Last week, I reported that Green Dot’s suspension rates were some of the highest in the city. The top three suspension rates for all LAUSD schools in 2016-17 were Green Dot schools. And across their entire network, the suspension rate appeared to be significantly higher than the rest of the district. And yet, had an errata flag, which confused me. So I reached out to Green Dot for explanations.
The explanation is simple: The error was a human input error. The suspension rates were in fact higher than reported. Their total suspension rate for all students in their charter organization is 9.3%. Compare that to LAUSD, where the overall suspension rate was 0.82%. That would be about 1 in 120 across the district, but 1 in 10 students in Green Dot.
To be Green Dot’s credit, they were extremely forthcoming with then information, responding to my request in a timely manner. They also provided an explanation as to why their suspension rate may seem high. Their main argument was that, “There are many additional layers, chiefly the difference between out-of-school suspensions and other in-school-suspensions / interventions.”
This is a weakness in the dataset. The suspension rates reported are for both in-school suspensions and out-of-school suspensions. The state’s data does not distinguish between the two. With that in mind, Green Dot suggests, “Our out of school suspension rate (OSS) remains low, and is frankly the most important component of the reported data.”
Now, looking at James B Taylor Middle School (JAM), we can see that while 24.4% of students were suspended at some point last year, almost all of those suspensions were in-school suspensions. Green Dot argues that their in-school suspension (ISS) is not a time of learning lost, but rather a time of personal and academic growth:
When a student is in ISS they have been removed from the social or classroom environment for that day; which we structure deliberately to provide a broad set of interventionist and restorative practices like counseling, community/harm circles, community service, and where students also receive their academic assignments. Students that would benefit from early intervention can be included in this practice, even if the incident in question would not always amount to a consequence-oriented response. We are building the same rigorous system around monitoring in-school suspensions as we have for out of school suspensions.
You can read the whole response here if you want. But allow me to inject a little analysis here.
What Green Dot is saying can be said for any school. It isn’t just Green Dot whose data represents mostly in-school suspensions – it is everyone. All schools do this nowadays – it is the trend in education. The difference is that Green Dot uses ISS extremely heavily compared to everyone else. Separating students out of the class to be away from their peers is a big deal to students and families. Students can receive counseling, community/harm circles and all those things without having to be suspended and removed from class.
My guess is that within the next few years, we will probably see a lot of schools focus on lowering their suspension rates, because it negatively impacts their scores on the new School Dashboard. And just like we saw out-of-school suspension transfer to in-school-suspension, we are already beginning to see most schools move away from ISS as well.