Last week, the High School Matters blog published comments by Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deb Delisle on the impact of “zero tolerance” school discipline on the school to prison pipeline. Secretary Delisle, citing the Department of Education’s 2009-2010 Civil Rights Data Collection, argued that zero tolerance disproportionately affected minority students.
This month, as part of their 2013 Quality Counts initiative focusing on school climate, Education Week published a detailed analysis of the data Secretary Delisle referenced. The Education Week analysis revealed extensive use of suspension and expulsion as disciplinary tools as well as significant overrepresentation of African-American students in the populations of suspended and expelled students relative to their representation in the sample. The article acknowledged that because the data was self-reported by the individual schools, the chance for significant errors existed.
The Education Week analysis revealed that 17 schools had suspended over 90% of their students. The analysis also showed 12 schools had expelled over 35% of their students. The two schools with the highest expulsion rates (96% and 77%) have since said that they have discovered errors in the data that was reported to the Department of Education. In general, over seven percent of the students in the survey had been suspended. Additionally, the analysis showed significant overrepresentation of African-American students in the populations of expelled or suspended students. African American students made up just 18 percent of the 42 million students that comprised the population of the survey. Despite this, they represented a plurality (42%) of the 72 thousand students expelled, and a near plurality (35%) of the 3.7 million students suspended, trailing white students by three percent, even though there were nearly three times as many white students in the study population.
To read the full Education Week article, click here. The full data set used in the analysis can be found on the Department of Education’s Web site.
Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.