There has been a lot of discussion lately about the impact of out-of-school suspensions, and we’ve even highlighted some major districts doing away with them altogether.
There are a multitude of reasons that districts are rethinking suspension:
Exclusionary disciplinary policies feed the school-to-prison pipeline.
Suspensions can be overused as consequences for minor disciplinary problems.
Perhaps most importantly, they don’t seem to work very well.
And then along comes another black eye for the culture of suspension.
A recent study of a large school district in Kentucky, conducted by University of Kentucky and Indiana University researchers, came back with some interesting findings that suggest rising out-of-school suspension rates negatively impact the academic performance of students who are not suspended.
The researchers were able to separate the effects of suspensions on academic achievement from any other negative effects caused by the school’s environment.
At average levels of suspension in a school, about 90–100 suspensions each semester, non-suspended students scored in the 54th percentile on tests.
But when the suspensions rose to about 200 suspensions a semester, non-suspended students’ scores dropped to the 39th percentile, Perry said.
Reading and math scores among non-suspended students both dropped, although the effects were a little larger on reading than on math, she said.
Researchers hypothesize that “turnover of suspended students in and out of classrooms creates unstable, socially fragmented environments.”
In short, the results of this study suggest that suspensions, even when used in moderation, have a negative impact on school culture — so much so, that it negatively impacts the achievement of all students.
It will be interesting to see how the conversation around suspension policy continues to evolve, as more research is done, and as districts continue to find better modes of intervention that keep out-of-school suspension a last resort — or eliminate it altogether.