Green Dot’s Suspension Rates Continue to be Remarkably High

A month ago, the California Department of Education released 2016-17 data on suspension rates. When they were released, several news outlets looked at the aggregate data and noted that problems still existed (KPCC and EdSource). But when I dug into the data I noticed something kind of strange.

Green Dot’s suspension rates are astronomically high.

Green Dot is one of the largest charter school operators in the city. They operate campuses primarily in South Los Angeles, and have both start-up charters that grew independently and turn-around charters that they took over from the school district.

If you take all of the unduplicated suspensions that Green Dot reported, they account for 11.8% of all suspended students in the district, even though they serve about 1.4% of the student population. The schools with the top three reported suspension rates in the entire district are Green Dot Schools (Animo James B. Taylor, Animo Phyllis Wheatley, and Animo Western).

To make it clear just how high this is, think of it this way: at Animo James B. Taylor Charter Middle School, 1 in 6 students were suspended at some point last year. At Animo Phyllis Wheatley and Animo Western, it is almost 1 in 7.

Green Dot’s schools have had high suspension rates for years. I actually noted this finding in one of the first posts I ever wrote for this blog (It is kind of adorable to look back at my old work).

In 2013-14, their suspensions made up 10.4% of the unduplicated suspensions in LA unified. It is important to note, however, that LA Unified’s suspensions were very high at the time as well. As a result, their percentage was lower. As LAUSD moved to prohibit willful defiance suspensions, Green Dot’s suspension numbers remained relatively high, meaning they made up an even larger portion of the suspensions occurring in the city. In 2014-15, they made up 12.8% of the unduplicated suspensions in LA Unified. And things peaked in 2015-16, when Green Dot made up 15.2% of the suspensions.

Their suspension rates have improved a little in the last year, but they still lag far bending the rest of the district.

Could this be an error? Or is this level of suspension actually happening at Green Dot?

It is unclear.

In the data set released by the CDE, Green Dot has an “errata flag” for every single one of their schools. They were the only schools in the state to report an error this year.

According to the CDE website, the errata flag is,

An indicator that the district or independently reporting charter (IRC) school has notified the California Department of Education (CDE) that they certified incorrect data in the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) for the associated academic year.


I reached out the Green Dot to clarify why there was an errata flag for this data. My question was “Could you please clarify why there is an errata flag?” Their response was “an errata flag means the wrong figures or information was reported.”

Thanks for that.

I think I understood that part. I was asking what was the error? Could it explain the high rate? Or are you just suspending students left and right?

I asked for a more detailed response, and I’ll update you when they get back to me.

3 Replies to “Green Dot’s Suspension Rates Continue to be Remarkably High”

  1. Ben, this is interesting stuff. I’m wondering: Are there differences in the student populations at these GD schools that might explain or (perhaps be confounding variables contributing to) the higher suspension rates? I’m thinking of things like past OTs, family/foster/immigration status, criminal history, etc. Is that data even accessible? A related thought: GD took over some pretty rough places (Locke, Jefferson, etc) that likely (though I’m not actually sure) had high suspension rates prior to charter-izing. It might be worth looking into the before/after suspension rates, assuming they’re serving the same populations for comparison purposes.

    1. School Data Nerd says: Reply

      Comparable schools, like Markham, have a suspension rate of 1.4%. They took over those schools over 5 years ago. They own it now. Data from beyond 2011 is no longer available on the website.
      In terms of breaking out the data, we can breakout migrant status and foster status, which is one of my upcoming posts.foster kids are suspended at much higher rates across the city and state.

  2. These schools are in tough neighborhoods with highly under performing public schools. As any teacher who has spent time in one of these schools will tell you, discipline is far and away the biggest problem. One or two kids in a class who cannot behave can wreck it for the rest of the class. Suspending is not the same thing as expelling, and it sounds to me like Green Dot is trying to set a higher standard for the sake of these kids. The fact that parents have gone out of their way to place their child in a Green Dot school makes suspending a student a powerful tool. You have to appreciate the magnitude of what Green Dot trying to accomplish. It would disappoint but not surprise me if LAUSD schools in the same neighborhood –who serve the kids– would keep disruptive students in school (with all the damage they can cause) just to keep their suspension statistics looking good for writers and others like this.

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