by Max Brantley
Black students are four times as likely to be suspended from charter schools as white students, according to a new analysis of federal education data. And students with disabilities, the study found, are suspended two to three times the rate of nondisabled students in charter schools.These are the sorts of statistics that should be considered — but to date have not been — in the Arkansas Education Department's review of charter school applications. The Department will have another chance in preparing for a March 31 hearing on proposals to expand the eStem and LISA charter schools in Little Rock, moves that would create essentially two of the state's biggest schools districts within the boundaries of the Little Rock School District, which has far smaller percentages of economically advantaged and white students. What the Education Department should think about: Analysis of similar cohorts of students on tests; an analysis of whether the lottery processes at the schools are fairly implemented (eStem, for example, claims two-thirds of the students on its waiting list are black, but it has never enrolled a majority of black students); treatment of special ed and non-english-spewing students; disciplinary practices; origins of students; academic status of students before they arrive at charters and how they progress after; a showing of innovative practices (as opposed to simply succeeding because of better situated students).
These inequities are similar to those in traditional public schools, where black and disabled students are disproportionately disciplined for even minor infractions, and as early as preschool — although on average, charter schools suspend pupils at slightly higher rates than traditional public schools.