ACE and DCP register highest suspension rate in Santa Clara County

ACE & DCP Charter schools registered the highest suspension rates of mainstream high schools in Santa Clara County, with 1 in 5 students suspended in the 13-14 school year.

ACE and Downtown College Prep (DCP) charter schools registered the highest mainstream high school suspension rates in Santa Clara County, according to numbers just released by the California Department of Education.  ACE suspended 21.3% its students, while DCP suspended 16.7% of its students; the county wide suspension rate is about 4.5%.  Those numbers rise to 25% and 17.5% respectively when you exclude mid-year transfers.

ACE & DCP register highest suspension rates in Santa Clara County. Click to enlarge.

75% of DCP’s suspensions were for minor offenses

ACE suspended 39 of its 157 students, with a total of 48 suspension in 2013-14, meaning that most students were only suspended once.  DCP, on the other hand, suspended 75 of its 430 students, with a total of 143 suspensions.  DCP apparently suspended many of its students multiple times.  What’s particularly worrisome is that the vast majority of DCP’s suspensions were for minor offenses.  The CDE separates suspension offenses into five categories:  1) weapons, 2) illicit drugs, 3) violence with Injury, 4) violence without injury, and 5) other.  75% of DCP’s suspensions fell into the “other” category, while 15% of the suspensions fell into the “violence without injury” category, leaving only 10% in the category of serious offenses.  Of DCP’s 143 suspensions, only about 15 of those were warranted by a serious offense.  The other 128 offenses were minor offenses without injury.  The “other” category is linked to California Education Code 48900 (k), which allows for suspensions for “disrupting school activities” or “willfully defying” school authorities, a practice which has been widely criticized.

DCP suspends Latinos at a higher rate than any other school in the district

DCP’s Latino suspension rate is 18% — suspending 1 in 5 Latinos in their school. Many of those suspended students were suspended more than once for minor offenses
DCP has a very high rate of suspensions for Defiance, as described in section 48900 (k) of the California Education Code.  Note that the overall rate here is higher since many DCP students were suspended multiple times.

Research suggests that high suspension rates lead to poor outcomes:  Dropouts, delinquency and incarceration

DCP’s high rate of suspension for minor offenses seems highly questionable in light of recent research findings on suspending minorities.  Research has shown that high rates of suspension among minorities leads to higher rates of incarceration and high drop out rates.  High suspension rates, on the other hand, do not lead to better school safety, but may paradoxically make schools more unsafe.  Researchers suggest that suspensions for minor offenses should be reduced, saving suspensions for only the most severe infractions.

While the school to prison pipeline is facilitated by a number of trends in education, it is most directly attributable to the expansion of zero tolerance policies. These policies have no measurable impact on school safety, but are associated with a number of negative effects: racially disproportionality, increased suspensions and expulsions, elevated drop-out rates, and multiple legal issues related to due process. A growing critique of these policies has lead to calls for reform and alternatives.  Education researcher Nancy A Heitzeg in the Forum on Public Policy

More than half of DCP students leave before graduating

DCP advertised their Latino college placement rate at an impressive 85% in 2014.  It sounds like a miracle story when Santa Clara County schools place, on average, only 34% of their Latino students in college.  However, DCP has neglected to publicize a key metric:  retention rate.  According to CDE data, DCP’s class of 2014 started with 139 freshman, but only 58 students graduated in 2014.  Between 2011 and and 2014, 57% of DCP’s students left the school.  The college placement rate may have been 85% for graduating seniors, but it would come in right at the Santa Clara County wide average of 35% if one were to include the starting freshman.

To be clear, it is a wonderful story that so many of DCP’s seniors go to college.  They also report a very impressive 90% college retention rate.  If a student graduates from DCP, data would suggest that the student would have an excellent shot at a good education.  The underlying question is then two fold.  First, what happened to the majority of students who had left DCP between their freshman and senior years?  Did they fare well or would they have been better off not starting at DCP?  Second, how does DCP’s lack of transparency in reporting their retention problems effect the parent choice process?  Would parents still choose DCP if they knew that the majority of freshman would not finish as seniors?

It should also be noted that DCP began a retention program last year.  The class of 2016 saw high retention rates between their freshman and sophomore years.  The outcome of that program won’t be clear until those students graduate in 2016.  It’s also interesting to note that after implementing the retention program in 2013-14, DCP’s suspension rate doubled, from 8% 2012-13 to 17% in 2013-14.

DCP’s class size in each grade, showing that most students who start as Freshman leave the school by the time they reach their senior year.