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'Two sides of the same coin': Stanford study shows link between achievement gap and racial disparities in school discipline

Researchers urge school leaders, parents to pay attention to local disparities

A new Stanford University study has documented for the first time at the national level a direct link between unequal rates of achievement and unequal rates of discipline for black and white students: as one disparity grows or shrinks, so does the other, researchers found.

"The black-white achievement gap and the black-white discipline gap are in fact two sides of the same coin," said Francis Pearman, an assistant professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education and lead author of the study.

Previously, the connection between racial disparities in academic performance and discipline was largely theoretical or studied at the local level, within a single school district. Establishing a correlation between the two has important implications for school districts, teachers and parents, the researchers said.

"If your district has higher suspension rates for students of color than it does for white students, it's likely that it is also failing to meet the academic needs of its students of color as well as it does its white students," Pearman said. "Similarly, if your district is struggling to meet the academic needs of students of color, then it will likely have a racial discipline problem."

The study analyzed disciplinary and achievement data for students in third through eighth grade in school districts across the country from the 2011-12 and 2013-14 school years. The researchers found that a 10 percentage point increase in the black-white discipline gap in a school district predicts an achievement gap that is 17% larger than the average black-white achievement gap.

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The relationship goes both ways, the researchers found. As the achievement gap between black and white students widens, so does the discipline gap. According to an announcement, this study, which was published earlier this month in a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association, is the first to examine this relationship in both directions.

In the Palo Alto Unified School District, black, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, low-income and special-needs students are suspended at higher rates, according to California School Dashboard data. They also lag behind their peers academically, a chronic gap the district is working to address.

While the study also found a "significant association" between achievement and discipline gaps between Hispanic and white students, other factors, such as poverty and education levels, were the root causes. Once the researchers controlled for these differences at the local level, the relationship between the two gaps went away.

"This suggests that the mechanisms connecting the achievement gap to the discipline gap, such as teacher biases and feeling isolated at school, may be most salient for black students," Pearman said.

School leaders, teachers and parents should pay attention to the findings, the researchers said. The announcement notes that last year, the federal government rescinded guidelines put in place in 2014 to address racial disparities in school discipline, which could cause districts to focus less on these efforts.

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"Our findings should caution against such moves," Pearman said.

Other remedies could include adopting ethnic studies programs and culturally relevant teaching to close the achievement gap and using non-punitive discipline practices instead of ones that exclude students from school. Efforts focused on closing one gap could have "crossover effects" on the other, Pearman said.

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'Two sides of the same coin': Stanford study shows link between achievement gap and racial disparities in school discipline

Researchers urge school leaders, parents to pay attention to local disparities

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Sat, Nov 2, 2019, 8:56 am

A new Stanford University study has documented for the first time at the national level a direct link between unequal rates of achievement and unequal rates of discipline for black and white students: as one disparity grows or shrinks, so does the other, researchers found.

"The black-white achievement gap and the black-white discipline gap are in fact two sides of the same coin," said Francis Pearman, an assistant professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education and lead author of the study.

Previously, the connection between racial disparities in academic performance and discipline was largely theoretical or studied at the local level, within a single school district. Establishing a correlation between the two has important implications for school districts, teachers and parents, the researchers said.

"If your district has higher suspension rates for students of color than it does for white students, it's likely that it is also failing to meet the academic needs of its students of color as well as it does its white students," Pearman said. "Similarly, if your district is struggling to meet the academic needs of students of color, then it will likely have a racial discipline problem."

The study analyzed disciplinary and achievement data for students in third through eighth grade in school districts across the country from the 2011-12 and 2013-14 school years. The researchers found that a 10 percentage point increase in the black-white discipline gap in a school district predicts an achievement gap that is 17% larger than the average black-white achievement gap.

The relationship goes both ways, the researchers found. As the achievement gap between black and white students widens, so does the discipline gap. According to an announcement, this study, which was published earlier this month in a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association, is the first to examine this relationship in both directions.

In the Palo Alto Unified School District, black, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, low-income and special-needs students are suspended at higher rates, according to California School Dashboard data. They also lag behind their peers academically, a chronic gap the district is working to address.

While the study also found a "significant association" between achievement and discipline gaps between Hispanic and white students, other factors, such as poverty and education levels, were the root causes. Once the researchers controlled for these differences at the local level, the relationship between the two gaps went away.

"This suggests that the mechanisms connecting the achievement gap to the discipline gap, such as teacher biases and feeling isolated at school, may be most salient for black students," Pearman said.

School leaders, teachers and parents should pay attention to the findings, the researchers said. The announcement notes that last year, the federal government rescinded guidelines put in place in 2014 to address racial disparities in school discipline, which could cause districts to focus less on these efforts.

"Our findings should caution against such moves," Pearman said.

Other remedies could include adopting ethnic studies programs and culturally relevant teaching to close the achievement gap and using non-punitive discipline practices instead of ones that exclude students from school. Efforts focused on closing one gap could have "crossover effects" on the other, Pearman said.

Comments

Jake
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Nov 2, 2019 at 1:29 pm
Jake, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Nov 2, 2019 at 1:29 pm
32 people like this

What a break through! Who would have imagined that kids who cause trouble and are disciplined also do not perform well in course work. Eliminate discipline and give everyone an "A." Problems solved.


Boomer
The Crossings
on Nov 2, 2019 at 2:16 pm
Boomer, The Crossings
on Nov 2, 2019 at 2:16 pm
8 people like this

Jake,

ok boomer


Leland
another community
on Nov 2, 2019 at 5:10 pm
Leland, another community
on Nov 2, 2019 at 5:10 pm
Like this comment

Thank you Stanford University....
of course those of us residing
within Ravenswood City School
District and Community perimeter has also made some significant findings
inthat today's named East Palo
Alto..more than likely...has
provided plenty of stats for
Ms.Pearman's academic conclusions
regarding racial disparities..


MV Resident
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2019 at 9:15 pm
MV Resident, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2019 at 9:15 pm
1 person likes this

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]


Clarified
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 2, 2019 at 10:27 pm
Clarified, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 2, 2019 at 10:27 pm
3 people like this

MV Resident has deftly clarified a root cause for what we used to call “white flight” in places like New Orleans, but now manifests on the west coast as Asian sequestration. Parents fear that a multi-cultural classroom that includes certain ethnic subgroups (Latino, African American, EL, low-ses, etc) broadly considered lower achieving is undesirable for their children. So they separate from these undesirables. This is exactly how you divide a public school district. This is exactly how you get a Bullis charter school packed with Asian students and a long waiting list, and non-Asian parents are all too eager to give Johnny and Sally a “leg up” by winning a seat for them in the Asian classroom. This is the gods honest truth, and it’s bloody awful. The original vision for public schools and even american charter schools was diverse classrooms of students of many learning styles and achievement levels, because the students thrive from the diversity. Racial segregation is alive and well in the famously progressive Bay Area. Just look at yourselves.


Ok
Sylvan Park
on Nov 3, 2019 at 6:23 am
Ok, Sylvan Park
on Nov 3, 2019 at 6:23 am
13 people like this

@Clarified, ”students thrive from the diversity”.
Please, clarify how students will thrive from diversity in rates of discipline.


Clarified
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Nov 4, 2019 at 8:28 am
Clarified, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Nov 4, 2019 at 8:28 am
6 people like this

@Ok - I’m not sure what you’re asking. The correlation in this study is achievement to discipline rates. Some readers will interpret this to mean something like “some subcultures value education more than others, and children who are better behaved are more successful in school and receive less discipline” while others will interpret this to mean “some children are disciplined more than others, either due to bias or legitimately, and being disciplined at school becomes an impediment to success in academics, for a variety of reasons, especially socially”


Cfrink
Registered user
Willowgate
on Nov 5, 2019 at 1:17 am
Cfrink, Willowgate
Registered user
on Nov 5, 2019 at 1:17 am
2 people like this

What’s always interesting about these conversations are the assumptions that we’re talking about “bad kids performing badly in school”. This isn’t the issue. The issue is that if a white kid and a kid of color commit the same infraction in a public school, the white kid typically gets some kind of warning. The child of color gets suspended. They always have some kind of Ed code reason for the suspension, and they always have some kind of site base discretion on not suspending the white kid. There are tons of factors involved such as a parents participation in the day to day, whether or not the school administration even knows the kid, special needs kids really get pummeled by these systems and it goes on. And this is before you actually get to the real “troubled kids”. Some might be inclined to think this has to do with the race of the administrators and I don’t believe it does. Administrators of color are just as likely to disproportionately hand out these suspensions as anyone else. The reality is that school districts need to figure out a better system. Suspensions don’t work. Kids should certainly face consequences but those consequences should be in school.

Then there’s this idea that you can’t defend yourself in school if you’re physically attacked. No one, but no one, would stand by and allow themselves to be repeatedly punched about the face until a teacher wanders by to help out. Kids are going to defend themselves, yet defending yourself is an offense that gets kids suspended. It makes no sense.


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