Kudos to our Nation’s capital! For the first time in the city’s history, representatives from the DC Public Schools (DCPS), DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB), Office of the Deputy Mayor of Education (DME), and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) jointly released equity reports* in December 2013. The reports include school performance data on every traditional public and public charter school in the city with philanthropic support from the NewSchools Venture Fund. School-level suspension and expulsion rates are featured prominently in the reports offering community members accessible and comparable indicators with which to assess the extent to which all students are afforded the opportunity to learn in a supportive school environment—regardless of their neighborhood, gender, race, ethnicity, special education status or socioeconomic status.
Nine months later, OSSE has released a report of findings and recommendations to help DCPS and DC public charter schools in eliminating out-of-school suspension and expulsions. The report indicates that the expulsion rate for D.C. public charter schools is roughly half of what it was in SY2011-12 and the rate of out-of-school suspensions has decreased by approximately 20 percent. Prior to this decline, a Washington Post review of school data in 2013 found that during the 2011-12 school year, when the city's charter school enrollment rate was 41 percent, charter schools collectively removed 227 students for disciplinary infractions. Charters also expelled students at a rate of 72 per 10,000 students. Comparatively, DCPS removed three students and had an expulsion rate of less than 1 per 10,000 students. The DC Charter School Board credits these improvements to greater transparency since the PCSB initiated public reporting of school discipline data two years ago.
The report includes 6 recommendations that are applicable to any jurisdiction seeking to facilitate similar improvements:
- OSSE, the District's state education agency, will work with stakeholders to finalize discipline-related regulations that establish basic standards for discipline.
To combat the loss of instructional time in exclusionary discipline practices and disparate systems, LEA discipline policies should incorporate the following recommendations:
- LEAs should evaluate their current discipline policies’ ability to reduce the likelihood of disparate systems and the overuse of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions.
- LEAs should require a higher standard of recordkeeping and intervention before a student in elementary school is suspended or expelled.
- Schools should exclude pre-K students from out-of-school suspension and expulsion disciplinary actions.
- Schools should develop and implement discipline policies and practices that take into account students’ developmental and individual needs (i.e. student conduct expectations should be developmentally appropriate and age-appropriate and include the consideration of special education needs).
- The District of Columbia should support the expansion and centralization of the Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) framework.
Local education agencies (LEAs) (DC public charter schools are independent LEAs) should improve discipline-related data collection to ensure that the District of Columbia benefits from increased transparency and data consistency.
LEAs should develop and provide professional development for school personnel and utilize publicly available trainings, including those provided by OSSE.
LEAs should involve families in the development and implementation of discipline policies.
*Visit the LearnDC website to search and view individual school profiles. The raw data used to build the report is available for viewing and download on the Public Charter School Board website using its interactive tool.