Expulsion is ‘heartbreaking but necessary’

Chicago charter schools expel 6 of every 1,000 students compared to .5 for public schools, the district reported. “At three campuses in the Noble Network of Charter Schools, which has faced backlash over its disciplinary approach, anywhere from 2 percent to nearly 5 percent of students were expelled in the last school year,” reports the Chicago Tribune.

Expulsion is heartbreaking but necessary, argues Michael Milkie, founder and superintendent of the Noble schools, in a Chicago Sun-Times commentary.

Milkie and his wife taught in Chicago public schools before starting Noble 15 years ago. They saw a disruptive minority make it difficult to teach and learn. Their 14 charter schools are known for strict discipline.  

We believed that the best way to support students’ success in college, career and life was to run schools with a culture of high expectations and personal accountability. 

. . . We’ve made a promise to our parents that their children will learn in a safe, calm and focused environment. We promise that our classrooms and halls will be free from violence and disruptive behavior. We promise that we will socially and academically support our students while holding high expectations for them despite the many social issues they face.

Noble schools don’t have metal detectors, police, bullying or fighting, Milkie writes. Attendance and graduation rates are high and 90 percent of graduates go on to college.

Students “who threaten the safety and environment of others” are expelled, he writes. The network’s expulsion rate is about 1 percent per year.  Noble will not “compromise the culture and learning environment of the 99 percent of students for the disruptive 1 percent.”

The well-meaning campaign to reduce suspensions and expulsions may backfire, writes Michael Goldstein on Puzzl_Ed, the Match Education blog. If a school environment is “crazy,” teachers will leave. “Kids in the most troubled schools typically lack choice.”

Goldstein remembers heartbreaking expulsion decisions in Match High‘s early years.

Fritz was carrying a weapon which he said . . . was to protect him from gang members in his neighborhood, and he would never use it in our school community. We believed him. We had a clear rule, though, and he was expelled. . . . You end up thinking crazy things like “Should our students be able to check their weapons at the door, like a saloon in the Wild West, and pick them up on the way home, because the police in Boston are utterly unable to protect (minority) kids from gangs?”

. . . There’s part of an educator that thinks “Hey if that was my kid, and he had to live in that unsafe neighborhood, and the reality was that yes, carrying a weapon poses obvious risks (of escalation, of arrest), but also genuinely also serves as a deterrent so he can go to and from school without humiliation, what would I tell my kid to do?” It’s not always an easy question.

Schools should be clear about rules and consequences, Goldstein concludes. Let parents decide whether they want a strict or lax regime.

Many Chicago and suburban public schools aren’t reporting campus violence, despite a state law, reports NBC.

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  1. PhillipMarlowe says:

    There’s is nothing wrong with expelling the trouble makers, the riff raff.
    But if the charter school is going to take on educating kids and expel those who won’t/can’t, the charter school should be required to run a second school for those they can’t educate in the primary school and report their test scores together, like public schools have to do.

    • Of course district schools would neatly skirt the requirement of that brilliant solution by doing what they do now which is ignoring disruptive kids.

      Say! Maybe if school districts removed disruptive kids there’d be less reason for parents to send their kids to charters.

      Naw, that’s crazy talk. The kids show up regardless of how lousy the schools are and if the parents don’t like they can move to another school district.

      That’s the right and proper order of things so it’s better to ignore charters in the hopes they’ll one day magically disappear then to act as if charters are here to stay.

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      That’s a fascinating idea. I like it, with the following proviso: the charter is freed from any requirements about HOW to educate the kids who have to go to the second school. And I mean any requirements. No 180 days/990 hours. No “four years of English Language Arts, one year of American History and one year of World History.” No requirement of a building with classrooms. Nothing. The second school, does, however, have to administer any state- or city-wide tests of “what kids should know” and report the scores.

      Give the charters the freedom to see if they can get these kids up to the level the city or state says is basic. Right now, nobody knows how to.

  2. The situation is much more shocking than the article indicates. Noble Schools have a huge attrition rate. http://hechingerreport.org/content/how-many-students-leave-charter-schools-and-why-do-they-go_4612/ They take far fewer SPED students than district schools and get rid of disabled students at an alarming rate. Once you account for attrition, their graduation rates are actually quite small. While the editorial only mentions violent students, in reality they push out pretty much any student that looks likely to be low performing.

    If you take public school money, then you are obligated to teach the same students that the public schools teach. Imagine if a teacher at a Match school were to start sending any difficult students to another teacher, explaining that she liked being paid by the school, but that she didn’t want to put up with the same students that the other teachers taught.

    • George Larson says:

      “Nobody told Alberto Rodriguez to leave his Noble Street charter school.

      Nobody had to.

      By the end of his freshman year, he had about 50 detentions, mostly for small things.

      ALBERTO: Yeah, I forgot my belt. And for being late to class, or for being late to school.

      Those detentions and a string of Fs on his report card translated into a $700 bill for his mom. The school charges students for detentions and to make up failed classes.”

      50 detentions in a year? String of Fs? Wonder what the not “small things” were? I am not shocked.

  3. Obi-Wandreas says:

    The current push to minimize suspensions is really just eliminating the last lingering consequences for bad behavior. The result is chaos.

    What we really need is a good system of alternative schools. There are a lot of kids who will fail in a regular environment, dragging everyone else with them, but flourish in and environment with smaller groups and focused instruction. Having seen some of the same kids in the two environments, I can tell you the difference is night and day.

    Part of me, however, is just fixating on the picture of the kid holding the Leatherman. At what point did people become too stupid to be able to distinguish between a weapon and a tool?

    • PhillipMarlowe says:

      Could also be seen as an attempt to destroy public support of public schools.

    • Yes, but it’s chaos in the classroom meaning that chaos is a problem for the kids, who are required to show up so their needs can be largely ignored, and teachers who are at the bottom of the organizational hierarchy and can also be ignored.

      “What we really need is a good system of alternative schools.”

      Since we don’t have such a system, and identifying the need’s hardly all that insightful, the question that hangs in the air is why that solution’s being ignored.

  4. Years ago, when it was revealed that some KIPP schools in California were showing high attrition rates, KIPP took the ethical path. They acknowledged that this was a problem and worked to address this as well as problems with low rates of SPED and ELL students. This response led thoughtful observers to respect KIPP as an organization that really does put the needs of students first, including students with challenges.

    The school in this post fines parents hundreds of dollars if a student gets an F. Because poor parents cannot afford to pay the fines, struggling students have to leave. This is immoral, and it is not the kind of thing that KIPP should be supporting.