Kindergarten Suspensions: It’s a *Thing*

We meet a five-year-old who, in his first four months as a kindergartner, was suspended 16 times. In other, words, what????

It’s time for another installment of Have You Heard, listener. In this episode (our third!), we head to Boston for a look at the controversial trend of kindergarten suspension. We go behind the data to bring you the story of a mother and a five-year-old boy who, in his first four months as a kindergartner, was suspended 16 times. Hard to imagine? His mother thinks so too as she struggles to understand how her bright, creative little boy could end up in so much trouble so quickly. After you’ve listened, drop me a line by email or on Twitter to let me know what you thought. I’ll be talking about the issue of kindergarten suspension and other controversial edu-topics in a live webcast on May 11. Sign up here.


  1. In a classroom, it’s not what you do, but how you do it. Students do feel better with order, but what works in the short term may produce negative results in the long term. My thirty-one years of experience tells me that these students will not love to read nor love to learn in high school or college. Eventually they will grow tired of shame and compliance.

    If the school was not orderly before, then it could have been addressed in healthy ways. A Principal who knows what she/he is doing. Teachers who know how to quiet children and create order and a safe and healthy community without punishment and yelling. Children with serious issues are very challenging to work with. It seems that parents accept this school because it looks a lot better. I’m sure it does. However, if parents had the choice to send their children to a healthy school with small classes, with strict but experienced, loving teachers and administrators, they would not choose this school.

  2. It seems like the worse kind of gaslighting to have a charter school make a parent begin to believe that her beautiful 5 year old is somehow defective. I’m so sorry Malik and his family began his formal education under such a cloud, and I’m happy to hear that he is prospering in his new school setting. Just wondering whether his new school is a traditional BPS school or if he has moved outside the district?

    1. To clarify, Malik’s previous school, UP Academy Holland, was not a charter school per se. It’s what Unlocking Potential, the education management organization that operates the school, refers to as a *restart school.* It’s part of the Boston Public Schools, but gets to make up its own rules related to hiring, school discipline etc. I’d encourage anyone who is interested to read the outstanding reporting of WBUR’s Peter Balonon-Rosen, who has been looking into discipline issues at this school specifically, and at the issue of kindergarten suspension in Massachusetts more generally. Malik now attends Manning Elementary, which is a district school in Boston’s Jamaica Plain section and is known for its special education inclusion program and its innovative approach to working with kids who’ve experienced trauma. I’m hoping to visit in order to do a follow up as I think people are quite interested to hear what the Manning is doing that’s working for students like Malik. Meanwhile, Unlocking Potential continues to expand in Massachusetts, with schools in Boston, Lawrence and a soon-to-open school in Springfield. According to internal documents that I got via a FOIA request made to the Boston Public Schools, UP is working with the BPS to develop a long-term plan to expand the number of schools it manages in Boston. UP is also the recipient of a $4.3 million, five year grant from the federal Department of Education to expand its school *restart* program in Massachusetts, with the aim of serving 4,200 students by 2020.

      1. Didn’t the Mitchell Chester, chair of BESE, say something to the effect that the number of suspensions at these “turn-around” or “re-start” schools was irrelevant or even, perhaps, appropriate?

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