Cross Posted at MN Progressive Project
I recently read a story about how the vaunted Massachusetts Charter schools are suspending students at an alarming rate. In fact, the Charters with the highest test scores are suspending at the highest rates. This gives weight to the idea that Charters are creaming the top kids while suspending those that are difficult.
This made me wonder what Minnesota's own "Beating the Odds" Charters were doing as far as suspensions got. This article is in no way an attack on Charter schools. What I intend to illustrate is the insanity of trying to compare what traditional public schools do versus what a charter school tries to do.
I will compare Harvest Prep of North Minneapolis to Minneapolis Public School District. I am not picking on Harvest Prep, but they are always characterized as the most Beating of those elusive Odds. With that exclusive praise should come some tougher scrutiny. It is well documented that Charters do not educate all students. In fact, many students with disabilities are counseled out of charter schools.
Being able to rid themselves of the most challenging students makes what charters do distinctly different from traditional public schools. Beating the Odds Prep (BTOP) has about 7% special education students. Their traditional school counterpart has 16% special education students. In addition, it is much harder to dismiss disruptive students from traditional public schools. A student can literally be caught with drugs multiple times and the courts will insist the public school takes them back. Charters can be rid of drug offenders after just one offense.
Special Education is a category that includes both learning disabled and emotionally-behaviorally disabled students. These can often be the most disruptive to the learning environment. This also includes autism spectrum and other brain disorders. Traditional Public schools are charged with and work hard to educate them all.
So, what is the bottom line? While Beating the Odds Prep has less than half the percentage of special education students, it suspends students at twice the rate. Last year, BTOP had 126 suspensions per 401 student population for a rate of .31 incidents per student population. Meanwhile, Minneapolis Public Schools had 5547 suspensions for a population of 33,503 for a rate of .16 suspension incidents per student population. The traditional public school services twice as many special education students, but has just half the suspensions.
I will just add that BTOP, while having laudable math and reading scores, has science scores of 5% 0% 6% and 0% over the last four years. While the kids of our leaders, and our future leaders get a broad based education based on critical thinking, the arts, languages, and math, it appears as if our most disadvantaged are just getting hammered with math and reading at the expense of a broad based education where they don't even get science instruction. I will leave you with the thoughts of the great education activist W.E.B DuBois:
I insist that the object of all true education is not to make men carpenters, it is to make carpenters men