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Chicago Public Schools Review Disciplinary Policies

Students are expelled more often in Chicago’s privately run charter schools than in district schools, according to a report released Feb. 25 at a school board meeting.

Last school year, 307 students were expelled from charter schools with a total enrollment of 50,000 students. In public schools, 182 students were expelled among the district’s 353,000 students.

This data show that students enrolled in charter schools are 11 times more likely to be expelled than those in neighborhood schools. Of the 25 schools with top expulsion rates last year, 22 of them were run by charters, according to the report.

Aarti Dhupelia, CPS chief of college and career success, said the district will ask charters to work more closely and share data on expulsion and suspension policies. She said CPS will also offer the charter schools more information about alternatives to expulsion.

“Legally we cannot require the charters to participate in the same process, but we can encourage them to participate in the process,” Dhupelia said.

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Critics of charters have said they expel troubled students to improve the schools’ academic records. But Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, said that the data shows several charter schools do not have high expulsion rates.

Yet this year the number of expulsions in charter schools is higher than district-run public schools. Since the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, charters have expelled 151 students; while district schools have expelled 52 students.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has suggested to charter operators that they mirror CPS’ more moderate discipline policy, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Emanuel said the charters will be cooperative in working with the district because CPS efforts have been effective.

Dhupelia said the racial disparity in school punishments must also be addressed. She noted that
African-American students make up about 43 percent of CPS total enrollment and 75 percent of all out-of-school suspensions were issued to black students last year.

Dhupelia said CPS intends to work on decreasing suspension and expulsion of black students, as well as re-evaluating the district’s disciplinary plan to reduce out-of-school punishment for all students. A revised student code of conduct is scheduled to be reviewed by the board in June.

Dhupelia said studies show that overuse of suspensions and expulsions negatively impacts student achievement.

“If students aren’t permitted to be in the classroom because of disciplinary action, they miss valuable instruction time,” she said.

Suspensions ultimately contribute to drop out rates and failure.

Recent research strengthens this notion, showing that classroom attendance was a greater predictor of student success than test scores.

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the district is experimenting with “restorative practices” as well as consulting parents before turning to last-resort expulsions to keep students in school. The district will also reduce the mandatory length of suspensions from 10 to five days for the most severe infractions, she said.

Byrd-Bennett said that even though the district has cut suspensions for high school students, the rate among students in kindergarten through 8th grade remains “very high.” Last year, 33,828 K-8th grade students were suspended, while 10,546 have been suspended in this age group so far this year, according to the report.

Other strategies include building positive learning environments at schools, and continuing to teach instructors various techniques to avoid or de-escalate misconduct, Dhupelia said.

“Instead of harsher discipline, learning is at the core of the new plan,” she said.

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