Thursday, May 9, 2013

Apples to apples

When you're comparing data points, it's important to make sure the categories are actually parallel. Thus I was troubled yesterday at the forum on out-of-school suspension by a chart comparing Worcester's out-of-school suspension rate with other districts.
The Worcester Public Schools do not expel students. We haven't for years. The most harsh punishment we met out is a long term out-of-school suspension (for, say, a year or half a year) with alternative placement (meaning that the student is placed in one of the alternative programs).
Thus our out-of-school suspension rate is equivalent to expulsions PLUS out-of-school suspensions for the districts that do expel students, like Boston.
That comparison wasn't made yesterday, nor in today's headline.
None of which is to say, incidentally, that we don't have problem. The percentage of students that are out-of-school suspended is skewed off from the makeup of the student body; Latino boys are most often suspended, entirely out of proportion to their percentage of the student body. The number of students in the younger grades--that we even have students being suspended in the younger grades!--is definitely a problem.
There have been conversations in the past about this. They haven't gone anywhere. You'll be hearing more.

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