Do Discipline Disparities Exist in Your School or District and How Do You Know?

AIR expert and NCSSD Principal Investigator David Osher and National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE) Director Sandra Williamson are at the White House Convening to Rethink School Discipline today.  The event brings together national thought leaders on school discipline policies and practices to discuss new tools and resources to be released by the Supportive School Discipline Initiative, an interagency effort launched by the Administration in 2011.

The event marks the official release of Addressing the Root Causes of Disparities in School Discipline. This much needed and long awaited guide developed by NCSSLE, with support from the U.S. Department of Education, provides tools for practitioners to take a data-driven approach to systematically assess and respond to discipline disparities. This resource offers a process for school and district teams to develop an action plan based on an understanding of:

  • which student demographic groups are being disciplined, how, and to what extent;
  • the school- and/or district-based factors that have contributed to discipline disparities; and
  • how they can address disproportionality in school discipline.

The guide offers a collection of resources including, but not limited to a:

I am particularly excited about the release of this tool because I built the disciplinary disparities risk assessment tool that accompanies the guide. It has been a labor of love. With initial support from The Atlantic Philanthropies during the planning and intial design phases as well as funding from the U.S. Department of Education for the actual development, this Excel based tool is designed to help school administrators analyze school discipline data at the student and incident levels.  The tool translates the work of a number of recent efforts into an actionable, practitioner-friendly resource, including:

Do discipline disparities exist in your school or district and how do you know? There are some key questions that all instructional settings should be able to answer objectively (i.e., with data rather than anecdote) about the health of their school climate for ALL students. In the guide, we refer to these questions as "Big Risk Questions:"

  • How many students are subjected to disciplinary action?
  • To what extent are students in specific demographic groups (e.g. Native American students, students with disabilities) experiencing exclusionary discipline (i.e., suspension, expulsion or referrals)?  Which student demographic groups are at the greatest risk for exclusionary disciplinary action?
  • What is the rationale behind disciplinary actions taken against students? Is disciplinary action taken uniformly regardless of the type of offense or does the severity of the action taken vary?
  • How have exclusionary disciplinary practices influenced student outcomes? Is the school pushing students out or is the school or district maintaining responsibility for educating students despite the disciplinary actions taken against them?

With these questions in mind, the tool guides users through a structured process for analyzing school discipline data to monitor the extent to which students are subjected disproportionately to disciplinary action on the basis of their demographic characteristics. 

It is our hope that the Disciplinary Disparities Risk Assessment Tool will serve as a model for the kind of analytic and reporting capabilities existing school or district database or student management systems should be able to support. By creating a risk assessment profile for their schools on an annual basis, school administrators can use school discipline data to proactively reverse disproportionate disciplinary practices and reduce the excessive use of exclusionary discipline by:

  • Increasing awareness and transparency about school disciplinary practices in the school community at-large,
  • Targeting positive and constructive interventions and supports for the students at greatest risk for disciplinary action, and
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of school discipline policies and approaches over time.

As a former educator, I am patently aware of how using data to inform decisionmaking can expose realities that we may not be ready or unwilling to face. Data can force us to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask whether we've truly done our best and treated the students we serve equitably. Data can force us to ask for help when we finally come to recognize that we may be doing some of our students a disservice despite working tirelessly, valiantly and passionately. Working collaboratively to identify the root cause of discipline disparities can be a deeply emotional and painful process for schools to undertake. We can be quick to point fingers and excuse ourselves from blame. It requires honest and humble introspection and a commitment to see the process through in service of more positive and productive conditions for learning AND conditions for teaching for all members of a school community.

This work is so important. May this new guide light the way.

Social Marketing Toolkit
This resource is designed to build the capacity of change agents in local school communities to encourage school discipline reform by school and district administrators, school boards, and other policymaking bodies. It suggests ways in which advocates can raise awareness about the prevalence of, alternatives to and negative outcomes associated with the use of exclusionary discipline among a variety of constituencies such as parents, teachers’ unions, advocates, community based organizations, law enforcement and local business.  With social marketing materials such as infographics, the toolkit offers guidance on how to launch campaigns with the aim of improving the conditions for learning in schools, eliminating discipline disparities, stemming the pipeline to prison and encouraging the adoption of positive approaches to school discipline. - See more at: http://supportiveschooldiscipline.org/promote#sthash.Pva7Exnu.dpuf
Social Marketing Toolkit
This resource is designed to build the capacity of change agents in local school communities to encourage school discipline reform by school and district administrators, school boards, and other policymaking bodies. It suggests ways in which advocates can raise awareness about the prevalence of, alternatives to and negative outcomes associated with the use of exclusionary discipline among a variety of constituencies such as parents, teachers’ unions, advocates, community based organizations, law enforcement and local business.  With social marketing materials such as infographics, the toolkit offers guidance on how to launch campaigns with the aim of improving the conditions for learning in schools, eliminating discipline disparities, stemming the pipeline to prison and encouraging the adoption of positive approaches to school discipline. - See more at: http://supportiveschooldiscipline.org/promote#sthash.Pva7Exnu.dpuf
Social Marketing Toolkit
This resource is designed to build the capacity of change agents in local school communities to encourage school discipline reform by school and district administrators, school boards, and other policymaking bodies. It suggests ways in which advocates can raise awareness about the prevalence of, alternatives to and negative outcomes associated with the use of exclusionary discipline among a variety of constituencies such as parents, teachers’ unions, advocates, community based organizations, law enforcement and local business.  With social marketing materials such as infographics, the toolkit offers guidance on how to launch campaigns with the aim of improving the conditions for learning in schools, eliminating discipline disparities, stemming the pipeline to prison and encouraging the adoption of positive approaches to school discipline. - See more at: http://supportiveschooldiscipline.org/promote#sthash.Pva7Exnu.dpuf
Social Marketing Toolkit
This resource is designed to build the capacity of change agents in local school communities to encourage school discipline reform by school and district administrators, school boards, and other policymaking bodies. It suggests ways in which advocates can raise awareness about the prevalence of, alternatives to and negative outcomes associated with the use of exclusionary discipline among a variety of constituencies such as parents, teachers’ unions, advocates, community based organizations, law enforcement and local business.  With social marketing materials such as infographics, the toolkit offers guidance on how to launch campaigns with the aim of improving the conditions for learning in schools, eliminating discipline disparities, stemming the pipeline to prison and encouraging the adoption of positive approaches to school discipline. - See more at: http://supportiveschooldiscipline.org/promote#sthash.Pva7Exnu.dpuf

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