top 10s

Five top 10s that show which New York City schools suspend the most students

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

Earlier this week, the city released a raft of new statistics showing that suspensions handed out under Mayor Bill de Blasio continued to plummet last school year, down 46 percent over the past five years.

And while certain groups — black students and those with disabilities, for instance — are suspended at disproportionately high rates, the education department cheered the overall reduction as evidence that its goal of discouraging punitive approaches to discipline is paying off.

But embedded in those statistics are other trends worth exploring. As has been the case in the past, a small number of schools are overwhelmingly responsible for the city’s suspensions. Just 10 percent of them accounted for 47 percent of last year’s suspensions, while 54 percent of schools issued five or fewer.

In the lists below, we take a closer look at the city’s newly released suspension data, including which schools suspend the most students and what students are being suspended for.

Schools that registered the most suspensions

1. Susan E. Wagner High School, 363
2. Tottenville High School, 331
3. Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, 280
4. J.H.S. 118 William W. Niles, 230
5. I.S. 61 Leonardo Da Vinci, 229
6. Abraham Lincoln High School, 209
7. John Bowne High School, 207
8. I.S. 318 Eugenio Maria De Hostos, 204
9. New Dorp High School, 195
10. Queens High School of Teaching, Liberal Arts and the Sciences, 194

The numbers following each school name reflect total number of suspensions issued, not the number of students suspended.

Highest suspension rate (per 100 students)

1. Foundations Academy, 50.7 suspensions per 100 students (closed)
2. Pablo Neruda Academy, 48.2
3. Brooklyn School for Global Studies, 47.9
4. Brooklyn Frontiers High School, 47.72
5. Brooklyn School for Music and Theatre, 46
6. School for Democracy and Leadership, 43.2
7. Frederick Douglass Academy II Secondary School, 41.8
8. Bronx Aerospace High School, 41
9. The Urban Assembly School for Green Careers, 39
10. Bronx Lab School, 36.5

These are the schools that issued the most suspensions compared to the number of students they serve.

Highest suspension rate for students with disabilities (per 100 students with disabilities)

1. Urban Assembly Maker Academy, 91.6
2. Brooklyn School for Global Studies, 88.4
3. Pablo Neruda Academy, 71
4. Frederick Douglass Academy II Secondary School, 68.1
5. Brownsville Academy High School, 65.6
6. The Urban Assembly School for Collaborative Health, 65.2
7. I.S. 250 The Robert F. Kennedy Community Middle School, 64
8. High School for Innovation in Advertising and Medicine, 63.8
9. Bronx Lab School, 62.5
10. Urban Assembly Unison School, 58.1

These calculations reflect how many suspensions were issued to students with disabilities compared to the proportion of those students enrolled at a given school. Proportional to enrollment, for instance, Urban Assembly Maker Academy issued about 92 suspensions to students with disabilities per 100 students with disabilities enrolled there.

Citywide, students with disabilities are disproportionately suspended. While they make up around 19 percent of the city’s students, they accounted for nearly 39 percent of all suspensions.

Top schools for insubordination suspensions

1. East Bronx Academy for the Future, 159
2. Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, 110
3. Susan E. Wagner High School, 77
4. Cultural Academy for the Arts and Sciences, 52
5. Bronx Aerospace High School, 37
6. William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School, 35
7. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School, 34
8. Pelham Lab High School, 33
9. Bronx Lab School, 30
10. H.E.R.O. (Health Education and Research Occupations High School), 29

Student justice advocates have long complained that suspensions for subjective offenses like “insubordination” allow implicit racial bias to slip into decisions about which students should be disciplined. The city now requires special review for insubordination suspensions, and this type of suspension decreased 75 percent to 1,530 suspensions last year compared to 6,132 the year before.

Still, some schools continue to use them. These 10 schools represent 39 percent of all insubordination suspensions.

Top suspension types (grades 6-12 only)

1. Altercation and/or Physically Aggressive Behavior, 7,375
2. Minor Altercation, 5,158
3. Weapon Possession (Category I), 1,805*
4. Coercion/Threats, 1,788
5. Intimidating and Bullying Behavior, 1,773
6. Insubordination, 1,530
7. Altercation and/or Physically Aggressive Behavior, 1,367*
8. Group Violence, 878*
9. Reckless Behavior with Substantial Risk of Serious Injury, 876
10. Sexually Suggestive (Verbal/Physical), 857

An asterisk denotes more serious “superintendent” suspensions, which is why one category appears twice. Each suspension category spelled out in the city’s discipline code can represent a wide range of behaviors. A category I weapon, for instance, could mean anything from a slingshot to a machine gun. You can find more coverage here about why the city’s youngest students get suspended.

Are you an educator, parent or student interested in talking about the culture of discipline at your school? We’re interested in hearing from you. Email azimmerman@chalkbeat.org.

Hello Again

Debora Scheffel chosen by acclamation to fill State Board of Ed vacancy

State Board of Education member Debora Scheffel at a campaign event in 2016. (Photo by Nic Garcia/Chalkbeat)

A Republican vacancy committee unanimously selected Debora Scheffel to fill the opening left by Pam Mazanec on the State Board of Education.

Mazanec, a staunch defender of parental rights and school choice who represented the 4th Congressional District, resigned at the end of January to focus on her other obligations. Scheffel previously represented the 6th Congressional District on the board but lost that seat in 2016 to Democrat Rebecca McClellan.

McClellan’s narrow victory gave control of the board to Democrats for the first time in 46 years. Scheffel, who serves as dean of education at Colorado Christian University, moved to Douglas County, and ran unsuccessfully for school board there in 2017.

Scheffel’s selection does not change the balance of power on the state board because she replaces another Republican. Scheffel faced no opposition at the vacancy committee meeting, which took place Saturday in Limon.

Scheffel has said she wants to continue Mazanec’s work on behalf of rural schools and in support of parent and student choice, as well as work to protect student data privacy, a cause she previously championed on the board.

The district takes in all of the eastern Plains, as well as the cities of Longmont, Greeley, and Castle Rock.

Future of Schools

Indianapolis struggles to balance how much money schools need with what people will pay

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Without a massive influx of cash from taxpayers, Indianapolis’ largest school district could be in dire financial straits. But the fate of the referendums asking voters for more money is in limbo.

Even as the Indianapolis Public Schools board revealed plans to reduce how much money it is seeking from voters, the administration portrayed the district’s financial future as precarious. During a board discussion Thursday, officials underscored how critical it would be for the tax increase to pass. It’s unclear, however, whether the district will get the extra cash it needs to avoid making painful cuts.

Critics have suggested the request — $936 million over eight years — is too high and that the district has not offered enough detail on how the money raised would be spent. With only tepid support for the tax plan, district leaders appear poised to reduce the amount they are seeking. That move could win over new allies, but it could also undercut their efforts to gain support.

Next year, the administration is expecting spending could outpace income by more than $45 million. The plan for filling that gap hinges on raising more than $46 million from a referendum that will go before voters in May.

Without that extra money, Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said, the district would have to burn through its savings or make vast cuts that could include freezing teacher pay, cutting school budgets, and reducing transportation.

The district would need to begin making cuts immediately, said board member Kelly Bentley. “It’s just going to get worse the next year, and the next year,” she added.

The district’s future will look brighter if leaders are able to win public support for more funding, although it’s no longer clear how much money they will ask for. The original plan, which was approved by the board in December, includes two referendums to raise property taxes. One would ask voters to give the district as much as $92 million more per year for eight years for operating expenses such as teacher pay. Another measure, which the district is not expected to change, would pay for $200 million in improvements to buildings.

Ferebee said the amount he originally proposed was based on what the district needs rather than what would be politically feasible. In the face of community feedback, however, the district is crafting a plan that would have a lower price tag. Next, the district will need to explain what services will be cut to keep down costs, he said.

“I anticipate people will want to know, ‘what are the tradeoffs?’ ” Ferebee said. “We owe it to the community to provide that explanation, and we will.”

Indiana districts have pursued more than 160 property tax referendums since 2008, when state lawmakers created the current school funding system. About 60 percent of those referendums have been successful, according to data from Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy.

Stephen Hiller, who has been studying referendums with the center for nearly a decade, said that it’s likely that many districts have had to reconcile how much money they would ideally want with how much taxpayers might be willing to pay. But that conversation likely happens before a referendum is announced and approved by the board.

“I think IPS has it a little more difficult here that it’s happening in the open after they’ve approved it in a very public way,” he added.

School board president Michael O’Connor said that the district’s willingness to change the plan is a sign that local government works.

“We live in the community within which we serve, and all of us have heard pretty plainly and clearly, ‘we think that number might be too big,’ ” he said. “We are being responsive to our constituents.”

Reducing the referendum could be enough to win over many supporters. Several groups that have supported the current administration in the past have not yet taken a stand.

Tony Mason of the Indianapolis Urban League said in a statement that the district needs more money to pay high-quality teachers and meet the needs of its diverse students. But he raised concerns about the potential impact of the tax increase on residents with fixed- or low-incomes.

“IPS will still need to continue in its efforts to make the case for the substantial amount it is requesting,” Mason said. “The IUL is an avid supporter of education, particularly for urban schools that struggle with unique challenges.”

Chelsea Koehring, who taught in the district and now has two children at the Butler Lab School, shares the view that the district needs more money. But leaders have not offered enough details about how the money would be spent, she said, and changing the request raises red flags.

“People, you should’ve had this together before you asked,” she said. “Lowering it at this point — I don’t know that that’s going to instill confidence in anyone that they have any clue what they are doing.”

Correction: February 17, 2018: This story has been corrected to reflect that Indiana districts have pursued more than 160 property tax referendums since 2008. Some districts have held multiple referendums.