Charter discipline: Too strict?

Charter schools in some cities are being pushed to relax strict discipline policies, reports Ed Week.

Charters expel students at the same rate as traditional public schools and have lower suspension rates, according to an Ed Week analysis of 2009-10 federal data. “But in a few urban districts where high discipline rates at charter schools have drawn scrutiny, school officials have recently taken steps aimed at ensuring that students in both charter and other public schools are treated fairly,” reports Ed Week. 

New Orleans’ Recovery School District centralized admissions, transfer and expulsion for its charter and non-charter schools last year.

“Many parents choose charters because they offer safe havens” from violence and disorder, say charter supporters.

In A Tale of Two Students, Ed Week looks at the Noble Network of Charter Schools, which runs 12 schools in Chicago.

. . . its mission is to “prepare low-income students with the scholarship, discipline, and honor necessary to succeed in college and lead exemplary lives, and serve as a catalyst for education reform in Chicago.”

Its academic record is impressive: Noble students’ average ACT score, 20.7, is more than 3 points higher than the average score for Chicago’s regular public schools.

Discipline is strict. Ronda Coleman, whose daughter Janell, 17, is a Noble senior, says “the rules create a safe environment, and that parents and students are well aware of what they’re signing up for.”

Michael Milkie, the superintendent and a co-founder of the Noble charter school system, said he and his wife were inspired to create a school with a stricter code of conduct after teaching in the Chicago school system.

“One of the things we looked to implement right away was a structured, strong discipline code that teaches students proper behavior and allows teachers to teach and students to learn,” Mr. Milkie said. At Noble, students receive demerits for certain offenses, including dress-code violations or possessing a permanent marker. Racking up four demerits means serving detention for three hours on Friday and paying a $5 fee.

“Students get an average of 12 detentions freshman year, and only two by senior year,” said Milkie.

Donna Moore thinks discipline is too rigid. Her son, Joshua, 17, spent two years as a freshman at Gary Comer High School, a Noble charter school, drawing hundreds of detentions and dozens of suspensions. He now attends an alternative high school.

About Joanne


  1. “Donna Moore thinks discipline is too rigid. Her son, Joshua, 17, spent two years as a freshman at Gary Comer High School, a Noble charter school, drawing hundreds of detentions and dozens of suspensions. He now attends an alternative high school.”

    Here is the problem with education today. Her kid gets hundreds of detentions and dozens of suspensions and she thinks the problem is with the school. It doesn’t matter what the standards or rules are, if you can’t adapt to them before hundreds of detentions and dozens of suspensions, you are the problem.

  2. And soon to be seen in the news – Charter Schools Show a Significant Decrease in Effectiveness.

    Next thing you know the extended days/year will be inconvenient, and the academics will be unfairly hard.

    • Giving odds on that prediction?

      • I honestly believe it’s a certainty. As charters are successful and survive, they will be slowly corrupted by the local governments and school districts, creating the same situation in the charter schools that caused their creation.

  3. There was a recent whine in the WaPo about the “high” number of charter school expulsions and suspensions. IIRC, charters are attended by 41% of DC kids, and I think that something like 12 were expelled last year. DCPS expelled about 2; prompting one commenter to wonder if you had to be arrested for murder to be expelled from DC schools (something like that). DC schools undoubtedly expel far too few kids; thus interfering with the educational opportunities for the willing. One reason that charters are so popular is that they are safe and orderly, unlike the public alternative. They are also explicit about the amount of hard work they require, since they are taking in kids who are seriously behind, and get them up to grade level, so it’s no surprise that some kids are unwilling to make that effort and want out. As I’ve said before, there’s no structural barrier to prevent public schools to offer different kinds of schools, or to remove disruptive kids; they choose not to do so. I’m with Gahrie; that kid should have been booted out sooner – like before his second freshman year.

  4. Two years as a Freshman and she complains about discipline? If she had any decent parenting skills, her kid would’nt be such a problem. If she had a conscience,she’d thank the school for trying to do what she was incapable of doing.