these students are indeed highly disruptive to the general population, and perhaps provide the political motivation to allow even public schools to take steps to deal with this group (through explusion, treatment, etc) in a way that allows their other students to prosper like charter students do.

by Josh on Jan 8, 2013 2:12 pm • linkreport

Clearly there should be a mechanism to prevent this kind of abuse when it does occur, but that doesn't mean it's ok to malign all charter schools equally.

And what mechanism would that be, if not the harmonizing of expulsion policies between charters and DCPS that charter advocates are fighting as being "anti-charter"?

Adopting common expulsions policies between charters and DCPS does not "malign" charters - it promotes competition. The framing of proposals as "pro-charter" or "anti-charter" is precisely the problem that I am pointing out. I'm pro-competition, and so are the majority of DC residents.

by Ken Archer on Jan 8, 2013 2:12 pm • linkreport

If we insist that charter schools be hobbled by the same rules that constrain public schools, then while we will have kept the playing field level, we'd also likely keep the score tied. It is these very innovations, which often are somewhat politically unpopular (and hence, why they were not adopted by the politics-driven public school system) that can help identify what improves student outcomes.

So, you would not oppose allowing DCPS to expel students, using same expulsion criteria as charters, into non-DCPS schools, perhaps run by DYRS? That would be about 500 students per year expelled by charters and DCPS into these new safety-net schools?

by Ken Archer on Jan 8, 2013 2:17 pm • linkreport

Charter schools thus get rid of the problem students and often boost their own average test scores in the process. DCPS schools cannot expel elementary students and must convince judges to expel older students. Charters have no such restrictions.

This is not a recent problem either. When I was a child, attending Montgomery County [Md.] Public Schools, our school got a lot of "bad" kids that had been tossed out of the local Catholic school (especially in the elementary school years, grades 1 through 6 (Catholic schools did not offer kindergarten at the time).

There were some Catholic school rejects that got enrolled in the secondary schools as well, but not (proportionately) as many.

But when some politicians (usually of the Republic Party persuasion) sing the praises of Catholic schools, then never, ever mention that the Catholic system, like all other private schools, gets to self-select its student body to some extent.

by C. P. Zilliacus on Jan 8, 2013 2:19 pm • linkreport

Having different expulsion standards does make it difficult to compare performance between Charter and DCPS. But that debate gets into politics, and distracts from the core goals.

The goal of any school reform movement must be on getting good education for DC kids, at a more reasonable cost than the past, and giving parents and kids some option.

Having flexibility in policies is necessary to determine what policies and educational styles work best. If different expulsion policies are necessary to make things better for the majority of students, then the numbers will eventually show that.

At the end of the day, I think we should allow kids to go to charters provided that the educational outcome is no worse and no more expensive than DCPS.

by SJE on Jan 8, 2013 2:20 pm • linkreport

@Alan, even if a "few" charters are responsible for the 676 students expelled during the past 3 years, it's still far beyond the 24 in DCPS. I agree that all charters shouldn't be maligned..but that's simply the expectation when discussing one thing or another. If you want to challenge or criticize DCPS...you will say DCPS..not "some DCPS" schools.

One of the things many of us have long argued (well at least since Fenty/Rhee/Gray toxins entered DC's water supply) is that it's unfair to do 1+1 comparison to public/charter because of what they are and aren't allowed to do. In fact, look at the success of schools in NYC and Chi-town and the school leaders almost always cite "discipline" as one of the tools of success. I

BTW, I always like Ken's posts wrt to education..especially since he's part of the demographic w/the ability to be much more nimble in choosing a school.

by HogWash on Jan 8, 2013 2:20 pm • linkreport

Yes, I would allow DCPS to expel students along the same lines as charters. Any teacher will tell you that it's the problem students who suck up time and resources in the classroom, to the detriment of the majority of students. Let teachers focus their time and energy on the majority of students. We can expect that those students who remain will be better off.

by Socket on Jan 8, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

>>And what mechanism would that be, if not the harmonizing of expulsion policies between charters and DCPS that charter advocates are fighting as being "anti-charter"?

Well for one, schools that show expulsion rates far above the norm should face some kind of penalty. According to the WashPo article, the average expulsion rate was still slightly less than 1% of total enrollment who are likely ending back up in the DCPS. That is higher than seems right, but that is why I think the answer is to go after the schools that are producing the crazy numbers I highlighted above rather than changing policies that work for the majority of schools. Some kind of financial penalty that would require schools reimburse DCPS for expelled students would be a start.

by Alan B. on Jan 8, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

I agree that it would be beneficial to make our choices based on having as much information as possible, but the expulsion disparity only tells a fraction of the story.

DCPS reports a truancy rate of 11%, down from 20% just a few years ago. That's a remarkable accomplishment which deserves explanation it not celebration - what did DCPS do to cut truancy by half? What's the truancy rate for charters?

DCPS reports a graduation rate of just 56%, with an asterisk that explains that the calculation method was recently changed resulting in about a 20% drop from a few years ago. What's the graduation rate for charter students?

(It's incredible that a 56% graduation rate is considered acceptable under any calculation method, let alone one that sounds like a basic description of high school. What were they using to calculate the 73% rate - survival?)

By 8th grade only 15% of DCPS students score at or above expected proficiency in reading and math. At graduation, DCPS college-bound students average scores around the 17th percentile on college board exams.

I really would like to see the broader picture before I try to advocate for or against any particular element. By all means, worry about a level playing field, but if truancy, dropouts, competence, and college prep in DCPS are an indication of the level we're aiming for the field is pretty muddy. Those failures hurt every child enrolled in the system, even those who thrive in it.

by DaveS on Jan 8, 2013 2:26 pm • linkreport

Having different expulsion standards does make it difficult to compare performance between Charter and DCPS

Don't necessarily disagree. However, it does make it difficult to have a honest conversation about the pros/cons of charter and DCPS.

by HogWash on Jan 8, 2013 2:27 pm • linkreport

If what @Anon543 says is true, then at the very least new fiscal practices need to be put into place by DC. If DC pays charter schools, say, $20,000 per student and expels a student in early October, then that charter should be forced to return $16,000 ($2K per month for a 10 month academic year beginning mid August). With that rule in place charters will be a bit more selective with whom they expel.

by 7r3y3r on Jan 8, 2013 2:31 pm • linkreport

Ken, if you had a school-age child in a charter that has carved out a specific niche such as citizenship, language immersion, classics or accelerated studies, you too would want all the families to be committed to that program, not just the ones who don't live in the neighborhood, not just the ones who did not choose the school at random. THAT commitment is the point of charters: people CHOOSE to be there. If the neighborhood school is at least nearly. As good, people will CHOOSE it over the charter that's farther away. THAT is the competition charters provide. I totally GET that walkable neighborhoods need neighborhood schools and that's where you're coming from. But your idea to force neighborhood preference on charters that have a different type of draw will take away the big advantage that neighborhood-serving schools offer, and at the same time you'll be putting students in special-focus schools that have no buy-in to the special focus. Then voila! We'll have a level playing field of mediocrity and sameness. Thank heavens my son's charter anticipated that not every student wants the special focus the school offers, and many will depart and yes, some will be expelled. There already are schools for students who don't want to learn and attack others on a routine basis. These students don't belong in charters OR neighborhood schools.

by LouDC on Jan 8, 2013 2:35 pm • linkreport

I know Montgomery County MD has at least one public school for kids that get "booted" from public schools for behavioral or other reasons. The secondary school is called Mark Twain. Are you saying DC doesn't have that and there is nowhere to move out problem children? That seems like a major flaw in the DC system even without bringing charter schools into the equation.

by C. Miller on Jan 8, 2013 2:35 pm • linkreport

Hogwash, raw numbers are only useful in comparison to total enrollment. The DCPS rate is less than 1 in 10,000. That sounds similar if not better than the upper middle class suburban district I grew up in. There are going to be kids with problems that make them very difficult if not impossible to educate in a standard classroom setting. The charter school rate is closer to 1 in 1000. This would be too high if the kids had no alternative, but they could be enrolled in either DCPS or possibly another charter school so the rates aren't entirely comparative. If anything it sounds like DCPS policies are probably way too strict for removing kids. As much as I feel bad for those kids who likely are troubled for reasons beyond their control, is it really fair to force all the other kids to learn in that kind of environment. A lot of time and energy seems spent trying to cater to a relatively small number of people.

It would be relatively easy to put policies in place that penalize charter schools for excessive or predatory expulsions without forcing them to take kids that could be disruptive for everyone else.

by Alan B. on Jan 8, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

Correction: I just looked it up and saw that Mark Twain closed in 2008. I worked in the MCPS Warhouse during college summers and its been awhile since then. Not sure what replaced it.

by C. Miller on Jan 8, 2013 2:39 pm • linkreport

DC has 6 "other" schools for children who aren't attending traditional programs. Other than that one includes "corrections" in the name, I don't know anything else.

by DaveS on Jan 8, 2013 2:50 pm • linkreport

Regarding the expulsion rate, the public school expulsion rate is skewed. As the Post article showed, some significant number of kids are offered a choice between transferring and being expelled. However Charters don't have the ability to offer that option.

by LouDC on Jan 8, 2013 2:58 pm • linkreport

FWIW, burying the lede is bad form.

by movement on Jan 8, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

How about looking at "attrition" as opposed to "expulsion". Many many students walk away from or drop out of public schools on purpose? Those numbers are a commentary on whether those schools are serving students' needs. Maybe the public schools don't NEED to expel because the students leave on their own. How many walk away from charters on purpose?

by LouDC on Jan 8, 2013 3:09 pm • linkreport

It's up to this pragmatic majority of DC residents to start demanding a reasonably level playing field between charters and non-charters through neighborhood preference, common lotteries, common expulsion policies, and equal funding and facilities access for charters.

I'm pretty sure they don't actually want this. Non-charter public schools are larger, and there may be alternative classrooms within the school that students can be sent to without being officially "expelled." Charters don't have those same resources.

I also think it helps, and parents would support, greater ease of removing students that are hostile to he academic environment.

by JustMe on Jan 8, 2013 3:12 pm • linkreport

Ken, if you had a school-age child in a charter that has carved out a specific niche such as citizenship, language immersion, classics or accelerated studies, you too would want all the families to be committed to that program, not just the ones who don't live in the neighborhood, not just the ones who did not choose the school at random. THAT commitment is the point of charters: people CHOOSE to be there.

Your view of the point of charters is becoming more common, and is totally different from the original purpose that charters were intended to serve.

Notice that nowhere in your description did you mention competition. Most residents think charters are meant to serve their original purpose, competition with traditional public schools - competition which should lead to innovation by charters and non-charters.

by Ken Archer on Jan 8, 2013 3:14 pm • linkreport

@C. Miller, MCPS has a handful of alternative schools for 6-8 and 9-12 students. You can see them here: http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/schools/#tabs Scroll down and lick on the "Alternative Programs" tab. not sure any of them 'replaced" Mark Twain, specifically.

by Birdie on Jan 8, 2013 3:20 pm • linkreport

Regarding the expulsion rate, the public school expulsion rate is skewed. As the Post article showed, some significant number of kids are offered a choice between transferring and being expelled. However Charters don't have the ability to offer that option.

That's simply false. The Post article closed with a story of a charter student who withdrew instead of being expelled and ended up graduating from Anacostia HS.

In fact, according to the Public Charter School Board, 1,223 students withdrew or were expelled from DC charter schools between October 5, 2010 and May 1 2011. That's 4% percent of total enrollment during that period.

Now, not all of those withdrew under threat of expulsion to keep an expulsion off their record. We will have a better idea of how many did when OSSE releases numbers of charter mobility due to moves or switching from one charter to another - which supposedly they are working on.

by Ken Archer on Jan 8, 2013 3:22 pm • linkreport

The problem with the Post article is that it implies that the kids that the charters expel end up in DCPS, thus that the charters "dump" their bad kids into DCPS. For example:
Parents and activists say some charters expel excessively and with little oversight, shedding disruptive students who then end up enrolling mid-year in the traditional school system, which is legally bound to take them.
The article provides nothing to support or back up this assertion. However, at a meeting discussing education a few weeks back, this very subject came up and it was pointed out that most students that leave charter schools re-enroll in other charter schools. Unfortunately I do not have any cite to show this.

by goldfish on Jan 8, 2013 3:30 pm • linkreport

The article also says that DCPS uses long-term suspensions, up to 90 days, at a rate twice that of the charters, or about 600/year. Although in some sense a school still has a responsibility for the suspended student, at that point you've really given up on a positive educational outcome and are just kicking the can down the road.

The article points out, as has been mentioned above, that DCPS will use involuntary transfers, which don't count as expulsions, for poor academic performance at selective schools, for excessive absence at out-of-boundary schools, and for fighting and other disruptions. Charters don't have the ability to do such involuntary transfers.

I know Ken is being facetious with his safety-net schools idea, but as DaveS points out, they might be already doing that. The figures in the article could also indicate that too many DCPS schools have a go-along-to-get-along, look-the-other-way attitude about violence in schools and that chronic behavioral problems are allowed to continue to disrupt the learning of others. And that would be the sort of management failure in DCPS that keeps parents searching for alternatives.

by thm on Jan 8, 2013 3:46 pm • linkreport

Ken, if you had a school-age child in a charter that has carved out a specific niche such as citizenship, language immersion, classics or accelerated studies, you too would want all the families to be committed to that program, not just the ones who don't live in the neighborhood, not just the ones who did not choose the school at random. THAT commitment is the point of charters: people CHOOSE to be there.

@Ken Archer: "Your view of the point of charters is becoming more common, and is totally different from the original purpose that charters were intended to serve.

Notice that nowhere in your description did you mention competition. Most residents think charters are meant to serve their original purpose, competition with traditional public schools - competition which should lead to innovation by charters and non-charters."

You are finding a distinction between Choosing and Competition that is really not a distinction. Further, I don't know where you could get the statistics about what most residents think (not just what Mike DeBonis thinks.)

By creating public school options that parents will choose (rather than just plunking their kids in the neighborhood school when they reach school age) you are creating a market for education in which all incomes of families are participants. Gone will be the monopoly of the neighborhood school. By exercising choice the participants are encouraging competition.

by LouDC on Jan 8, 2013 3:47 pm • linkreport

You are finding a distinction between Choosing and Competition that is really not a distinction....By creating public school options that parents will choose (rather than just plunking their kids in the neighborhood school when they reach school age) you are creating a market for education in which all incomes of families are participants. Gone will be the monopoly of the neighborhood school. By exercising choice the participants are encouraging competition.

But it's unfair competition, which is not competition. Charters should have autonomy in how they address educational challenges, but when they also get autonomy from some of the educational challenges that DCPS has to address then we don't have fair competition between charters and traditional public schools. That was the original purpose of charter schools - fair competition that leads to innovation.

by Ken Archer on Jan 8, 2013 3:53 pm • linkreport

Mr Archer: DCPS spend more money per child. That too is unfair.

by goldfish on Jan 8, 2013 3:57 pm • linkreport

I think the author should state where their kids go to school, in the interest of full disclosure.

by John on Jan 8, 2013 3:58 pm • linkreport

Okay so now you're saying Choice is competition (albeit unfair). That's point one. Whether it is fair competition: they do not have autonomy from challenges. They must take all comers, and there will be students who pose threats to the other students just as at DCPS. The article compares expulsion rates of charters, which seek to maintain standards of behavior, and DCPS, which chooses not to actively maintain those standards in some of their schools. It is DCPS' decision to tolerate rather than expel, and not the fault of charters.

by LouDC on Jan 8, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

The point of all the schools should be to provide the best education possible. Repeating the word competition over and over again does nothing to help anyone in any of the schools. Instead of focussing on history so much, we should focus on the actual problems that we are currently facing and how to fix them. "Leveling the field" gets us nowhere if the field will be lowered everywhere.

You seem to be highlighting a problem with disruptive students that are allowed to remain in DCPS classes that are not allowed to remain in Charters. The solution should not be to force the students in the Charters to have to stay in the classroom with the disruptive students, it should be to get the disruptive students out of the DCPS neighborhood schools' classroom. I went to an amazing high school in a great district, and it had a sister school that those that weren't thriving at the main school attended. It was an excellent program, and through facebook, I have learned that many in my class that went there ended up going to good colleges and even graduate schools. I'm not saying that we could make such a school work here easily, only that such a design is not always just a failure pit; the students at this school needed a different type of attention, and they were able to receive it, which helped everyone.

by Danielle on Jan 8, 2013 4:06 pm • linkreport

@Alan, I understand but its hard for me to get past 676 vs. 24. We have to acknowledge the disparity.

That was the original purpose of charter schools - fair competition that leads to innovation.

I don't believe most people care to understand this. We shouldn't simply adopt the idea "charters are good because they offer choice" the the sole slogan for why we should have them. We should continue to look at ways to provide some equity between charter and DCPS policies...if fair competition is really the goal. Too many peas in the pod w/self-serving goals if you ask me.

by HogWash on Jan 8, 2013 4:15 pm • linkreport

I'm going to go back and read but where did Ken suggest that charters shouldn't be allowed to expel students?

What's more troubling is that no one seems to look at 676 vs. 24 and say that's too high. Instead, it's more "well don't blame charters" as if that addresses the problem.

by HogWash on Jan 8, 2013 4:21 pm • linkreport

"Competition" is the goal. DC is competing with Montgomery and Fairfax Counties for families when choosing a school system. The charter system allows parents to choose to remain to DC when they would otherwise leave in favor of the MD or VA competition.

There's no reason that Charter schools should have to fall down to the lowest-common denominator when it comes to tolerance of disruptive behavior simply to "compete" with DCPS. Rather, DCPS should figure out how they can provide as desirable an environment as charters-- something that charters have managed to outcompete Montgomery and Fairfax Counties in, at least for many parents who would have otherwise moved.

by JustMe on Jan 8, 2013 4:21 pm • linkreport

HogWash said: "What's more troubling is that no one seems to look at 676 vs. 24 and say that's too high. Instead, it's more "well don't blame charters" as if that addresses the problem."
That is true. It is high time DCPS addressed the problem of students reveling in a culture of anything goes. Some of these kids are shocked at the difference in expectations at some charters. Most of these students thrive in an atmosphere where more is expected of them. Some of them do not thrive. Of the ones that don't thrive, they need to be in a different setting. DCPS should be ashamed that the numbers of truly hurting and sometimes dangerous kids are not placed in an environment that can help them. Instead these kids drift through and drop out at mind-boggling percentage rates.

by LouDC on Jan 8, 2013 4:31 pm • linkreport

Ken is right, and he didn't make any case that charters shouldn't be able to expel.

One of the big original justifications given for charters was that by creating a separate system and allowing it to innovate, that would push DCPS to innovate so that all children could get a better education.

The point was not "choice" in that some people would have access to better schools. The point was not "competition" with other jurisdictions in that having more better schools would keep families in DC. The point was to have a rising tide which lifted ALL boats. Anything other than that betrays the essential purpose of PUBLIC education FOR ALL.

Of course the entire charter debate and especially the debate here just shows the extreme amount of talking around the elephant in the room that goes on. The real problem with education in DC is the poverty trap and schools with huge concentrations of kids in poverty. There is little that can be done without dealing with that problem. The charters currently are merely a band-aid that let some families who would otherwise move to the burbs for good schools stay, and possibly help some individual kids out of the poverty trap. But they are not a solution.

by MLD on Jan 8, 2013 4:35 pm • linkreport

There's no reason that Charter schools should have to fall down to the lowest-common denominator when it comes to tolerance of disruptive behavior simply to "compete" with DCPS.

And who said that? Where did you get this from? Certainly not Ken.

It is high time DCPS addressed the problem of students reveling in a culture of anything goes.

Such as? How should DCPS address the problem of students who revel in a culture of anything goes? Charters doing it by expelling them.

From reading the responses here, the sentiment is pro-charter and that DCPS needs to be more like charters. And I assume the answer to the question posed here is that if DCPS expelled 600 rather than 24 students, better schools will follow.

Doesn't seem like it addresses the problem but ok,

by HogWash on Jan 8, 2013 4:37 pm • linkreport

MLD said: "There is little that can be done without dealing with that problem. The charters currently are merely a band-aid that let some families who would otherwise move to the burbs for good schools stay, and possibly help some individual kids out of the poverty trap. But they are not a solution."

Clearly you're not familiar with the KIPP schools. Charters are not "merely a band-aid", but of course poverty is of course a huge problem for DC residents.

by LouDC on Jan 8, 2013 4:41 pm • linkreport

I think DCPS should be able to expel students thaat purposely interfer with other students learning and they dont want to learn anything themeseleves...

That this is in any way controversial is a sad indictment of DCPS. As is the case with a lot of juvenile justice issues, we tend to focus way too much on the disruptive kid and what's "fair" for them, and far too little time focusing on the 20 disrupted kids who have their time, education, and future stolen from them.

by oboe on Jan 8, 2013 4:49 pm • linkreport

I still feel the author should disclose where their kids attend school. That directly influences perspectives in the matter, and would be required disclosure in journalism.

by John on Jan 8, 2013 4:52 pm • linkreport

I still feel the author should disclose where their kids attend school. That directly influences perspectives in the matter, and would be required disclosure in journalism.

Why is that and no it doesn't. It's actually akin to saying that a rich person can't "really" be concerned about the poor. Or that a person who sends his child to private school can't be concerned about public school education (see Barack Obama and literally every other politician)

And what if Ken sends his kids to private school? Should he only be concerned about private schools?

by HogWash on Jan 8, 2013 4:55 pm • linkreport

@LouDC

Actually, I am very familiar with KIPP and good results they produce. I am also familiar with the extensive research on charters that says that once you control for the demographic differences among charter school populations, the education and engagement levels of the parents, etc. the conclusion is that charters really do not perform any better. Montgomery County also has great outcomes (better than DC charters I think), is there some kind of magic mojo that they have that does that? No.

Which should be obvious. There is nothing magical about charter schools that makes them teach their students better. It's the same effects we have known about for 30 years:
- economically advantageous student population
- parents who are better educated
- parents who are more engaged

If your goal is a better education for YOUR kid, then they are a great option. I do not discount that. Unfortunately the District's goal must be a better education for ALL kids in DC.

@HogWash
And I assume the answer to the question posed here is that if DCPS expelled 600 rather than 24 students, better schools will follow.

Well it's true, if DC had some dumping-ground school they could send all the problem kids to with no repercussions then they could probably get better outcomes from the remaining kids. But being part of the DC government they are bound by political pressures that charters operate outside of.

by MLD on Jan 8, 2013 4:55 pm • linkreport

The point was to have a rising tide which lifted ALL boats.

It's hardly the fault of the charter schools if the DCPS schools don't want to be lifted. DCPS has more or less always been happy doing what they've been doing. Charters can't force them to change if they don't want to. What does happen is that charters that work stay alive and charters that fail go away. Plus, falling enrollment in DCPS means that the administration has leeway to close DCPS schools that are acting as a drag on the system while sending more resources to other ones.

by JustMe on Jan 8, 2013 5:02 pm • linkreport

It's hardly the fault of the charter schools if the DCPS schools don't want to be lifted. DCPS has more or less always been happy doing what they've been doing.

Reread the post and the comments. No one faulted the charters at all..like..not at all. The idea that DCPS has been happy w/what it's been doing is entirely hyperbolic and so far misses the point of having serious conversations about our education system.

Sorta like, poor people are happy being poor. So let's leave them where they are most happy..with crumbling schools and inadequate infrastructure.

by HogWash on Jan 8, 2013 5:08 pm • linkreport

Well it's true,

But it does go against why you've already suggested here.

by HogWash on Jan 8, 2013 5:10 pm • linkreport

@JustMe

Wow, I mean were you completely blind to Michelle Rhee and the rest of the ed reform people who run DCPS and all the work they've done? Not sure if you're aware, but there has been A BIT of controversy in DC about ed reform. Her deputy is now the chancellor. Pretty insulting to all those people and their hard work to say that DCPS is just "happy doing what they've been doing." Because they've made radical changes to the way they evaluate, hire, and turn over their teaching force to try to make headway against the massive forces of poverty working against them.

by MLD on Jan 8, 2013 5:11 pm • linkreport

But it does go against why you've already suggested here.

How so? I assume you mean "what" instead of "why." I think it's fairly obvious that if you slice up the pie into "choice" and "not choice" schools and let engaged people pick, schools with engaged people will do better and those without won't. So it would follow that if you dump problem children from schools the rest will do better without them. It's just politically untenable.

by MLD on Jan 8, 2013 5:17 pm • linkreport

Wow, I mean were you completely blind to Michelle Rhee and the rest of the ed reform people who run DCPS and all the work they've done?

But charters didn't force them to do that. Ken Archer seems to think that the idea was that the charter advocates were claiming that competition would "magically" change DCPS and that the process would be automatic. Rather, "competition" means that charters that don't work would close and that DCPS schools that got starved would be eliminated. I don't think anyone in DCPS was anxious for the opportunity to start doing what charter schools were doing. If they were, then they would have done that.

"Competition" is a brutal process: you see what works and see what doesn't and you get rid of what's not working.

by JustMe on Jan 8, 2013 5:17 pm • linkreport

@MLD. You assert that Charters have an economically advantaged population. I don't think so. KIPP's eight campuses average 80% free-or-reduced-school-lunch.

I have not heard anyone advocate "dumping ground schools". The students who would prevent others from learning are in great need of a different environment that can give them what they need to learn. Not a dumping-ground school.

You are correct in stating that there is nothing magic about charters. They offer something that underserved populations clearly want: a good education. Many of the DC public schools do not provide this. DC public schools that do offer a good education are not losing students. Let's hope neighborhood schools step up and start giving charters a challenge.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by LouDC on Jan 8, 2013 5:23 pm • linkreport

Hogwash: No, indeed not. Quite the reverse. If Ken has his kiddos in private school, he is de-facto utilizing the very things (actually, with an exponent) he decries for charter schools to bump up his own kids education. So he's basically demanding the stinky commoners stop using his methods to help improve _their_ kids education prospects.

This isn't about "public education" as a whole. Your point would be then valid. This is about a method, using strict guidelines to eliminate problem students from the general population of students. Problem students take away a large proportion of time and resources from the majority non-problem students.

Private schools thrive, in part because the wealth needed to get there acts as a de-facto screen for a lot of problem students. Then there is usually a de-jure actual screen as well. The poor kids who get in by scholarship are de-facto high achievers.

So if Ken is sending the kids to private school he is utilizing the exact same techniques he is demanding the commoners not be allowed. That's a way different kettle of fish.

by John on Jan 8, 2013 5:23 pm • linkreport

How so?

You specifically mentioned several things that could make the system work better. But you also affirmatively responded that expelling 600 students would make the schools better. So that's what I questioned.

. If they were, then they would have done that.

Question. How long have you followed DCPS? DCPS has been closing schools for as long as I've been here...about 11 years. You can go back and read the stories. In fact, you can also read the stories about what previous school superintendent's did before they were all dismissed..especially Clifford Janey whose master facilities plan Rhee used to target schools for renovations/rehabs.

Now if you're suggesting that DCPS didn't focus on one thing at one time...I would have to agree. But the "nobody cared" is as fallacious now as it was when Fenty/Rhee and their supporters made the false claims.

by HogWash on Jan 8, 2013 5:25 pm • linkreport

DCPS has been closing schools for as long as I've been here

What I mean is that charters didn't provoke DCPS into adopting some charter methods, because DCPS isn't interested in adopting charters' methods. As I said, if they were interested in that kind of thing, they would have done so.

The only solution for DCPS seems to be to "starve it out" by putting students in charters and allowing the DCPS schools that everyone is desperate to avoid to wither on the vine.

by JustMe on Jan 8, 2013 5:39 pm • linkreport

You assert that Charters have an economically advantaged population.
I asserted that that was one among several advantages that charters have. Charters may have only some of those advantages listed.

I have not heard anyone advocate "dumping ground schools". The students who would prevent others from learning are in great need of a different environment that can give them what they need to learn. Not a dumping-ground school.

I wasn't seriously advocating it as a policy tool. The reality is that there are already schools for the very problematic children as well as special ed students who cannot be instructed in a regular class. But the politics surrounding public schools doesn't offer DCPS the ability to split out kids into ever smaller groups to try and separate out the "bad" kids. Again, DCPS is bound by political forces that charters are not. Not sure why this is hard for people to understand.

You are correct in stating that there is nothing magic about charters. They offer something that underserved populations clearly want: a good education. Many of the DC public schools do not provide this. DC public schools that do offer a good education are not losing students. Let's hope neighborhood schools step up and start giving charters a challenge.

And what does that involve? How are they failing to "step up?" In saying that charters provide a good education but DCPS fails to at many schools, you suggest that there is something charters do that DCPS doesn't. What is it?

From your smugness I'm guessing you have no kid in DCPS or DCPCS.

You're right, I don't. But I also don't begrudge a parent's decision to send their kid to a charter school. I also do not think charter schools are a force of evil that somehow have to be gotten rid of. I just think people fail to understand that everyone cannot be served with charters (they would then face the same pitfalls that DCPS faces), and DC government is required to serve everyone.

What do you see as the endgame for education here? A system where parents roll the dice on a better school (out of boundary or charter) if they want, and others are just left out and left behind? To me that seems contrary to the goal of public education for all.

by MLD on Jan 8, 2013 5:42 pm • linkreport

I suspect that the existence of charters has raised the level of DCPS: the mere fact of competition.

As to those who say that they want a level playing field between DCPS and charters, I doubt that they outnumber those parents who just want the best education they can get for their kids.

by SJE on Jan 8, 2013 5:48 pm • linkreport

What do you see as the endgame for education here? A system where parents roll the dice on a better school (out of boundary or charter) if they want, and others are just left out and left behind? To me that seems contrary to the goal of public education for all.

As you point out, DCPS is bound by a lot of political forces that will prevent DCPS from ever offering a quality education to many students. That is a much worse problem than the existence of charter schools, but until there is the political will to change that, the situation won't change. What charters do is offer parents a way out of the political constraints of DCPS. If DCPS ever wants to change, then it will. Until then, it is bound by the political interest groups that chains many of its schools, and that situation will continue to be in effect until those specific schools with the larger problems are closed.

The endgame is that the political constraints on DCPS get freed to offer everyone a decent education.

by JustMe on Jan 8, 2013 5:51 pm • linkreport

As to those who say that they want a level playing field between DCPS and charters

Well that does seem to be the point of this article. To me, that is impossible because there are so many differences between the two systems. So why try? and why is this important?

I am a parent that has kids in both, and I could not care less if the playing field is level.

by goldfish on Jan 8, 2013 6:05 pm • linkreport

@MLD: The "endgame" is already happening. In the five years since my son entered 2nd grade at DCPS, that school has gone from nearly all out-of-boundary to mostly in-boundary. Why? My strong hunch is because parents can see opportunity at the middle school level that was not there before. Anecdotally I know that is the case. Perception seems to be that there are now high-quality options: not only charters; quite a few schools are seeing an increased in-boundary share. The boats are being lifted. And another strong hunch: Parents of kids who can no longer send their child to out-of-boundary schools (because they're now full of in-boundary students) have not stopped wanting a good education for their child, but must seek it elsewhere, some at charters, some private, some out of state, and some for sure are trying to shake things up at their neighborhood school. Decades from now when the neighborhood schools start to be more appealing, the charters will stop being quite as compelling.

by LouDC on Jan 8, 2013 6:29 pm • linkreport

I think that DCPS should be able to expel students who have long-running disciplinary problems and rap sheets. They should be able to expel students who engage in violent, gang-related, or other activities that imperil the well-being other kids who want to learn.

by Rain17 on Jan 8, 2013 11:50 pm • linkreport

I think letting public schools "expel" students to a different facility is a good idea.

by skeptic on Jan 9, 2013 7:09 am • linkreport

Expelling students is at the core of the idiocy of today’s schools. People with problems need to be drawn closer and to enhanced schooling that assures they get counseling and complete their education. There is no garbage can for students - that place schools throw people that don’t cooperate is our streets, gangs, and prisons. Expelling people should never happen. If they are that bad that even counseling can’t help they need to be in prison or an asylum.

by AndrewA on Jan 9, 2013 7:50 am • linkreport

I think letting public schools "expel" students to a different facility is a good idea.

Multiple commenters have made this argument, essentially agreeing with the facetious premise of the post that supporting charter autonomy to expel requires support for DCPS to do the same.

Just so you can picture what this would look like if DCPS had same expulsion rate as charters: we would be expelling ~500 kids per year into an alternative school system. That safety net school system would thus have ~6,000 students, or ~8% of the current public school students.

by Ken Archer on Jan 9, 2013 7:52 am • linkreport

It's interesting how different people, with different starting points, can read the same sentence and come to vastly different conclusions. I read,

Many charter schools — 60 out of 97 campuses — did not expel students in 2011-12. That same school year, seven expelled at least 10 students.

And thought - wow, more than 60% of charters don't expel anyone, but the number of students expelled by charters dwarfs the number expelled by DCPS. That indicates that some charters are abusing the power to expel; at a minimum, it requires some looking into. This appears to me to be an enforcement issue, not a structural issue. Ken saw the same information and took something very different from it - it's a structural issue, not merely an enforcement issue. It's all about where you start from, and the biases you bring to the discussion.

It is silly to argue that charters and DCPS should operate under exactly the same rules (and I don't believe that is what Ken is doing - he's using the suggestion to make a point, and make it effectively). Charters and DCPS don't have the same organizational structures, so rules that make sense for one don't make sense for the other.

DCPS can't expel students willy-nilly, because of the public obligation to provide a free and appropriate education. I don't believe Ken is seriously suggesting that. But, DCPS does have a right to maintain order in classrooms, and an obligation to other students to makre sure that perennial troublemakers aren't permitted to disrupt the education of the good kids in the system (the vast majority of the kids).

On the other side of the coin, charters can't be prohibited from expelling any student, because the options they have regarding discipline and maintaining classroom decorum are limited. Charters are (for the most part) self-contained, single-school units or small "systems" - they don't have the ability to transfer students to different facilities to address discipline problems. Or rather, the only way they can "transfer" a student to a new public school facility is to expel him or her. Again, I don't believe Ken is suggesting that Charters lose their ability to expel a student, under any circumstances. But charters also have an obligation, both moral and legal, to make every effort to deal with "problem" students, and not just fob them off on DCPS.

So, where's the middle ground? As I see it, investigation of high levels of expulsion, and enforcement measures taken to address wrongdoing. Perhaps more tightly spelled out procedures by the Charter Board detailing the limited circumstances where expulsion is permitted. Significant structural changes, though, seem to me to be counterproductive - at least until more limited measures are taken.

by dcd on Jan 9, 2013 8:27 am • linkreport

@Ken Archer: I think you meant "rhetorical". "Facetious" carries shades of meaning that include ridicule and disrespect, not simply an outrageous position taken in order to explore an argument. I sincerely hope you didn't mean what you keep saying.

Which, if you think about it, is a pretty dismal thing to have to think while reading an article like this.

by DaveS on Jan 9, 2013 9:08 am • linkreport

@DCD, rather reasonable analysis. Outside of ideology, I'm not sure what's so hard about understanding your exact points. It's not rocket science.

not simply an outrageous position taken in order to explore an argument.

I don't think they were "simply" outrageous positions taken in order to make a larger point. The position was that point. That is, DCPS would serve itself well to do like charters and expel students. There is (at least on this post) a level of ridicule and disrespect towards DCPS who "hasn't cared about these things before charters came to save the day."

by HogWash on Jan 9, 2013 9:34 am • linkreport

@Ken: One possibility is that the dumping ground school will have 6000 kids. Another possibility is that with consequences for bad behavior, with options for teachers who have disruptive students, and with fewer bad influences on the remaining kids, there will be far fewer than 6000 kids who end up getting dumped.

by Mike on Jan 9, 2013 10:53 am • linkreport

Just so you can picture what this would look like if DCPS had same expulsion rate as charters: we would be expelling ~500 kids per year into an alternative school system. That safety net school system would thus have ~6,000 students, or ~8% of the current public school students.

Presumably DCPS schools can send disruptive or failing students to a myriad of other classrooms, programs, and facilities that are in the same school building, removing them without technically "expelling" them. Charters lack those resources.

by JustMe on Jan 9, 2013 10:54 am • linkreport

For comparison, in the 2009-'10 school year, Maryland expelled 847 out of a total student population of 819,786, an overall rate of 0.103%. This was a reduction of 23% from the previous year.

For that same year the overall DC expulsion rate, assuming DCPS acts as a safety net for the charters, is 7/(45630+29356) = 0.009%, an order of magnitude lower.

This suggests that DC is probably not expelling enough kids that are disrupting the school.

by goldfish on Jan 9, 2013 11:41 am • linkreport

Data from my previous comment is here. DC data came from the Post article cited above.

by goldfish on Jan 9, 2013 11:44 am • linkreport

I still do not understand why it would be bad to give students who are not thriving in the standard classroom environment access to an environment that may be more focussed on their needs. I would hope that nobody would support "a dumping ground" where the kids were just abandoned, but they may be better taught in an environment that dedicates resources to the problems that they are having. More counselors, better interventions, etc. In essence, acknowledge that these children are not succeeding in the typical classroom setting and provide a more suitable environment that may help them to thrive. Whether this is in the school building itself or in another building or buildings, the issue should be addressed instead of further ignored by maintaining classrooms that contain both students who could otherwise thrive in the envirnoment and students for whom the environment is failing.

by Danielle on Jan 9, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

Thanks Danielle, that is why I take issue with anyone assigning the term "dumping ground" to others' arguments for removing children who are both not thriving and preventing others from thriving. Just as one child can do well in an environment that engenders self-directed study while another child would flounder without clear goals, DCPS must provide options that altogether will meet the needs of all. If the expulsion process within DC does not help a struggling or disruptive child find an educational path to success, then the outcome of expulsion needs to be changed.

by LouDC on Jan 9, 2013 12:22 pm • linkreport

I think that DCPS should be able to expel students who have long-running disciplinary problems and rap sheets. They should be able to expel students who engage in violent, gang-related, or other activities that imperil the well-being other kids who want to learn.

I don't necessarily disagree with you, for the sake of the other students who are being disrupted by a few bad apples, but this creates a whole host of other problems.

What happens to the kids after they're expelled? If gangs are a problem, don't we want to keep more kids in school, rather than sending them out onto the streets? Who's responsible for these kids when they're left without any of the skills necessary to be a functional adult?

by andrew on Jan 9, 2013 12:27 pm • linkreport

What happens to the kids after they're expelled? If gangs are a problem, don't we want to keep more kids in school, rather than sending them out onto the streets? Who's responsible for these kids when they're left without any of the skills necessary to be a functional adult?

From reading the posts, I don't get the sense that people are much concerned about what happens...as long as the unruly kids aren't in their preferred school.

by HogWash on Jan 9, 2013 1:27 pm • linkreport

From reading the posts, I don't get the sense that people are much concerned about what happens...as long as the unruly kids aren't in their preferred school.

Are you waiting for a parent to chime in and ask for MORE unruly kids? Just to level the field?

Are you expecting the parents of unruly kids to come to this discussion and explain why they should be treated the same as the "ruly" kids?

by DaveS on Jan 9, 2013 1:34 pm • linkreport

What happens to the kids after they're expelled? If gangs are a problem, don't we want to keep more kids in school, rather than sending them out onto the streets? Who's responsible for these kids when they're left without any of the skills necessary to be a functional adult?
From reading the posts, I don't get the sense that people are much concerned about what happens...as long as the unruly kids aren't in their preferred school.

That is entirely unfair. As I explained a few posts ago, I see no benefit to these children to keep them in a classroom that is not working for them. There needs to be another option!

by Danielle on Jan 9, 2013 2:12 pm • linkreport

Are you waiting for a parent to chime in and ask for MORE unruly kids? Just to level the field?

Are you expecting the parents of unruly kids to come to this discussion and explain why they should be treated the same as the "ruly" kids?

Uhm, no to both. I'm expecting people concerned about the education system in DC to "care" about what happens to the hundreds who are expelled each year. I'm expecting people to care more about the DC's education system outside of what's best for their own children...which is where things usually begin and end.

That is entirely unfair. As I explained a few posts ago, I see no benefit to these children to keep them in a classroom that is not working for them. There needs to be another option!

I disagree. I haven't seen anyone advocate leaving unruly children in classrooms. Urban legend was forming around this very topic..in this very post.

by HogWash on Jan 9, 2013 2:27 pm • linkreport

@dcd,

I agree with a lot of what you've written, but as far as...

"DCPS can't expel students willy-nilly, because of the public obligation to provide a free and appropriate education."

...how are charters not also bound by this public obligation? I think that's the "evolution" in attitudes by some charters (and their supporters) that makes the rest of us nervous. If DCPS can't expel students willy-nilly because of this public obligation to provide a free education, why in God's name should charters be able to?

by oboe on Jan 9, 2013 3:46 pm • linkreport

The DCPS system must accommodate all. The DCPS system includes charters, application schools (such as School Without Walls), special needs accommodations, incarcerated and troubled youth, alternative learning environments(Ballou STAY for example)and vocational schools. None of these should be in ANY WAY dumping grounds and if they are, that is where our attention should be focused, to make these alternatives the best they can be.

by LouDC on Jan 9, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

Uhm, no to both. I'm expecting people concerned about the education system in DC to "care" about what happens to the hundreds who are expelled each year. I'm expecting people to care more about the DC's education system outside of what's best for their own children...which is where things usually begin and end.

While your call for people to "'care'" is certainly admirable, I think you're being a bit uncharitable. Many of the commenters here don't even have kids in school. So they obviously care about children how are not their own.

Perhaps, rather than just trotting out your high dudgeon, you could elaborate a bit on the argument that removing violent and disruptive kids from schools--consequently liberating the non-violent, non-disruptive kids from their predations--is anti-child.

This seems to be a pretty common fallacy when we talk about issues of juvenile justice in general. The only kids that seem to matter are the ones committing crimes, disrupting class, or generally depriving their peers of an opportunity in life. Perhaps you could demonstrate some "care" for them.

by oboe on Jan 9, 2013 4:04 pm • linkreport

If DCPS can't expel students willy-nilly because of this public obligation to provide a free education, why in God's name should charters be able to?

The public school SYSTEM has an obligation to provide a free education to all. That does not obligate any individual public school or classroom to provide an education to that student.

by JustMe on Jan 9, 2013 4:08 pm • linkreport

Perhaps, rather than just trotting out your high dudgeon, you could elaborate a bit on the argument that removing violent and disruptive kids from schools--consequently liberating the non-violent, non-disruptive kids from their predations--is anti-child.

Pretty obvious to anyone reading that you clearly aren't interested in engaging in a thoughtful manner w/me on this. It explains your "high dugeon" and "anti-child" talking points.

The only kids that seem to matter are the ones committing crimes, disrupting class, or generally depriving their peers of an opportunity in life.

When in doubt just make it up. More silliness

by HogWash on Jan 9, 2013 4:28 pm • linkreport

@JustMe:

The argument was that DCPS can't expel students from its individual schools because there's a public obligation to provide an education. The implication being that charters are not bound by this obligation, and can go ahead and do so.

The charter schools are "the public school SYSTEM". Just as much as DCPS. If we're going to argue that individual charters have the right to expel students at will, that same argument applies to individual DCPS schools.

by oboe on Jan 9, 2013 4:33 pm • linkreport

Pretty obvious to anyone reading that you clearly aren't interested in engaging in a thoughtful manner w/me on this. It explains your "high dugeon" and "anti-child" talking points.

From reading the posts, I don't get the sense that some people are much concerned about what happens...as long as their unruly kids aren't expelled from their preferred school.

by oboe on Jan 9, 2013 4:34 pm • linkreport

If we're going to argue that individual charters have the right to expel students at will, that same argument applies to individual DCPS schools.

I don't think it follows that the obligation of DC to educate all of its students means that any individual student has a right to stay in an individual school or an individual classroom. The argument that we can't expel a student because that betrays the principle of "PUBLIC education FOR ALL" doesn't make sense.

by JustMe on Jan 9, 2013 6:15 pm • linkreport

It was mentioned earlier, but it deserves re-emphasis: DCPS principals can get rid of out-of-boundary students very easily by sending them back to their in-boundary schools. In fact, there is strong anecdotal evidence that all other things being equal, principals prefer out-of-boundary students because they are easier to control.

How's this for a hypothesis: out-of-boundary kids get transferred because there is a place to send them, their in-boundary school. Charter kids get expelled because there is a place to send them, back to DCPS. DCPS in-boundary kids don't get expelled because there is no place to send them.

by contrarian on Jan 9, 2013 8:28 pm • linkreport

I think in reality, DCPS gets rid of disruptive kids by getting them, one way or the other, to drop out of school.

Consider the data. In the 2009-'10 school year, 7 kids were expelled, out of a 74985 students. Given the crime rate in DC, clearly some kids should be expelled that are not. Also, consider that the graduation rate is 56%, which means that 44% drop out.

So in reality there is no need to expel students, they leave on their own.

OK now that that is established, I say the comparing the expulsion rate between DCPS and charters is meaningless, because DCPS never bothers to expel. They just wait until the kids drop out.

by goldfish on Jan 10, 2013 9:24 am • linkreport

@Oboe: If DCPS can't expel students willy-nilly because of this public obligation to provide a free education, why in God's name should charters be able to?

I didn't mean to imply that sharters should be permitted to expel students willy-nilly - though looking back I see that my comment suggested that position. Bad writing on my part. I meant to point out that the differences in DCPS and charter school structures require slightly different rules. There needs to be a system of last resort for hard-core discipline problems. It's not feasible for a single-school charter school to function as the last-resort school, for obvious reasons. That doesn't mean that they shouldn't be expected to exhaust each and every option and resource before expulsion.

As I said earlier, there is strong circumstantial evidence of abuses in the discipline procedure at some charter schools. And that absolutely needs to be investigated, and remedied. My larger point is meant to addresses the notion that DCPS and charters need to operate under the same rules to maintain comptitive balance. That is an oft-repeated theme here recently (neighborgood preferences, unified lottery system, identical expulsion/discipline criteria), and I strongly disagree with it.

by dcd on Jan 10, 2013 9:32 am • linkreport

@goldfish

Agreed about comparing drop-out and expulsions. Most of the charter expulsions are from upper-level schools so it is probably comparable.

DCPS probably doesn't bother to expel and waits for them to drop out. That's likely because if you expel a student you have to create a plan for how they are going to attend another school, which is time consuming for limited staff and costs the district money. Charter schools don't have that burden.

by MLD on Jan 10, 2013 9:37 am • linkreport

OK now that that is established, I say the comparing the expulsion rate between DCPS and charters is meaningless, because DCPS never bothers to expel. They just wait until the kids drop out.
- - Charter schools don't have that burden.

Yet, is completely fair to compare the success of charters schools to that DCPS because? We acknowledge the different rules that might gives one a competitive advantage while at the same time make stick to stick comparisons wrt to outcome.

Something is a bit off about that.

by HogWash on Jan 10, 2013 10:18 am • linkreport

I still don't understand the exact nature of the competition that is being promoted here. Is it a head to head competition between schools? Or is it between DCPS and charters in general? Is it based solely on test scores? On ability to educate impoverished students? Ability to educate all enrolled students? Ability to educate all kids who live in DC, whether or not enrolled in the school? Will a winner be declared? If so, what do they get? Seriously, please define the competition.

As a parent who did a ton of research into schools, DCPS, Charters, and privates, who applied to 11 schools in all three categories and then finally - after school started - was lucky enough to get my child into my first choice school and enrolled my child within 24 hours, I did not view it as a pure competition between schools. Every single one of those schools (and the others that I have since written about on my website, Downtown DC Kids, to help other parents navigate the same path) are completely different.

Every child is different and every family is different. My first choice school was, at the time, brand new, there were no scores at all. But, after looking closely at the underlying philosophies, I realized it would be the best fit for my family despite the lack of history, the lack of facilities, the unique and previously untried combination of principles, and the general uncertainty. I don't know how this school - at that time at least - would fit in this so-called competition, but I know that I am extraordinarily happy that my child is getting a great education, and that so many others are as well because of the recent strides in so many schools in this city. No, my child was never really in danger of getting a bad education as I would have sent her to a private school or moved if I couldn't find a good charter or DCPS option, but the 30+% of FARMS students in that school might not have. I want to know how those students (and all the others that are benefitting from the charters) would be affected if we keep trying to make every single school (charter or DCPS) "compete" instead of trying to thrive with the populations that thrive within them.

Acknowledge that not all schools are perfect for all students, provide options for those who aren't thriving in any of the typical choices, and cease with this ridiculous idea that the goal is some ridiculous undefined competition between schools or systems.

by Danielle on Jan 10, 2013 11:14 am • linkreport

@Danielle: BASIS? (a joke here)

by goldfish on Jan 10, 2013 12:15 pm • linkreport

I still don't understand the exact nature of the competition that is being promoted here. Is it a head to head competition between schools?

Yes. The point of charters isn't just to give you those choices you mentioned. It's to have schools compete for your business and the business of all DC parents.

Charters should have autonomy in how to compete for your business - how they educate your child. But if charters are in any way more out of reach for certain students than DCPS schools, because they expel students at a higher rate or they don't have to take students who lack motivation and are attending because it's the school next door - then we don't have a level playing field for that competition.

Competition is important because it leads to innovation, not just because it gives families like yours and mine choices.

by Ken Archer on Jan 10, 2013 12:22 pm • linkreport

cease with this ridiculous idea that the goal is some ridiculous undefined competition between schools or systems.

I'm not so sure that the competition is as
"undefined" as you suggest. We've had a round of conversations here that have gone in several directions away from the original point Ken was making. Some a bit hyped. Some completely wrong. The goal of charters isn't undefined.

by HogWash on Jan 10, 2013 12:39 pm • linkreport

So, are you saying that there was a direct competition between my neighborhood school and my charter school and that the charter school won in my instance simply because I chose to go there? So there should be a level playing field? If so, please tell me where to find my charter school's: gym, cafeteria, music room, teachers with a history of the school, equivalent funding, etc. Under your theory, innovation could not occur without those things being equal.

In reality, if my local school were the only option, my child would be in private school. I wanted my local school to be a viable option. I visited many times. I attended local school meetings. I followed it very closely. But, DCPS failed the school in several ways (most notably putting in a principal that was very clearly not an acceptable candidate), and I learned that it was not a place where I could trust my child to be safe. Hopefully, the school will pull it together and engage the neighborhood more, but when it was time to choose, let me assure you, it did not even place in the competition.

Moreover, there is innovation. My child's school is extraordinarily innovative, as are many of the other schools that are currently popular. I don't understand how you can say that innovation is not occuring here. What is happening in the public education sector right now in DC is some of the most innovative work that I have ever seen! What more do you want in terms of innovation than what is already occuring? What do you think is being hindered?

by Danielle on Jan 10, 2013 12:47 pm • linkreport

@goldfish: Why is BASIS a joke? "previously untried combination of principles" and "lack of facilities" point to Basis, which unlike other schools does not allow "social promotion"; the kids DO have to do the work or repeat it.

Perhaps social promotion is DCPS' brand of "expulsion": the kid gets farther and farther behind until dropping out is the only sane alternative.

by LouDC on Jan 10, 2013 12:48 pm • linkreport

We've had a round of conversations here that have gone in several directions away from the original point Ken was making.

I think the point Ken was making is that charter proponents said "competition will improve schools!" and that actually hasn't happened, because DCPS doesn't really want to imitate charters or thinks that DCPS isn't adopting innovation in the way he thinks they should. So he is saying, "Ah-HA! Even though people LIKE charters, they DIDN'T do what proponents SAID they would do!"

I think Ken is missing two main points: first, that the results of "competition" are much harsher than he is prepared for: the competition that charters create is what causes DCPS schools to shut down because they don't have enough students to justify keeping them open, rather than taking the form of DCPS schools "innovating." The charters innovated and either survive or die based on whether it's successful. DCPS can innovate, but would probably rather not, and in any case serve as the sort of school you send your kids to if you don't want any of that "innovative" stuff.

Next, possibly one of the "innovations" that DCPS should adopt is a clearer stance towards removing disruptive students from the classroom. Clearly that is an innovation that is worthwhile for charters that DCPS should take a look at.

For the most part, though, I think the promise of "competition" is a red herring. "Competition" doesn't mean that everyone adopts the same thing and same practices. It just means that people get to choose what works best for them, and they have access to what works best for them. Since people are different and have different needs, competition means that the most competitive solution for schools is for some to "innovative" to provide and unmet need and for some schools to not innovate, because they provide what their constituents want.

by JustMe on Jan 10, 2013 12:49 pm • linkreport

@goldfish, no my child is not at BASIS, but I also think that is a great example of some of the innovation that is occuring. Actually, as it is a smaller playing field, I think the current middle school activity is great place to look to see how much innovation is occuring.

KIPP - giving children who may not have been dealt the easiest hand a real chance to work through it and come out educated

BASIS - providing higher level classes and avoiding social promotion, allowing skipping of the senior year for those who are very advanced

DCI - a combination of 4 different immersion schools focussing on three languages to facilitate a continued emphasis on those languages and the addition of a third language

DCPS has done almost nothing innovative so far with regard to middle school. What is preventing DCPS from learning from these innovations? It isn't the charter expel rate; it is politics. DCPS parents are begging for a test in gifted middle school, just as they are begging for an immersion middle school for all the little Bancroft/Oyster/Tyler/Cleveland students to join. And, DCPS most certainly needs a school that really focusses on the children that need the most help, those that would be at-risk of being expelled if neighborhood schools were permitted to expel disruptive students. It isn't the charters that are preventing these innovation; they are leading the way! DCPS just needs to acknowledge the very simple fact that not every school is right for every student and then they will be able to innovate. The more we propogate the opposite, the harder it will be for all the children involved.

by Danielle on Jan 10, 2013 1:13 pm • linkreport

So, are you saying that there was a direct competition between my neighborhood school and my charter school and that the charter school won in my instance simply because I chose to go there? So there should be a level playing field? If so, please tell me where to find my charter school's: gym, cafeteria, music room, teachers with a history of the school, equivalent funding, etc. Under your theory, innovation could not occur without those things being equal.

The distinction between where charters should have autonomy, and where they should not have autonomy, seems clear to me. Can you help me understand what's unclear about it, or why you disagree with it? Charters should have autonomy in how they address the educational challenges posed by children, not autonomy from those challenges posed by children. Period.

So, give charters autonomy in how they address educational challenges posed by students. Their teachers don't have to be union members. Their budgeting doesn't have to follow DCPS budget rules. They can have classes of any size. Whatever.

However, charters shouldn't have autonomy from the educational challenges themselves that kids pose to schools. So, they can't expel students using different rules than DCPS. That have to accept students using the same application rules - equally easy process (common lottery), neighborhood preference - as DCPS.

Does that distinction make sense? It does to me.

by Ken Archer on Jan 10, 2013 1:27 pm • linkreport

then we don't have a level playing field for that competition.

To follow on what Danielle said, complaints that on the whole DCPS is prejudiced by the lack of a level playing field fall are not likely to persuade people who look at the situation dispassionately (and will really frost charter parents). DCPS has vastly more resources that most, if not all, charter schools do. The city routinely ignores the laws in place for equal funding and disposition of shuttered DCOS facilities. Successful DCPS schools (those WoTP, at least - I'm not sure about the Hill cluster) benefit from socioeconomic demographics that would make charter opponents howl in outrage if they ever manifested at any charter.

So when there's a suggestion that the playing field, as a whole, tips towards charter schools, and cries to"level the playing field" so DCPS can fairly compete, it's rightfully greeted with a headscratch and an eyeroll.

Again - I'm not suggesting that the expulsion rate at certain charters is acceptable, or shouldn't be investigated. But extrapolating from that to "the field is tilted against DCPS" is just a bridge too far.

by dcd on Jan 10, 2013 1:32 pm • linkreport

Next, possibly one of the "innovations" that DCPS should adopt is a clearer stance towards removing disruptive students from the classroom. Clearly that is an innovation that is worthwhile for charters that DCPS should take a look at.

I totally agree, and so do DCPS and OSSE. OSSE proposed new disciplinary regulations last fall that differ from current DCPS rules. The parties "mounting a vigorous opposition" to having expulsion rules in common with DCPS, regardless of what the rules are, are the charter advocates.

by Ken Archer on Jan 10, 2013 1:35 pm • linkreport

So, give charters autonomy in how they address educational challenges posed by students.

Discipline in the classroom, and in a school, is a significant educational challenge faced by students.

Moreover, the reason there's can't be IDENTICAL rules is that systemic constraints preclude them. Charters can't, for example, transfer a discipline problem to another school for a year. So there has to be SOME flexibility in the rules - though I agree the standards should be similar.

Finally (not to derail the thread, but this is interesting), you cite "application rules - equally easy process (common lottery), neighborhood preference" as examples of "educational challenges." I can maybe see a common lottery as addressing an equal access problem - but how does a neighborhood preference fall into that category?

by dcd on Jan 10, 2013 1:42 pm • linkreport

However, charters shouldn't have autonomy from the educational challenges themselves that kids pose to schools. So, they can't expel students using different rules than DCPS.

This might be compelling except that the data shows (as I have posted) that DCPS does not go through the trouble of expulsion -- there are too few of them to be meaningful, and in any case, they just let the kids drop out. Whether this is do to laziness of the part of DCPS or unworkable or unrealistic expulsion rules, is not clear.

I think the point that the charters expel too many has backfired: in reality, DCPS expels too few.

by goldfish on Jan 10, 2013 1:43 pm • linkreport

However, charters shouldn't have autonomy from the educational challenges themselves that kids pose to schools. So, they can't expel students using different rules than DCPS. That have to accept students using the same application rules - equally easy process (common lottery), neighborhood preference - as DCPS.

@Ken Archer. So, you believe that essentially charter schools should have the same rules as DCPS schools with regard to which students are in attendance? Leaving aside the fact that would mean that children in impoverished areas of the city would not have any way of getting an education with children that do not come from similar circumatances (an absolute travesty for those children, in my opinion), I question whether you have really thought through how DCPS handles admissions.

Should some charters be allowed to be test-in only, like Banneker and the like, or is that saved for DCPS. Should charter school principals have the power to admit students through means other than the lottery if they are personally persuaded? Should charter schools be able to switch students if they think their needs would be better served at other schools? Should charters be forced to keep students from other outside the district because DCPS doesn't bother to expel them (what portion of the expulsion rate is based on out-of-district students, by the way?)?

by Danielle on Jan 10, 2013 1:49 pm • linkreport

complaints that on the whole DCPS is prejudiced by the lack of a level playing field fall are not likely to persuade people who look at the situation dispassionately (and will really frost charter parents)

Sure, and that's part of the problem. The "frosty" parents who can't be persuaded are likely those who would turn a deaf ear to any such discussion. We say this during the rhee-era where they (frosty p's) were unwilling to have an honest discussion about the challenges and success of DCPS.

by HogWash on Jan 10, 2013 1:50 pm • linkreport

@Hogwash. I think I may be one of the "frosty parents" to whom you are referring. No deaf ear here. I am willing to discuss any aspect of these issues as honestly as I can. Do you have any responses to my last few points? I am perfectly willing to discuss if you do.

by Danielle on Jan 10, 2013 2:03 pm • linkreport

Also, I am fairly certain that my charter school hasn't expelled a single student.

On the other hand, I would certainly hope that they would have expelled the child that was suspended a couple years back from my neighborhood DCPS. The boy lived in Maryland and brought crack into the classroom and gave it to 6 other ten-year-olds, four of whom ingested it while at school. This boy was supended. Please explain to me why he was not expelled.

by Danielle on Jan 10, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport

complaints that on the whole DCPS is prejudiced by the lack of a level playing field fall are not likely to persuade people who look at the situation dispassionately (and will really frost charter parents)

It's precisely because charters innovate more that we want charters to face the same educational challenges posed by kids as DCPS faces.

If charters had the same (or similar) expulsion rules as DCPS, granted neighborhood preference and used a common lottery with DCPS OOB lottery, and charters thrived in that environment, I would be the first to support closing every DCPS school that can't compete, even it that means closing them all.

by Ken Archer on Jan 10, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

On the other hand, I would certainly hope that they would have expelled the child that was suspended a couple years back from my neighborhood DCPS. The boy lived in Maryland and brought crack into the classroom and gave it to 6 other ten-year-olds, four of whom ingested it while at school. This boy was supended. Please explain to me why he was not expelled.

Because he was 10.

by dcd on Jan 10, 2013 2:38 pm • linkreport

If charters had the same (or similar) expulsion rules as DCPS, granted neighborhood preference and used a common lottery with DCPS OOB lottery, and charters thrived in that environment, I would be the first to support closing every DCPS school that can't compete, even it that means closing them all.

I've posted several times about the reasons charters can't have the same expulsion rules as DCPA. Do you have any response to those points?

by dcd on Jan 10, 2013 2:39 pm • linkreport

@Danielle, I do believe principals should be able to be personally persuaded. I don't believe charters should forced to keep students DCPS should've expelled. I believe charters should be able to switch students to a different school that best suits the child's needs..as long as its done in conjunction w/the school counselor's and parental input. A specialized school can work in those cases.

I have no idea what the boy wasn't expelled but he surely should've been. I've never heard of this but I'm sure someone knows why.

by HogWash on Jan 10, 2013 2:44 pm • linkreport

Because he was 10.

I agree w/part of that. I believe he should've been expelled because he wasn't even a district resident. If "forced to attend school w/in his home state" sounds better...then I can dig it.

by HogWash on Jan 10, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

Because he was 10.

Actually, he should have been expelled because he lived in Maryland.

If charters had the same (or similar) expulsion rules as DCPS, granted neighborhood preference and used a common lottery with DCPS OOB lottery, and charters thrived in that environment, I would be the first to support closing every DCPS school that can't compete, even it that means closing them all.

Actually, I think that a more important lesson is that the environment that DCPS is forced to work in keeps them hobbled and that the conditions that allow schools to thrive are the ones that charter schools operate in. The answer isn't to cut charter schools off at the knees so they can face the same problems as DCPS. DCPS schools need a reason for students to attend the classes they offer. I'm sure they can come up with something.

by JustMe on Jan 10, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

The boy was 10, but he also lived in Maryland. He should have been expelled for that reason alone. He was instead suspended for 364 days. DCPS clearly has hang ups against actually expelling, instead relying on such suspensions. I can't say whether these charters are expelling too much, I'm sure some are, but I do believe that part of the issue here is, as goldfish pointed out with comparable statistics from Montgomery County, DCPS is not expelling enough.

@Hogwash, I think we are in agreement on all of the points you mention. But, as none of those things are allowed in charters currently, there isn't an even playing field, and I don't see how there could be, so it is hard to say that changing one aspect (lowering expulsions in charters) would even a playing field that is so clearly not even. They are just different systems, but these two different systems together seem to be making it possible for students to get a good education here.

@Ken Archer, is the overarching point that you don't think that DCPS schools should be closed when they can't be compared on a level playing field with charters? I don't think the issue should be comparing them, it should be looking at each individually. Severely underenrolled DCPS schools with significant populations of underachieving students should be closed to save the system money and to force change. Failing charters should also be held accountable, and things like expelling students who should not be expelled should be included in the analysis of whether a charter is failing. But, I think we need to acknowledge that the playing fields will never be even so long as we have two completely different systems.

by Danielle on Jan 10, 2013 3:04 pm • linkreport

Sorry, read right over "the boy lived in Maryland." Yes, obviously, shoudl have been expelled. Leads to a question, though - if the boy was paying tuition (I'm sure he wasn't but for the sake of argument, assume he was), would he be subject to the same DCPS expulsion rules as a DC resident?

In other words, can a DCPS principal just kick out a tuition-paying out-of state student? Seems similar to the notion someone posted earlier that OOB students can easily be returned to their home schools with a minimum of fuss.

by dcd on Jan 10, 2013 3:05 pm • linkreport

The answer isn't to cut charter schools off at the knees so they can face the same problems as DCPS.

Shouldn't we leverage our engines of innovation to figure out how to educate students who a) have families without the motivation or means to do anything but send their kids to the nearest school, or b) disrupt the learning environment?

Or have you given up on innovation as a solution to those kids?

by Ken Archer on Jan 10, 2013 3:15 pm • linkreport

@Ken Archer, I totally agree that we should be leveraging our energy to that end. I think that creating a special needs school for at risk children would help both of those issues. First, it would provide a supportive environment for the disruptive children and hopefully be more tailored towards their needs. Second, it would free the neighborhood schools in the poorest areas of those students that were being disruptive and allow the motivated students from those same areas to actually get an education.

In the meantime, we might want to use some of the KIPP concepts in the schools that are most impoverished. Longer school days and more accountability. In the school for at risk children, we might want to employ some of the methods being used at Inspired Teaching, such as making a concerted effort to teach in a variety of ways so as to hopefully touch on each child's learning style.

by Danielle on Jan 10, 2013 3:24 pm • linkreport

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