Suspension and School Success


Here’s a quick question arising from Linda Borg’s Providence Journal article, “Student suspensions cloud charter’s success.”¬† What if this:

As a district, the Achievement First charters, a middle school and two elementary schools, were the highest-performing schools on the new standardized tests, the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System. Rhode Island public school students are tested in grades 3 through 8 using the highly regarded Massachusetts tests.


Is not contrasted with, but rather is connected with, this:

A charter elementary school run by Achievement First had among the highest out-of-school suspension rates in the state during the last school year, according to data recently released by the Rhode Island Department of Education.

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Maybe suspending misbehaving students helps the school to achieve so highly, and maybe it doesn’t, but it’s simply weird that the article never addresses the possibility, either to propose it as a unique challenge or to explain why it isn’t the case.¬† The peculiarity is only enhanced when the article ends with a note that some charter schools in Connecticut have the same vexing combination of suspensions and results.

Does it really not occur to the writer and the people whom she quotes, or are they hoping that it doesn’t occur to the reader.

  • ShannonEntropy

    Public school administrators have finally figured out the sure-fire way to break the “school-to-prison pipeline”: simply quit disciplining student offenders !! Of course this sometimes results in shall we say ‘unintended consequences’ =>

  • Joe Smith

    Well, Linda Borg isn’t exactly known for precision.

    As a district, the Achievement First charters, a middle school and two elementary schools, were the highest-performing schools on the new standardized tests.

    While this is technically true, the devil in the detail The middle school is not the highest performing and between the two elementary, there is a world of difference. To wit,

    AF has two elementary schools. AF Illuminar (n=85) had a score of 520 on ELA with about 80% proficiency (yes, highest in the state, although you are comparing one grade against 3 grades in most cases). AF Providence (n=84 for 3rd grade) had only a 40% proficiency rate and a score of 496 (essentially the state average score). For AF Providence (grade 4; n=86), the proficiency rate was just over 40% with a scale score of 499..better than the state but far below other districts’ grade 4.

    In other words, you had one school with one grade that knocked it out of the park (relatively) and another that essentially is performing at/just above the state. So, the pertinent question then is *what was the suspension rate at each school?*

    Right..if the suspensions are all at AF Providence schools, then you have a different story than if the suspensions are all at the high achieving other school.

    That question is the more important Justin as you can’t ask yours until you know the by school rate given the huge disparity; of course, you can’t count on education reporters to actually look at the data though..heaven forbid we actually do some analysis before making broad statements that themselves are a bit unclear.

    The other question completely ignored of course since the ProJo doesn’t do much actually analysis is why two charters with the same management, same curriculum, and serving the same population (have to check on the last one) have vastly different outcomes. Maybe the suspension might tell us something about the families/kids at one versus the other?

    That of course though – if true – would only reinforce the point that the inputs matter and that’s something RIDE and the Commissioner / Gov want to avoid discussing.

  • Joe Smith

    Actually, just re-read the article. “The Achievement First Providence Mayoral Academy, a kindergarten-through-grade-4 school, has the fourth-highest suspension rate in the state among all schools, at 47.5 incidents per 100 students.”

    So Jason – your question is somewhat moot. AF Providence has average to below average scores so suspension in this case is not correlated with higher test scores.

    Of course, you can’t count on the PROJO to actually look at the *individual* school score and instead default to the district with the lax thinking that each school performs the same given it’s “Achievement First” and the PROJO (er, Linda Borg) has a soft spot for a few of those urban charters.