The diverse landscape of Oakland’s residents, as well as our social inequity, is reflected in our public schools. Social inequity has made Oakland a very public source of educational disparities in both district-run and charter schools. Charter schools have a significant presence in the public education landscape; in 2014-15, public schools in Oakland served 49,189 students: 12,801 in charter schools and 36,645 in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) schools. Some charter schools are single stand-alone schools, some are part of a larger Charter Management Organization (CMO) that operates several schools in Oakland or more widely. Resources and capacity vary from one CMO to another as with district-run schools and charter schools are authorized either by OUSD or the Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE).

Urban Strategies Council is a founding member of the Oakland Achieves Partnership; a coalition which produces a progress report that provides Oaklanders with information about all public school students’ demographics, outcomes, and school culture. The progress reports disaggregate data by ethnicity and vulnerable populations, where possible, on topics from  enrollment, school readiness, third grade reading proficiency, seventh and eighth grade math performance, graduation rates, suspension, attendance, through to university eligibility. In this post we’re highlighting just two aspects of suspension measures: zero suspension schools, and racial disparities in suspension in elementary schools.

 

Zero Suspension Schools

It is stunning and encouraging that five out of seven charter elementary schools and 11 out of 22 district-run elementary schools did not suspend any students in 2014-15. Also, four out of 19 charter middle schools and four out of 23 district-run middle schools did not suspend any students in that same school year. As suspension becomes more acute among higher grades, it is not surprising that in high schools, only one out 12 charter schools and none of the 11 district-run schools did not suspend any students.

 

Racial Disparities in Suspension among Black, Brown (Latino), and White Students

The aggregate suspension indicators reveal some important trends. Overall, charter schools were only one percentage point higher in suspension rate (5%) than district-run schools (4%). However, suspension is far more prominent in charters than district-run schools among Black (11% and 8%), Latino students (5% and 2%), and White (3% and 1%), respectively.

Percentage of TK-12th Grade Students suspended out of school once or more, by race for 2014-2015

suspension by race

In elementary schools, the data were more daunting. Black students in transitional kindergarten through fifth grade were eleven times more likely to be suspended than White students and six times than Latino students if they enrolled in a charter school (11.5%, 1.8%, and 1.0%). In district-run schools this ratio for Black students was nine times greater than White and four times greater than Latinos (3.6%, 0.9%,and 0.4%). The wide variation in suspension among black students between charters and district-run raises important questions to further explore. Our unpublished data show that, in charter schools, Black students accounted for 20% of enrolled elementary students and 64% of those suspended and Latinos accounted for 40% of enrolled elementary students and only 25% of those suspended.

Suspension by race in elementary schools for 2014-2015

elementary school suspension by race

We don’t often have cause to celebrate when analyzing school data in Oakland, yet we must recognize the success when there are a significant number of public schools with zero suspensions. We don’t yet have information about the policies or practices in all of those schools that contribute to these results, but this is something we’re exploring for future reports. The data continue to highlight the overrepresentation of black students in suspension, which could be illustrative of the oppression black students are experiencing in public schools. We should also add that we were unable to source data on the reasons for suspension from most charter schools for the 2014-15 school year, and this would have provided a better interpretation of these outcomes, especially documenting the level of subjectivity in determining whether a student of color shall be suspended or not. There is much more these data can tell us!