Rand Study: Reducing Suspensions Doesn’t Improve Academic Performance

Maciej Bledowski / Getty Images

Here’s some unwelcome news. The usual caveat applies: it’s just one study in one place, so don’t take it too seriously. But in a large-scale test of “restorative practices” in the Pittsburgh Public School District, the results were disappointing. Half the district participated in a program to reduce disciplinary suspensions—especially the disproportionate use of suspensions among minority students—in an effort to improve both the atmosphere of the school and academic achievement. PPSD implemented a program from the International Institute for Restorative Practices called SaferSanerSchools Whole-School Change, and it did indeed reduce suspensions and improve school climates (as rated by teachers). However, there was also this:

Don’t worry too much about all the jargon in these tables. What’s important is that nearly all the numbers are negative. Student achievement (on the left) fell in all subjects and among all demographic groups. At the same time, student evaluations of teachers (on the right) declined on every single variable.

This was a large-scale test, so its results have to be taken seriously. At the same time, it ran for only two years, and that might not have been enough time for restorative practices to show any impact. The important thing, probably, is to take the results seriously enough to try to figure out how programs like this can be improved. We should give up on them only if we do that and they continue to fail.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Give a Year of the Truth

at our special holiday rate

just $12

Order Now

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.