Archive for Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chicago school draws scrutiny over student fines

February 21, 2012


— A sense of order and decorum prevails at Noble Street College Prep as students move quickly through a hallway adorned with banners from dozens of colleges. Everyone wears a school polo shirt neatly tucked into khaki trousers. There’s plenty of chatter but no jostling, no cellphones and no dawdling.

The reason, administrators say, is that students have learned there is a price to pay — literally — for breaking even the smallest rules.

Noble Network of Charter Schools charges students at its 10 Chicago high schools $5 for detentions stemming from infractions that include chewing gum and having untied shoelaces. Last school year it collected almost $190,000 in discipline “fees” from detentions and behavior classes — a policy drawing fire from some parents, advocacy groups and education experts.

Officials at the rapidly expanding network, heralded by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as a model for the city, say the fees offset the cost of running the detention program and help keep small problems from becoming big ones. Critics say Noble is nickel-and-diming its mostly low-income students over insignificant, made-up infractions that force out kids administrators don’t want.

“We think this just goes over the line ... fining someone for having their shoelaces untied (or) a button unbuttoned goes to harassment, not discipline,” said Julie Woestehoff, executive director of the Chicago advocacy group Parents United for Responsible Education, which staged protests last week over the policy after Woestehoff said she was approached by an upset parent.

Students at Noble schools receive demerits for various infractions — four for having a cellphone or one for untied shoelaces. Four demerits within a two-week period earn them a detention and $5 fine. Students who get 12 detentions in a year must attend a summer behavior class that costs $140.

Superintendent Michael Milkie said the policy teaches the kids — overwhelmingly poor, minority and often hoping to be the first in their families to attend college — to follow rules and produces a structured learning environment. He points to the network’s average ACT score of 20.3, which is higher than at the city’s other non-selective public schools, and says more than 90 percent of Noble graduates enroll in college.


cato_the_elder 6 years, 3 months ago

This kind of dress code, perhaps not quite as strict and sans the fines for untied shoelaces, should be implemented in Lawrence. The way high school kids in Lawrence are allowed to dress (or undress) to come to school is deplorable, and cannot contribute to a good learning environment.

Liberals, don't panic. The model for this in Chicago is supported by Rahm Emanuel.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 3 months ago

I'm reminded of a story that was done by "60 Minutes", oh, maybe a decade or more ago. The background was this: In the Kansas City, Mo. school system, white students had left the public school system. Some had gone to the suburbs, some to private schools. But the schools had become essentially re-segregated with the black kids getting what a judge called separate and unequal education. The judge was largely moved by the much lower test scores achieved by the black children. In an effort to equalize the two systems, he ordered the K.C., Mo. school system to make significant upgrades in an effort to attract the white kids back into the public schools. The school system decided to do this by having a variety of magnet schools, each with a theme that might attract both white and black students. There was a "music and arts" school. There was a "math and science" school. There were other themed schools. It did have the desired effect in that white kids were attracted to those schools. But rather than seeing the test scores of the black kids go up, what happened was that the test scores of the white kids went down. Except in one school. In one magnet school, the scores of both the white and black kids went up. What was the "theme" of that school? There were only two requirements in that school. One was that all the kids had to wear a uniform and the second was that all the parents had to volunteer a certain amount. We're way down the line now. I have no idea how things turned out in the long run. I believe that state has assumed control of the K.C., Mo. school system and I have no idea if the magnet school theme continues or was dropped in the years since. But I am of the opinion that for education to occur, the proper atmosphere needs to exist. I am a strong believer in uniforms as a way of reducing distractions. And I am a strong believer that with parental involvement comes better results. How we mandate those things is problematic, but should we mandate those things is certain.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years, 3 months ago

Very well said. I, too, am a huge believer in uniforms and an environment to learn. The public school system has had ample opportunity to excel or fail. Seems that most of the public school models have failed.

Magnet and/or charter schools is one of the answers to this problem.

seriouscat 6 years, 3 months ago

A for-profit, outsourced, privatization of education firm nickle and diming the student population into submission? SHOCKER

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