Alan Schwarz, New York Times, July 19, 2011
Raising new questions about the effectiveness of school discipline, a report scheduled for release on Tuesday found that 31 percent of Texas students were suspended off campus or expelled at least once during their years in middle and high school–at an average of almost four times apiece.
The study linked these disciplinary actions to lower rates of graduation and higher rates of later criminal activity and found that minority students were more likely than whites to face the more severe punishments.
The findings are “very much representative of the nation as a whole,” said Russ Skiba, a professor of school psychology at Indiana University who reviewed the study along with several other prominent researchers.
Minority students facing discipline for the first time tended to be given the harsher, out-of-school suspension, rather than in-school suspension, more often than white students, the study said. (The nature of the offenses was not noted.) A disproportionate number of minority students also ended up in alternative classrooms, where some have complained that teachers are often less qualified.
“What we really need to do is go in to those districts and see if these really are choices being made,” Mr. Skiba said. “We don’t really know enough about the reasons for African-American and Latino over-representation in school discipline. We have enough data to show that it’s more than just poverty and any greater misbehavior. My guess is it’s very subtle interactional effects between some teachers and students.”