Panel: Implementation and Impacts of School Discipline Policies and Reforms

Saturday, November 4, 2017: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Gold Coast (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Kaitlin Anderson, Michigan State University
Panel Chairs:  Gary Ritter, University of Arkansas
Discussants:  F. Chris Curran, University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Rebecca Hinze-Pifer, University of Chicago

How Frequently Disciplined Students Affect Their Peers and Teachers
Nathan Barrett, Tulane University, Jonathan N. Mills, University of Arkansas, Andrew McEachin, RAND Corporation and Jon Valant, Brookings Institution

Suspensions Suspended: Do Changes to High School Suspension Policies Change Suspension Rates?
E. Christine Baker-Smith, Research Alliance for New York City Schools; New York University

Reforming School Discipline: The Impact of District-Level Policy Reform on Suspended Students and Their Peers
Matthew P. Steinberg, University of Pennsylvania and Johanna Lacoe, Mathematica Policy Research

Growing criticism of zero-tolerance and exclusionary discipline such as out-of-school suspension has led many states and school districts to change laws or revise codes of conduct to limit exclusionary discipline and encourage more preventative and restorative approaches. These reforms are based on well-documented disproportionalities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and the assumption that exclusionary discipline harms students. However, we still know little about the causal impacts of exclusionary discipline or of the reforms designed to replace exclusionary approaches. This panel specifically addresses these issues from a few different angles. One paper estimates the impact of frequently disciplined students on their peers and teachers, and three papers study reforms intended to reduce the use of out-of-school suspensions. In addition, these papers address the direct impacts of discipline policies on disciplined students as well as spillover effects on others in the school.

The first paper addresses the impacts of discipline on the broader school community. The authors take a novel approach to address the impacts of student discipline on school climate as measured by teacher and peer outcomes. Using detailed disciplinary, demographic, and achievement data from Louisiana, they test how the introduction of frequently disciplined students to classrooms affects their teachers’ mobility and persistence in the profession and their peers’ achievement and behavior.

The second paper studies a discipline code change to reduce suspensions in a large, urban school district. Using student-level data, the author assesses the frequency, type, and disproportionality of suspensions before and after the policy change. Findings suggest that, while overall and first-time suspension rates decrease, multiple suspensions are more likely. Further, the policy also resulted in heterogeneous effects by student race and gender.

A third set of authors estimate the effects of a similar district-level policy change in Philadelphia prohibiting the use of OSS for student misconduct such as failure to follow classroom rules and the use of profane language or gestures. They use a difference-in-differences approach to examine both direct and spillover effects, and find that, for students who would have otherwise been suspended, the policy reform increased attendance and proficiency in math. The spillover effects of the policy are largely a function of implementation at the school-level, with negative impacts in partial complier schools.

The final paper tests a state-level reform prohibiting the use of out-of-school suspension as a consequence for truancy. As in Philadelphia, compliance in this state varied by school, so this paper focuses on the implementation and impacts of that policy. First, it describes the characteristics of schools that do and do not fully respond to the policy change. Secondly, it addresses the effects of OSS on the students suspended for truancy, exploiting exogenous variation in the policy. Finally, it addresses the effects of the policy on school-level outcomes such as truancy, disciplinary infractions, and use of suspensions.

Overall, these papers highlight the unintended consequences of discipline policy reforms such as differential implementation and heterogeneous impacts. The findings are important for policy makers or practitioners considering discipline policy reforms in the future.

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