Rand Study: Reducing Suspensions Doesn’t Improve Academic Performance

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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.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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