Go to detention, pay $5

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.

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  1. Good for them; the public school systems, particularly in our inner cities, have been allowing the inmates to run the asylums for far too long.

    • Yeah, I can really see this working out.

      The schools that don’t teach kids, can’t maintain, or don’t even try to maintain, an orderly environment, are going to go into the debt collection business.

      Rather more likely is that collecting the fines will require more personnel who’ll do either a terrible job or nothing at all.

  2. It *IS* nickel-and-diming *BUT* I think the school has every right to do it. Maybe it’ll get kids’ and parents’ attention the way that the $1-per-day late fine encourages me to return DVD’s to the library before they’re overdue. Annoying, absolutely. But I’m okay with the policy.

  3. I can see the progressive educators condemning this practice and bringing up the fact that these schools are treating poor kids in a way that middle class kids are not treated. The progressives will speak out and talk about how they are defending the poor from the rich people. All the while, the poor kids’ parents keep signing them up for the schools the progressives want to protect the poor kids from.

  4. Would I like to go to a school where you get fined and have detention for chewing gum? No. But folks, minus the fine, that was every school thirty years ago. I would like even less to go to a school where the gum chewing and ignoring of the dress code paves the way for cursing and fighting. And they do, friends, they do.

  5. But wait, I thought charter schools don’t have any advantages over the local public schools. I’ve never heard of public schools being allowed to do this.

  6. Roger Sweeny says:

    If this is an advantage that charter schools have over the local public schools, then allow the local public schools to do it too.

  7. Michael E. Lopez says:

    What I want to know is what happens if the parents refuse to pay.


    • Mark Roulo says:

      Since we are talking about charter schools, my guess would be that the kid would be expelled. And then can resume going to the local public school.

    • Well, we’d need a government program that redistributes wealth to help minimize the financial impact on lower SES families. You’d need a bureaucracy to administer it of course. Given the efficiency of most government programs, the $5 detention would likely wind up costing taxpayers $25. Of course, you’d also have to make sure there was no disparate impact upon any subgroups. Then there’d be the eduwonk studies, both peer reviewed and other, reporting either (bad, no, positive) impact based on something or other.

      Of course, just because you’re work is peer reviewed, doesn’t mean it’s reproducible …


  8. Wow! My students would owe hundreds weekly. They are welcome to chew gum, bring their energy drinks and even leave their seats without raising their hands. Of course, I never have a discipline problem, because students don’t have to rebel against all of these ridiculous, petty rules.

    Suggesting that fining kids lowers discipline problems is absurd. The kids simply fear being jettisoned from the country club, so they pay.

    This is one more in a long line of problems with most charter schools.

    • “Suggesting that fining kids lowers discipline problems is absurd. The kids simply fear being jettisoned from the country club, so they pay.”

      Speed cameras do an excellent job of slowing down cars.

      The policy either reduces discipline problems or it doesn’t. Should be easy to find out. If instituting the policy resulted in fewer discipline problems then it might just have worked. Of course that doesn’t mean that it should be done.

      I cringe at how discipline is handled in a lot of charter schools as well, but parents seem to think their kids should be in these charter schools. Maybe all us educated folks should go let those low income parents know whats best for their kids.

    • Agree with your last two examples, Mark barnes, but the gum chewing is a problem in a “tragedy of the commons” manner. Look at the sidewalk next time you are out walking around campus. See all those little hard black marks? Look carefully at the carpet in the room. See those little ground in hard marks? That’s gum, chum. Gum that the kids spit on the ground because they are too self centered and immature to spit it in a trash can. They don’t have to clean it up, so they feel that they can do what they want. Do you clean it up, Mark? do you get a scraper out, get on your hands and knees, and scrape the sun dried and hardened gum remnants off the ground? Or do you, like the kids, just assume that somebody else (somebody “below” you like the janitors) will do it for you. I thought so…

      • Swede, I don’t have to scrape gum. It’s simply not a problem. I’ve been teaching in a public school for 19 years. When I was a hard ass drill sergeant, watching the kids like a hawk, they stuck gum under desks and on the floor. They were always afraid of some stupid consequence, if they got caught.

        Now that I allow them to chew gum, without consequence, it’s not a problem.

        I agree with you about gum on the streets. I hate litter more than just about anything. Maybe it’s people rebelling against all of the detentions they served as kids. Doesn’t make it right, I realize.

        • Mark Barnes,

          I don’t think you understood what I wrote. I know you don’t scrape gum. Guys like you have other guys do it for them. Leave it to the janitors, right Mark? I will repeat what I wrote above- go outside and look down from your high horse and see what is all around your school. See what is on the sidewalks. Those black marks ground in? That’s gum, Mark. Thanks for contributing to the general mess.

          • Swede, you sound like an angry custodian.

            I applaud your concern for the grounds around my school. Actually, they are quite nice — maintained by our fabulous custodial staff, people I have the utmost respect for.

            I don’t ask them to teach my class, though, and they wouldn’t want to do so. I’m a teacher; they are custodians. We all have our roles to play.

            Let me repeat what I wrote earlier: my students don’t abuse gum chewing. They respect the freedom I provide.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      This school sure doesn’t sound like a country club.

  9. Plus, Mark, what grade level do you teach? Weren’t you going on and on about how you teach college or something like that? If so, totally different than the school in question here. Different age levels and maturity.

  10. Something doesn’t sound right about this policy. A student commits some disciplinary offense. The parent gets fined. The parent could be trying her damnedest to not get him to commit to those disciplinary problems and that student could still care less. Sometimes it is the parent’s fault, but other times, its more complicated than that. There could be more factors than just the parents’ parenting skills.

    To top it off, the school plays both judge and jury. There is a conflict of interest. The school both decides who gets detention and profits from giving detentions. The school can just give detention to whoever they want in order to make some extra cash. Who knows when they administer detention justly? There’s no neutral entity… there’s no ref.

    • I disagree about the school being both “judge and jury.” The school creates the policy, but the teachers are the ones who must enforce it. The teachers, thereby, are the ones administering the detention and the school profits from them. Since the teachers aren’t profiting as a result, it doesn’t seem as unjust as you suggest.

  11. georgelarson says:

    Another issue is a $200,000 slush fund. How is it accounted for, used and audited?