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T he School to Prison Pipeline: Understanding the Problem and What Research Suggests Can Get Us Back on Track By Daniel J. Losen. Outline of Presentation. Description of the school to prison pipeline with a focus on race and disability disparities

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The School to Prison Pipeline: Understanding the Problem and What Research Suggests Can Get Us Back on Track By Daniel J. Losen
outline of presentation
Outline of Presentation
  • Description of the school to prison pipeline with a focus on race and disability disparities
  • Why this is an education issue, and what is at stake
  • What the data suggests are contributing factors
  • The role of poverty
  • Why disparate impact analysis should inform policy decisions
  • What research suggests can be done
  • The importance of addressing disparities in remedies
opportunities suspended the disparate impact of disciplinary exclusion
Opportunities Suspended: The Disparate Impact of Disciplinary Exclusion
  • By Daniel Losen and Jonathan Gillespie
  • Looked at K-12
  • Out of School and Off Track: The Overuse of Suspensions in American Middle and High Schools, by Daniel Losen and Tia Martinez
  • Research summary available there, too (soon to be a book, Closing the School Discipline Gap: Research to Policy, (Teachers College Press, 2014))
my story
My Story….
  • Son of school administrators
  • Taught for 10 years
  • Married to a public school educator
  • Discipline issues…
Suspension Rates in Secondary Schools are larger and Deeper Still For Students With Disabilities (2009-10)
beware national comparisons
BEWARE National Comparisons
  • This is a tremendous national problem with devastating impact on the lives and futures of our children.
  • Being at or near the average for out-of-school suspensions should be cause for alarm not complacency….
research and experts in children s development
Research and Experts in Children’s Development
  • American Psychological Association
  • Academy of American Pediatrics
  • National Association of School Psychologists
  • Center for Disease Control
  • National School Boards Association all agree:

Suspension should be only utilized as a measure of last resort.

one third of all juveniles behind bars are student with disabilities
One third of all juveniles behind bars are student with disabilities

Photo of youth behind bars

if you are in a high suspending district you can reject the status quo
If you are in a high-suspending district, you can reject the status quo….
  • District and school level policy and practices make a tremendous difference.
  • Always question large disparities….
2009-10 District Distribution of K-12 Suspension Rates for Students with Disabilities in CT, MA, VT, NH, ME (Number of Districts)
many school districts suspend less than 3 of their students
Many School Districts Suspend Less than 3% of Their students
  • We assigned a risk of 3%, as “low suspending” (the approximate national average for Whites in the early 1970s). We then counted the number of districts in the sample that enrolled at least 1000 students and at least 10 students from a given subgroup.
  • Of 4,504 districts, for Black students it was 3% or less in 1,437 districts.  
  • Of the 4,667, for students with disabilities, it was 3% or less in 653 districts.
racial differences in behavior
Racial Differences in Behavior?
  • Likely many factors contributing to patterns but despite anecdotes, no research supports this as an explanation for suspensions (and it would be hard to conduct such research)
  • Disparate impact analysis is not trying to detect intentional discrimination but whether the policy or practice is educationally necessary….thas said….
  • Most extensive and robust study of Texas middle school students, controlled for other factors and found that white students were more likely than Blacks to commit a “mandatory” offense.
the largest racial disparities are for less serious discretionary violations
The Largest Racial Disparities are for less serious “Discretionary” violations
  • Study of Indiana- 95% non-violent “other”
  • Council of State Governments extensive review in Texas, a large majority will be removed from class on disciplinary grounds at least once in 6 years.
  • Whites in Texas were more frequently disciplined for “non-discretionary” infractions. (Possession of weapons/drugs….)
  • Are most of these kids typical adolescents, or dangerous thugs?
cell phone use
Cell Phone Use
  • 4,838 Whites and 2,242 Blacks disciplined for first offense of Cell Phone Use.
  • 32.7% (732) of the Blacks were suspended out of school.
  • 14.5% (704) of the Whites were suspended out of school.

The Civil Rights Project

unpacking the poverty rationale
Unpacking the Poverty Rationale
  • There is likely more to the observed differences than poverty can explain.
  • Longitudinal study in Texas, adjusted for 83 variables including race, poverty, prior behavior, and found schools make a big difference.
  • Chicago study found that the schools serving the students from the poorest and highest crime neighborhoods could feel as safe as schools serving the wealthiest and safest neighborhoods…
we know poverty matters but
We Know Poverty Matters, But…
  • We find large differences in suspension rates by race and disability status, often shrink, but only a little bit, after controlling for poverty.
  • Large race and disability and gender differences are not explained away by poverty.
  • But what if poverty did explain the differences?
    • The poverty explanation, if it ever did sufficiently explain the race and disability differences in statistical terms, would still only satisfy the concerns about unlawful different treatment driving the disparities…
    • …but would beg the question, why are schools suspending so many poor kids so often?
what about poverty
What About Poverty?
  • What is the concept behind the question?
    • Is it that poor kids misbehave more often?
    • If so, should they then spend more time at home unsupervised as the solution?
    • What about gender differences?
    • What about disability differences? Can we exclude children from educational opportunity on the basis of having a disability? [Hint, the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution says NO!]
    • What about race with disability? Disability with gender?
students with disabilities
Students With Disabilities
  • Some may be misbehaving more because:
    • It’s a manifestation of their disability
    • Their behavioral improvement plan needs adjusting.
    • They are frustrated because the supports and services they receive are inadequate.
    • Disability bias.
    • Other incentives to push them out.
    • How is suspending them at double the rate of their non-disabled peers educationally sound?
disparate impact approach
Disparate Impact Approach
  • Differences in behavior are not relevant because…the intent of the educators is not at issue.
  • Once a disparity is established, disparate impact analysis asks whether the policy or practice (the disciplinary response) by educators is educationally justifiable.
the core concept is exclusion from education as punishment
The Core Concept is Exclusion from Education as Punishment
  • Is it OK to kick out the “bad” kids out so the “good” kids can learn?
  • Is this the only choice before us?
  • Is it educationally sound policy or practice for public schools?
  • Does sending misbehaving kids home work?
    • Deterrence?
    • Behavior?
    • Education outcomes?
  • Does it make economic sense?
  • Will it make our communities safer?
using a disparate impact analysis to address disparities
Using A Disparate Impact Analysis to Address Disparities
  • One: Is a policy or practice adversely impacting some groups of children more than others?
  • Two: Is the policy or practice educationally justifiable?
  • Three: Even if justifiable, is a less discriminatory alternative is available?

The First Question: Is there a policy or practice that has an adverse impact (unintended consequences) that harms some groups more than others?

  • Large disparities in many districts (race and disability and gender).
  • Fact: Suspensions are a leading indicator of future dropping out and incarceration
  • Johns Hopkins study: Associated risk of dropping out from just one out-of-school suspension (from 16% to 32%)
  • Non-partisan Council of State Governments longitudinal study of every middle school student in Texas showed similar associated risks, including threefold increase in risk for juvenile justice involvement. “Breaking Schools Rules.”
question two educational justification
Question Two: Educational Justification?
  • How about when students are a danger to themselves or others, or exhibit other extreme misbehaviors? But unsupervised?
  • What about to de-escalate and/or investigate?….
  • Are these justifications for the frequent use of out of school suspension for less serious non-violent conduct? Suspension for truancy and tardiness? Dress code violations?
focusing on behavior differences skirts the core question
Focusing on behavior differences skirts the core question.
  • Is out-of-school suspension justifiable, and even if so, is it the best practice?
three prominent justifications
Three Prominent Justifications
  • To get parents attention
  • To deter future misbehavior…peers and student
  • To ensure a safe, orderly and effective educational environment, “So the good kids can learn.”

What does the research say?

you need to kick out the bad kids so the good kids can learn has no research support
You need to kick out the “bad” kids so the “good” kids can learn…has no research support.
  • Research (Indiana) shows that principals who treated discipline as part of the educational mission, embraced clear rules and fair consequences, and regarded suspension as a measure of last resort had lower suspension rates and higher test scores than those that embraced highly punitive measures and saw misbehaving students and their parents as the source of the problem.
  • Texas reports compared similar districts and after controlling for over 80 variables and there were no benefits to higher rates of suspension in terms of test scores.
  • Qualitative research has demonstrated that students often behave differently in different classrooms.
  • Research by Pedro Noguera suggested that when teachers were allowed to remove the disruptive kids, new disruptive kids soon emerged.
  • Kicking out the “bad” kids does not improve the learning environment as measured by achievement, after controlling for race and poverty.
  • Myth “BUSTED”
will deter future misbehavior
Will deter future misbehavior…
  • Truancy?
  • Mendez study: suspension in grade 6 highly correlated with repeated suspensions in the future.
  • Data demonstrate increasing numbers of students suspended between grades 6 and 9.
  • No research behind this common assumption.
pinellas county s cohort s suspension rate as students advanced in grade
Pinellas County’s Cohort’s Suspension Rate As Students Advanced in Grade

Percentage of cohort’s enrollment suspended at least once: (Mendez 2003)

The Civil Rights Project

get parental attention
Get Parental Attention
  • Increased parental attention is a sound goal.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics conclusions
    • Adds stress
    • Increases risk factors for child and family
    • Won’t help anyone if seriously dysfunctional parenting is the root cause

Many other ways to improve parental involvement

relieves teacher stress
Relieves Teacher Stress?
  • In the short-term, perhaps, but….
  • Studies suggest that frequent suspensions break down teacher-parent and teacher-student trust and harms these relationships.
  • And we know it adds to student disengagement.
  • Most teachers will admit that students do not come back better behaved.
  • Frequent suspensions can undermine a teacher’s authority in the classroom.
major remedies include
Major Remedies Include
  • Less punitive responses (school code and change in theory)
  • Tiered intervention strategies (PBIS; RtI; Threat Assessment Protocol)
  • Strategies targeting social and emotional learning
  • Restorative practices
common threads what works
Common Threads: What Works
  • Improving teacher/student engagement
  • Teacher/parent engagement
  • “Buy in” by leaders and teachers
  • Positive rather than punitive approaches
  • Reflection on the data
  • Rejecting the status quo and problem solving
  • Acknowledging how the adults and the the school system contributes to the problems
frequently suspending adolescents for minor infractions does not work
Frequently suspending adolescents for minor infractions does not work.
  • Eliminate the unsound practice, starting with the most obvious ones:
    • Baltimore forbids the use of suspension for truancy and several other minor offenses
    • McKinley High School in Boston reversed its closed door policy that constructively suspended all tardy students.
  • Connecticut limits out-of-school suspensions. Reduce discretion around out-of-school suspension.
  • Research indicates that PBIS is effective reducing disciplinary referrals, but should be aligned with school code.
need to move beyond compliance
Need to Move Beyond Compliance
  • Learn from the experience of other school districts:
beyond changes to discipline policy alternatives
Beyond Changes to Discipline Policy: Alternatives
  • High quality pre-school (associated with fewer anti-social behaviors in school).
  • Mandatory classroom and behavior management training for certification as well as professional development for new teachers.
  • The Seattle Social Development Project
    • Coaching for teachers to improve instruction and
    • Developmentally sequenced parenting workshops
    • Social and citizenship skills training for children to learn and practice these skills
social and emotional health
Social and Emotional Health
  • Improve procedural protections for students with disabilities
  • Reduce misidentification in special education
  • Wrap-around services
  • Mulit-systemic therapy
  • Trauma awareness and support
social and emotional learning
Social and Emotional Learning
  • Teaches students directly about how to deal with frustration and anger
  • Problem solving techniques
  • Group work skills
  • Conflict resolution skills….
restorative practices
Restorative Practices
  • Offender accountability is central
  • As is the value of each child to the community as a whole.
  • Seeks to make the victim whole again.
  • Seeks to get at the root cause of the offender’s behavior.
  • Emphasis on prevention.
tiered intervention strategies
Tiered Intervention Strategies
  • School-wide Positive Behavioral Intervention Systems
  • RtI: Response to intervention approach has behavioral component
  • Virginia’s Threat Assessment Protocol
will these alternatives reduce the disparities
Will these alternatives reduce the disparities?
  • They don’t always
  • How change is measured and evaluated can lead to different conclusions
what about unconscious bias
What about unconscious bias?
  • Disparities remain a problem, even if there is no clear evidence of intentional discrimination based on race or disability status.
  • Systemic failure to address the behavioral challenges experienced by students with disabilities is unlawful.
  • Implicit bias against students with disabilities and students of color can influence both the perceptions of misbehavior and the chosen responses.
discrimination based on gender
Discrimination based on gender?
  • Think about gender bias.
  • Do we still accept deteriorating performance by girls in math?
the mit beer experiment ariely
The MIT Beer Experiment (Ariely)
  • In a blind-fold test, tasters overwhelmingly preferred vinegar laced MIT beer over a commercial brand lite beer.
  • When the test was repeated, but participants were told that the MIT beer had a trace of vinegar added, participants crinkled their noses as they tasted the MIT beer and overwhelmingly chose the commercial lite beer.
  • Expectations altered their experience of the beer.
bias can alter our senses
Bias can alter our senses….
  • Bias can alter what we experience, what we pay attention to and what we ignore.
  • Biased expectations can affect our evaluation of what we hear and see…
        • Auditions behind blinds
what to do about implicit bias
What to do about implicit bias?
  • Expect bias, as part of being an irrational human being.
  • Think about bias in other areas, such as economics: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (Predictably Irrational by Ariely)
  • Test yourself:
  • Monitor and discuss the racial and disability disparities as part of the work of the school and district.
  • Avoid the comfortable explanations…
you can test yourself

You Can Test Yourself

perceptions of behavior in the classroom and subsequent responses
Perceptions of Behavior in the Classroom and Subsequent Responses
  • Connections to student and parents
  • Mutual respect
  • Confrontation or problem solving
  • De-escalation
  • Preparation and engagement
  • Predictions of outcomes
challenges reluctance to own the problem
Challenges:Reluctance to own the problem
  • Blame poverty
  • Blame bigger problems outside the district’s control
we all likely harbor some biases that we are unaware of
We all likely harbor some biases that we are unaware of…
  • Alan Alda and test makers take the test and discuss their own biased results.
reflect on the data
Reflect on the Data
  • Race, disability, and gender data disparities are often shocking.
  • Often districts do not routinely review or use data that breaks out discipline disparities by race, disability or gender.
  • One way to push back on bias is to use the disaggregated data on a regular basis and reject the status quo of disparities if these are revealed.
advocacy for better data collection
Advocacy for better data collection…
  • And use the data once it is collected…
  • The “Pledge of ____” ends with:

The Civil Rights Project

the difference training can make
The Difference Training Can Make
  • My inexperience and frequent referrals.
  • Typical mistakes easily corrected:
    • Focusing on wrongs rather than rights.
    • Assuming bad motives and taking things personally.
    • Poor preparation.
    • Deferring to higher authorities.
    • Ignoring special needs.
    • Group punishments.
    • Parental outreach reluctance
    • Classroom confrontations….

The Civil Rights Project

do schools meet their legal obligations to students with disabilities
Do Schools Meet Their Legal Obligations to Students With Disabilities?
  • Two districts in Delaware:
  • About 50% of the principals knew that students with disabilities had additional due-process rights
  • Manifestation determination:
    • Behavior caused by disability, or
    • Resulted from failure to properly implement the IEP

Administrators often complain that they have too few resources to meet their special education obligations….

The Civil Rights Project

police in our schools
Police in Our Schools
  • How well trained?
  • Cost benefit analysis compared with support for students and teachers?
  • How evaluated? Arrests or lack thereof.
  • Increase in police presence, without education protocol resulted in dramatic rise in misdemeanor offenses and minor rise in felonies.
  • Costs associated with over-use by educators…
  • Cops or Counselors?
clayton county georgia referrals to juvenile court source judge steven teske
Clayton County Georgia Referrals to Juvenile Court (Source: Judge Steven Teske)

The Civil Rights Project

a positive outlook for change
A Positive Outlook for Change
  • National initiative and growing consensus
  • New understanding of the harms
  • Some simple solutions (i.e. Baltimore)
  • Promising long-term remedies based on research
  • Unacceptable economic implications of the status quo
  • Unions reconsidering their positions
  • Schools proving that they can make a difference!
how to measure success
How to Measure Success?
  • Improving sense of safety and school climate for teachers as well as students
  • Improving achievement scores
  • Improving attendance
  • Improving graduation rates
  • Decreasing involvement in the juvenile justice system
  • Cost savings from more effective schools
the end
The End

New web tool:

New Policy Brief: Daniel Losen, Discipline Policies, Successful Schools, and Racial Justice. National Education Policy Center Release on October 5, 2011 National Press Club, D.C.

New Reports: Out of School and Off Track; and Opportunities Suspended

National Council of State Governments Justice Center Report: Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study on How School Discipline Relates to Students’ Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement

Contact for Daniel J. Losen