Behind the Headline: Hillary Clinton: Most charter schools ‘don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them’

On Top of the News
Hillary Clinton: Most charter schools ‘don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them’
Answer Sheet blog/Washington Post | 11/8/15

Behind the Headline
Are Disruption-Free Schools Only for the Rich?
Education Next blog | 11/9/15

At a town hall in South Carolina this weekend, Hillary Clinton was asked whether she supports charter schools. In her answer, she complained

Most charter schools — I don’t want to say every one — but most charter schools, they don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them. And so the public schools are often in a no-win situation, because they do, thankfully, take everybody, and then they don’t get the resources or the help and support that they need to be able to take care of every child’s education.

The idea that public schools always enroll the hardest-to-teach kids and keep them there is challenged in a blog entry by Robert Pondiscio.  He notes

Perhaps there are public schools where no one is turned away. But one thing is certain: If you are the bright son or daughter of affluent parents, chronic classroom disruption is largely foreign to your school experience. If you encounter it all, you can be reasonably confident it won’t last long. You almost never share a classroom with challenging, high-needs kids. Wealthy families have any number of ways to insulate themselves from anything interfering with their child’s education. There are private schools and public school administrators willing to marginalize and punish kids who act out – even for infractions that are beneath notice at chaotic inner-city schools. Affluent public schools hire tutors for those they suspend or simply pay tuition – somewhere else – for students they “lack the resources to adequately serve.”

He continues

Then, of course, there is the most common tactic for sorting out the hardest to teach: the iron reality of the real estate market, which prohibits low-income families, statistically the lowest achieving, from any hope of moving to affluent neighborhoods with “high performing” public schools. It’s no secret that “regular” schools serving predominantly poor children, who face overwhelming challenges that affluent children never have to confront, have more than their share of behavior problems. It’s what drives many urban parents to charter schools in the first place.

Pondiscio concludes

Let’s not kid ourselves that “creaming” and “counseling out” are rarities in American public education. But it’s in rich neighborhoods, not poor ones, where such practices thrive. Let’s not kid ourselves that those of us who pay a premium price for our child’s education, whether in private-school tuition or school taxes in well-off communities, don’t demand and receive schools largely free of the hardest to teach.

– Education Next

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