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Local: Education

Some D.C. charters kick out a high percent of students

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Local,DC,Education,Lisa Gartner

If you were a student at Maya Angelou Public Charter School last year, odds are you were suspended or expelled, if not both.

The Capitol View middle school kicked out 70 percent of its students last school year either temporarily or permanently, according to data released Thursday by the DC Public Charter School Board. At Maya Angelou's high school campus, 41 percent of students were suspended or expelled last year.

Maya Angelou is one of seven public charter schools that took disciplinary action against one-third or more of its students in the most recent school year. The data comes at a time when the D.C. Council is scrutinizing learning time lost to suspensions and expulsions, especially among young students. And some community members have accused the charters of tossing so-called problem students back to the traditional DC Public Schools so they don't have to take responsibility for them, a charge the charter schools deny.

Each charter school sets its own discipline policy, but the charter school board has oversight and can step in if a school is flagged by the board's performance officer. In May, the board passed a policy allowing it to shut down schools that failed to report their discipline data every month. Spokeswoman Audrey Williams said she did not know whether any schools had been flagged and put before the board.

Scott Pearson, executive director of the board, did not single out any schools but said some change may be necessary.

"Many schools are re-examining their discipline policies in light of the most current research about the negative effects of long-term school expulsions and the effectiveness of alternative approaches," Pearson said.

Of the 31,557 students enrolled in charter schools last year, only 239 students were expelled, and 332 were suspended for 10 or more days.

But while most schools suspended or expelled only 1 percent of their students, other charters used a heavy hand in discipline cases. The SEED Public Charter School in Fort Dupont suspended or expelled 49 percent of its students last school year. In Anacostia, KIPP DC College Preparatory suspended or expelled 59 percent of its high school students.

Leaders at these schools were unavailable for comment Thursday evening. Williams said she was unable to comment on these individual schools' policies.

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

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