Strict discipline is part of the “secret sauce” at the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago, which runs 10 high-performing high schools in low-income areas. That includes charging students $5 for the cost of detention if they’re caught in minor violations: Carrying energy drinks or chips, chewing gum, failing to tuck in a shirt or tie shoelaces when asked, carrying a permanent marker or sleeping in class can lead to a three-hour detention, reports the Chicago Tribune.
Noble’s 10 high schools in the city raised nearly $200,000 from the disciplinary fees last year, according to parent and student advocacy groups who protested the policy.
“It’s nickel-and-diming kids for literally nothing that really matters,” said Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education.
Noble Network CEO Michael Milkie said enforcing rules creates an orderly atmosphere that discourages the violence that plagues many Chicago public schools.
“We maybe have one fight per year, per campus. It’s an incredibly safe environment from a physical and emotional standpoint, and part of it comes from sweating the small things.”
And he said students who behave poorly should be forced to pay.
“For far too long in the city, students who behave well have had their education diverted to address students who behave improperly,” Milkie said. “We have set that fee to offset the cost to administer detention.”
Schools offer waivers and payment plans for low-income students and take disabilities into account, Milkie said. The network’s 91.3 percent retention rate is better than the district’s, he added. There are 10,000 students on wait lists to get into a Noble high school.
Parents must like Noble’s policies because they keep signing up their kids, responds Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who’s praised the schools for their high graduation rate, nearly double the rate at other public schools, and the high college-going rate.