Public Schools

PBS vs. Moskowitz: Charter School Student Suspensions Gone Wild?


How heavily should our schools depend on suspension being an component of their student discipline practices? Are schools suspending their students too frequently but for the wrong reasons? These questions emerged from a controversy bubbling around a recent PBS NewsHour are convinced that has drawn a heated response in the leader of the NYC charter school network that believes it plays a huge role ensuring their students are successful.

The Washington Post's Education writer Valerie Strauss described the talk in a recent article:

In the PBS NewsHour video, [reporter John] Merrow reports about student suspensions within the 34-school [Success Academy Charter School] network. Success is structured in the \”no excuses\” type of schooling, which essentially means that teachers have the effect of student achievement and that there aren't any excuses-not hunger or sickness or violent home lives-for students not doing well. Critics have long charged that Success counsels out students who may drag down their school's standardized test scores or present difficult disciplinary problems, which [former NYC City Council member and Success network founder Eva] Moskowitz has repeatedly denied.

Merrow's report noted \”the school's code of conduct runs six pages, labeling as infractions from 'bullying and gambling to littering and neglecting to be in a ready-for-success position.' Getting out of a seat without permission or calling out an answer are infractions as well-and these can lead to suspension.\”

In the recording, Moskowitz is shown telling Merrow, \”If you receive it in the actual early years, you really have to suspend far less once the children are older, simply because they understand what is anticipated of these.\”

In an eight-page letter for hosting Judy Woodruff, Ms. Moskowitz strongly challenged Merrow's reporting and also the conclusions he had reached about Success schools.

Educators at Success Academies love children and try to meet the requirements of every student. Mr. Merrow may have taken his report being an chance to investigate how challenging it can be for teachers to balance the needs of children who have severe behavioral issues and those of other students who deserve a safe and productive learning environment. Instead, Mr. Merrow created a false portrait of educators suspending a child willy-nilly only for wearing red sneakers or not keeping his shirt tucked in. By doing this, Mr. Merrow denigrated hard work of these educators. He owes them a correction and apology for his untruthful and unethical reporting.

Moskowitz specifically contested PBS claims that Success schools use suspension more other NYC schools and for very minor infractions. She also known as the show out for underplaying how successful her schools' students are when compared to their peers. The argument continued even after Woodruff responded to Ms. Moskowitz in a note that stood behind the precision from the report but apologized for not giving Ms. Moskowitz a chance to specifically react to the interview of one family who spoke specifically regarding their child's experience while successful Student.

Ms. Moskowitz has responded to Woodruff having a second, stronger letter, again challenging PBS's findings that Success uses suspension more frequently than other schools.

More important than how often Success uses suspensions to how its data is analyzed is the growing body of research pointing towards the harmful impact of suspension on students, particular students of color, and the growing call for a general reduction in its use and more reliance upon alternative types of discipline. In a recent blog post, the Albert Shanker Institute's Leo Casey summarized current thinking \”inspired with a body of research showing that overly punitive disciplinary coverage is ineffective and discriminatory.\”

Based about this research evidence, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and School Discipline Consensus Project from the Council of State Governments have gone on record around the harmful effects of employing such policies. The U.S. Education Department, the U.S. Justice Department, civil rights and civil liberties organizations, consortia of researchers, national foundations, and the Dignity in Schools advocacy coalition have examined the state of student discipline in America's schools considering these studies.

Their findings? Suspensions and expulsions, the most severe types of school discipline, are used excessively in American schools, often for such minor infractions for example \”talking back\” or just being out of uniform. Further, these severe punishments are being applied disproportionality to students of color, especially African-American and Latino boys, students with disabilities and LGBT youth.

As a result of these data, the U.S. Education Department and U.S. Justice Department issued guidance to varsities, according to their discovering that discriminatory purposes of suspensions and expulsions were violating Title IV and Title VI from the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Because this guidance came from the government agencies that are faced with the enforcement from the Civil Rights Act, it added the force from the law to the powerful moral arguments for addressing the issue of discriminatory discipline. School districts and schools, public and charter, took notice.

Ms. Moskowitz is vocal in her alternate view.

At a current press conference, Success Academy Charter Schools CEO Eva Moskowitz addressed the problem of student discipline. \”It is horrifying,\” she told reporters, that critics of her charter schools' high suspension rates don't understand \”that five-year-olds perform some pretty violent things.\” Moskowitz then pivoted to her displeasure with student discipline in New York City (NYC) public schools, asserting that disorder and disrespect have become rampant.

For the sake of her students, let's hope Eva Moskowitz pays enough to learn from the work of others and alter her practice.

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