The Atlantic Philanthropies’ School Discipline Reform Portfolio

Children and Youth;Education and Literacy

The Atlantic Philanthropies’ School Discipline Reform Portfolio

This report summarizes findings from a two-year evaluation of The Atlantic Philanthropies’ school discipline reform portfolio. The portfolio, which ran from late 2009 to 2016 and invested over $47 million dollars in 57 grants to 38 different grantees, was created to improve educational outcomes for students by reducing the number of zero tolerance suspensions, expulsions, and arrests in schools, particularly for children of color, and enhancing the use of positive disciplinary practices that keep children in school and engaged in learning. Atlantic set a nationwide goal to reduce school suspensions by one half and reduce discipline disparities by one quarter.

March 2017

Geographic Focus: North America / United States

Civil Rights Suspended: An Analysis of New York City Charter School Discipline Policies

Children and Youth;Education and Literacy

Civil Rights Suspended: An Analysis of New York City Charter School Discipline Policies

Over the past few years, Advocates for Children of New York (AFC) has assisted an increasing number of parents who have contacted them with concerns about charter school suspensions and expulsions. In helping parents with these cases, AFC found that charter school discipline policies were not always readily available.

In this report, AFC sent Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests to the three New York City charter school authorizers and, to the extent possible, charter schools opening in NYC during the 2013-2014 school year seeking, among other things, copies of their discipline policies. Charter schools are required to comply with FOIL requests, and most charter schools responded. From the FOIL responses and charter school websites, AFC was able to review 164 discipline policies from 155 of the 183 charter schools operating in NYC during the 2013-2014 school year. These discipline policies came from large charter school networks as well as from small, independent charter schools.

While charter schools should be able to discipline their students, they must uphold the rights of their students and provide them with a fair discipline process. The Charter Schools Act requires charter school authorizers to ensure that charter applications include discipline policies and procedures that comport with the law. Yet, all three authorizers of New York City charter schools have approved charters for schools that have legally inadequate discipline policies.

February 2015

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Northeastern)-New York-New York County-New York City

School Climate: Practices for Implementation and Sustainability

Children and Youth, Education and Literacy

School Climate: Practices for Implementation and Sustainability

The National School Climate Center (NSCC) School Climate Practice Briefs -- Practices for Implementation and Sustainability -- present the latest in research and best practice for effective school climate reform from leading experts. The 11 issues selected to be included in this set of Practice Briefs are based on NSCC's decade-long work with the entire academic community -- teachers, staff, school-based mental health professionals, students and parents -- to improve a climate for learning.

These School Climate Briefs for Implementation and Sustainability focus on both the "what?" - what are the foundational standards, research and measurements of school climate; and the "so what?" - what practices individuals, schools and communities can employ to measure and improve school climate for maximum impacts. We encourage a review of the entire set of Briefs as they demonstrate how school climate aligns with current opportunities and challenges schools face to ensure quality, safe, equitable and engaging environments for students and adults.

Geographic Focus: North America-Canada

Act Out, Get Out? Considering the Impact of School Discipline Practices in Massachusetts

Children and Youth, Education and Literacy

Act Out, Get Out? Considering the Impact of School Discipline Practices in Massachusetts

Recently, testimony from three public hearings in Massachusetts suggested that excessive disciplinary action for non-violent offenses, such as tardiness and truancy, exacerbates the dropout crisis. Testimony indicated that students already behind in school are often forced to miss additional days through suspensions, which leads to a loss of credits and an inability to catch up. Some parents, educators, education stakeholders, and coalitions, including the Massachusetts Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery Commission, have called for a closer look at school discipline policies and practice. Many observers have come to believe that fully understanding the role of discipline is an essential step in tackling the problem of why some Massachusetts students are not staying in school. It is within this context that the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy embarked upon its examination of school discipline in Massachusetts.

Act Out, Get Out? Considering the Impact of School Discipline Practices in Massachusetts reviews why discipline policies are necessary, laws governing these policies, and national research on the effects of disciplinary removal. The brief then describes overall trends in the disciplinary removal (suspensions and expulsions) of Massachusetts public school students over time (school year 2005-2006 through 2008-2009) and findings from a more in-depth analysis of discipline data from the 2007-2008 school year. Key findings from data about the 2007-2008 school year include: 1. For the most serious infractions, those involving illegal substances, violence and criminal activities the most common reason for disciplinary removal is violence; 2. Out-of-school suspension is the most frequently used form of disciplinary removal; 3. The number of disciplinary removals peaks at 9th grade and declines in 10th through 12th grade; 4. Particular segments (low-income, special education, male, black, Hispanic) of the student population are removed at disproportionately high rates.

This policy brief highlights essential questions that need to be answered in order to fully understand how discipline policies are being carried out and to tease out the relationship between disciplinary removal, the achievement gap, and dropping out of public schools in Massachusetts. The final section of the brief puts forth considerations for policymakers and K-12 school and district leaders. The brief suggests there is a need for more detailed and complete record keeping of school discipline data as well as for more schools and districts to implement school-wide preventative approaches and alternative education programs for students who have been removed. The brief also questions the extent to which of out-of-school suspensions are used for non-violent, non-criminal offenses, particularly those for Pre-Kindergarten and Elementary School aged students.

The brief was the subject of discussion at a public event on May 26, 2010.

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Northeastern)-Massachusetts

Out of School and Off Track: The Overuse of Suspensions in American Middle and High Schools

Education and Literacy

Out of School and Off Track: The Overuse of Suspensions in American Middle and High Schools

Analyzing data from over 26,000 U.S. middle and high schools, the report reveals profound disparities in suspension rates when disaggregating data by race/ethnicity, gender, and disability status. The report identifies districts with the largest number of "hotspot" schools (suspending 25 percent or more of their total student body), suggests alternatives that are already in use, and highlights civil rights concerns.

Geographic Focus: North America-United States

Executive Summary: Act Out, Get Out? Considering the Impact of School Discipline Practices in Massachusetts

Children and Youth, Education and Literacy

Executive Summary: Act Out, Get Out? Considering the Impact of School Discipline Practices in Massachusetts

Recently, testimony from three public hearings in Massachusetts suggested that excessive disciplinary action for non-violent offenses, such as tardiness and truancy, exacerbates the dropout crisis. Testimony indicated that students already behind in school are often forced to miss additional days through suspensions, which leads to a loss of credits and an inability to catch up. Some parents, educators, education stakeholders, and coalitions, including the Massachusetts Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery Commission, have called for a closer look at school discipline policies and practice. Many observers have come to believe that fully understanding the role of discipline is an essential step in tackling the problem of why some Massachusetts students are not staying in school. It is within this context that the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy embarked upon its examination of school discipline in Massachusetts.

Act Out, Get Out? Considering the Impact of School Discipline Practices in Massachusetts reviews why discipline policies are necessary, laws governing these policies, and national research on the effects of disciplinary removal. The brief then describes overall trends in the disciplinary removal (suspensions and expulsions) of Massachusetts public school students over time (school year 2005-2006 through 2008-2009) and findings from a more in-depth analysis of discipline data from the 2007-2008 school year. Key findings from data about the 2007-2008 school year include: 1. For the most serious infractions, those involving illegal substances, violence and criminal activities the most common reason for disciplinary removal is violence; 2. Out-of-school suspension is the most frequently used form of disciplinary removal; 3. The number of disciplinary removals peaks at 9th grade and declines in 10th through 12th grade; 4. Particular segments (low-income, special education, male, black, Hispanic) of the student population are removed at disproportionately high rates.

This policy brief highlights essential questions that need to be answered in order to fully understand how discipline policies are being carried out and to tease out the relationship between disciplinary removal, the achievement gap, and dropping out of public schools in Massachusetts. The final section of the brief puts forth considerations for policymakers and K-12 school and district leaders. The brief suggests there is a need for more detailed and complete record keeping of school discipline data as well as for more schools and districts to implement school-wide preventative approaches and alternative education programs for students who have been removed. The brief also questions the extent to which of out-of-school suspensions are used for non-violent, non-criminal offenses, particularly those for Pre-Kindergarten and Elementary School aged students.

The brief was the subject of discussion at a public event on May 26, 2010.

Geographic Focus: North America-United States (Northeastern)-Massachusetts

Suspended Education: Urban Middle Schools in Crisis

Education and Literacy;Human Rights and Civil Liberties;Race and Ethnicity

Suspended Education: Urban Middle Schools in Crisis

Examines the rise in school suspensions; their effectiveness; the widening racial/ethnic discipline gap, especially for African-American boys; and the impact of suspensions on academic success and likelihood of incarceration. Makes policy recommendations.

Geographic Focus: North America-United States

The 2011 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in Our Nation's Schools

Children and Youth, Education and Literacy, Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Trans

The 2011 National School Climate Survey: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth in Our Nation's Schools

In 1999, GLSEN identified the need for national data on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students and launched the first National School Climate Survey (NSCS). At the time, the school experiences of LGBT youth were under-documented and nearly absent from national studies of adolescents.

For more than a decade, the biennial NSCS has documented the unique challenges LGBT students face and identified interventions that can improve school climate. The survey explores the prevalence of anti-LGBT language and victimization, the effect that these experiences have on LGBT students' achievement and well-being, and the utility of interventions in lessening the negative effects of a hostile school climate and promoting a positive educational experience. The survey also examines demographic and community-level differences in LGBT students' experiences.

The NSCS remains one of the few studies to examine the school experiences of LGBT students nationally, and its results have been vital to GLSEN's understanding of the issues that LGBT students face, thereby informing our ongoing work to ensure safe and affirming schools for all.

In our 2011 survey, we examine the experiences of LGBT students with regard to indicators of negative school climate:

  • hearing biased remarks, including homophobic remarks, in school;
  • feeling unsafe in school because of personal characteristics, such as sexual orientation, gender expression, or race/ethnicity;
  • missing classes or days of school because of safety reasons; and
  • experiencing harassment and assault in school.

We also examine:

  • the possible negative effects of a hostile school climate on LGBT students' academic achievement, educational aspirations, and psychological well-being;

  • whether or not students report experiences of victimization to school officials or to family members and how these adults address the problem; and

  • how the school experiences of LGBT students differ by personal and community characteristics.

In addition, we demonstrate the degree to which LGBT students have access to supportive resources in school, and we explore the possible benefits of these resources, including:

  • Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) or similar clubs;

  • anti-bullying/harassment school policies and laws;

  • supportive school staff; and

  • curricula that are inclusive of LGBT-related topics.

Given that GLSEN has more than a decade of data, we examine changes over the time on indicators of negative school climate and levels of access to LGBT-related resources in schools.

Geographic Focus: North America-United States

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