But letting a few students disrupt class isn’t fair to the kids who want to learn, he writes. “Low-income strivers” deserve safe, orderly, academically challenging schools.
When district-run schools don’t prioritize the needs of strivers, urban parents can turn to charter schools, Petrilli writes. But high-performing charter schools in New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C. have come under attack for high suspension and expulsion rates. Disruptions aren’t tolerated.
The casual observer might wonder: What’s wrong with that approach? Why not ensure that schools are safe places to be? If the Success Academies and schools like it didn’t exist, many of those hard-working, high-achieving students would be in chaotic, low-performing public schools. Why don’t their needs count?
Specialized alternative schools may be the best way to help disruptive students, who often come from very troubled families, Petrilli writes. However, “poor children who are ready to learn, follow the rules, and work hard deserve resources and opportunities to flourish.”
Petrilli supports “universal screening” tests to identify gifted students in the early grades and middle-school tracking to put low-income strivers “on a trajectory for success in Advanced Placement classes in high school and at more selective colleges.”