But data from these school districts indicate that one major factor may be undermining these reform efforts: charter schools.
In New York City, although the charter-school student population represents just under 7 percent of the district’s total enrollment, charter schools accounted for nearly 42 percent of all suspensions, according to the latest available state data, from 2014.
Over the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years, of the 50 New York City schools with the most student suspensions, 46 were charter schools in 2013 and 48 were charter schools in 2014. Looking at suspension rates, 45 were charter schools in 2013 and 48 were charter schools in 2014. (These suspension rates control for student population and do not double-count students who receive multiple suspensions.)
A CityLab geographic analysis of these hyper-disciplinary schools finds that nearly all are concentrated in majority-black communities. And among the outlier schools, those with the most flagrant suspension numbers are clustered in the heart of New York’s black communities, particularly in Harlem in Manhattan, and in Crown Heights, Brownsville, and East New York in Brooklyn.
Similar patterns extend beyond New York. According to 2011-2012 charter and traditional public-school data from Washington, D.C., obtained by The Washington Post, charter schools accounted for 40 of the 50 schools with the most total suspensions and expulsions that year, despite the fact that they accounted for only 41 percent of the student population that year. Additionally, the 15 schools with the most suspensions and expulsions were all charter schools. And, as in New York City, when controlling for school population, the pattern held: Thirty-nine of the 50 schools with the highest suspension or expulsions rates were charter schools.
Visualizing this data again, it is clear that nearly all of these 50 high-discipline schools, 80 percent of which are charters, are located in neighborhoods with large black populations across the city. And, as in New York, the schools with the highest disciplinary numbers within this group were also clustered in the city’s densest black neighborhoods, east of the Anacostia River.
These racialized geographic disparities also abound in Boston, according to the latest available state data. Over the 2014-2015 school year, though Boston charter schools only accounted for 17 percent of the total student population, they made up 20 of the 50 schools with the highest percentages of student discipline incidents, which include suspensions and expulsions. Charter schools also made up seven of the 10 schools with the highest percentage of students suspended (counting both in-school and out-of-school suspensions).
As in New York and D.C., the majority of these schools, charter and public, were clustered in neighborhoods with Boston’s largest black populations, such as Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan.