January 11, 2013

Regarding the Jan. 6 front-page article “Expulsion rate higher for charter students”:

Discipline policies must be reexamined and overhauled. Charter schools don’t expel too many students; public schools expel too few.

Students who wish to learn ought to have the right to do so free from the distraction of unruly peers. Both our laws and school policies over the past 30 to 40 years and the penchant of parents and groups protecting “student rights” to litigate have forced school administrators to accommodate problem students.

Our schools should provide an environment conducive to learning. We should commit additional resources to care for students behaving badly. Yet we need also to temper our compassion with common sense.

The failure to expel students wastes our most precious resource: time. Time for teachers to teach and students to learn.

Mike Doherty, Takoma Park

Ramona Edelin, executive director of the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools, commented that charter leaders should consider working together to establish an alternative school for students who have been expelled from charters. That is a reminder of past debates.

Ideas for providing an alternative to expulsion by creating a program for temporary placement for students in need of intensive support were presented on numerous occasions to the D.C. Public Charter School Board when I was its executive director. But the conversations never went beyond an acknowledgment that there was a need for such a program, as additional human and capital resources would be required from the D.C. government and charter school operators.

In order for students to learn, they need to be in school. Perhaps this article will spur some much-needed action.

Josephine C. Baker, Washington

The writer was executive director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board from 2002 to 2011.

The District’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education enrollment audits and the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System reports and graduation reports show that charter high schools take advantage of their freedom from responsibility for educating challenging students by quietly transferring many more students than they expel. This may also help explain why charter lobbyists are opposed to charters becoming neighborhood schools [Mark Schneider and Robert Cane, “Why charters shouldn’t be ‘neighborhood schools,’ ” Local Opinions, Dec. 30].

In its Jan. 6 article on expulsions, The Post described a mother withdrawing her daughter Elsie to avoid having an expulsion appear on Elsie’s record and, unsaid, on Thurgood Marshall Academy’s. This is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Elsie’s ninth-grade class numbered 138; by April 2010 (18 months later), the 10th grade testing cohort was 87 (28 boys; 59 girls!). Sixty-three students graduated in June 2012, 46 percent of the original ninth-grade class. Fifty-seven of the 75 missing students were removed from Thurgood Marshall’s reponsibility by transfer — presumably to traditional public schools — it claimed a graduation rate of 78 percent, higher test scores and the acclaim of being “high-achieving.”

Between the October 2010 and 2011 enrollment audits, D.C. charter high schools’ ninth, 10th and 11th grade cohorts transferred more than 1,350 students, according to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. It’s time for a serious investigation of this practice.

Erich Martel, Washington

The writer taught in D.C. public schools from 1969 to 2011.