Unfortunately, though, KIPP was not willing to do so. The student was told he must withdraw after violating school rules during his sixth grade year. As a teacher, many of the most rewarding moments in my career have involved challenging students who habitually violated school rules, so I was surprised at how readily KIPP was willing to release him.
In response, we asked the school leader to allow him to finish the year on the condition that we increased our involvement and put immediate interventions in place. We knew that a spring transition would be difficult for him, potentially intensifying his behavioral struggles. Despite our efforts, KIPP refused to let him stay for the remainder of the year.
Before signing withdrawal papers, his parent requested a psychological evaluation. KIPP had never initiated any testing even though they deemed his behavior disruptive enough to warrant his dismissal. By law, potential disabilities and formalized behavior plans should be considered prior to expulsion, but choice schools get around this by sending students back to zoned schools.
The student remained at KIPP during the course of the evaluation and his parent provided written permission for the school to communicate with us regarding his progress. During that time period, we met with all of his teachers, enrolled him in counseling at Oasis Center, reminded him daily to complete homework, bought him a belt and shoes to ensure compliance with the dress code, made sure he went to all assigned detentions and served those detentions with him. We relayed information to his parent who could not get to the temporary KIPP location easily on the bus and frequently worked late hours. We made every effort to reinforce KIPP’s expectations for him.
At the conclusion of the psychological evaluation in April, the results revealed a disability and indicated that the student would qualify for exceptional education services. Seemingly apathetic to this revelation, KIPP proceeded with his dismissal anyway, and he entered his zoned middle school days before TCAP testing began.
KIPP’s decision to follow through with the dismissal despite having the added support of counseling, mentoring, and formal services suggests interests not related to the child’s well-being. Typically, a school welcomes the support of community agencies in addressing a student’s needs, realizing truth in the old adage, “It takes a village.” What is more, the allowance of such exclusion implies that choice schools are either above certain challenges or ill-equipped to handle them—neither of which is accurate.
Shuffling students around school districts is not in the best interest of those students or our state. This practice communicates a lack of commitment likely to be internalized by the child, and frequent school changes will lead to achievement gaps. A strain is placed on zoned schools as a steady stream of students enters throughout the year. Additionally, the public is misled as choice schools boast high performance without disclosing the questionable means employed.
We must examine any policy that allows schools to decide who they will and will not teach. When a student enters a school--charter, magnet, or zoned—it is the obligation of that school to serve him. I have never once attended an education class, professional development training, or meeting with colleagues in which getting rid of a student was suggested as a means to manage behavior, improve class climate, or raise academic achievement. In contrast, we learn to think creatively, find resources, and build positive relationships with students. As inconvenient as this may be in these times of performance rankings, evaluations, and overall high stakes, it is our responsibility to make sure all students are being served adequately and that the decisions we make about their lives are ethical and implemented equally across all schools in our state.
(This was posted anonymously, with permission, to protect the privacy of the student & mentor.)
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