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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Segregation Drives Discipline Disparities in Chicago Schools

From the Education Law Prof Blog

By Derek Black
November 17, 2015

The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research released a study last month disaggregating discipline results based on school composition.

It found that while,

“... students with the most vulnerable backgrounds are much more likely to be suspended than students without those risk factors. Differences in the suspension rates for students with different risk factors, such as poverty and low achievement, do not explain most of the large racial and gender disparities in suspension rates. The biggest driver of racial disparities in suspension rates comes from differences in the schools students of different races/ethnicities attend."

More specifically, it found that segregation in Chicago played a significant role in disparate discipline outcomes.

Highlights from the study include:
  • Suspension rates are twice as high, on average, at the schools attended by African American students than the schools attended by Latino students, and the average suspension rates at the schools attended by Latino students are more than twice as high as the average suspension rates at the schools that white and Asian students attend. Because residential segregation leads schools in Chicago to be very segregated by race, differences in suspension rates across schools lead to differences in the rates by race.
  • Differences in suspension rates among subgroups of students within schools also exist, although they are modest relative to the differences in average suspension rates across schools.
  • The extent to which schools rely on disciplinary practice is strongly correlated with the characteristics of the students in the school. Schools across Chicago vary considerably in the backgrounds of the students they serve. While almost all schools in the district serve high proportions of students from low-income backgrounds, and would be considered “high-poverty” schools compared to national averages, they differ considerably in the degree of poverty and their students’ incoming academic skills.
  • Strong residential segregation, by race and economic, is compounded by sorting based on academic skills, particularly at the high school level where students apply to selective schools and programs based on their academic performance in the middle grades. In fact, there is almost no overlap in the student body characteristics of high schools with low suspension rates compared to high schools with high suspension rates. In the middle grades there is some overlap in the student body composition of schools with high and low suspension rates, but the relationships of suspension rates with students’ prior achievement and neighborhood poverty are still very strong.
  • It is the concentration of many low-achieving students from high-poverty neighborhoods that seems to increase the likelihood that a school will have high suspension rates. Almost all of these schools have predominantly African American students. About one quarter of high schools, and 10 percent of schools serving the middle grades, assign out-of-school suspensions to a third or more of their students each year. At many of these schools half of the students receive an OSS in a year. These schools also have the highest rates of in school suspensions and arrests at school, and they tend to give out the longest suspensions. The suspension practices at these schools, coupled with the fact that they serve African American students, drive the racial/ethnic disparities at the district level. Furthermore, at the high school level, at least 1 in 10 students at these schools has a confirmed history of having been abused or neglected, though all students are at high risk of suspension in these schools—even students with no prior risk factors.
  • Schools with the highest suspension rates have climates that are the least conducive for learning. The schools that extensively use exclusionary discipline practices tend to serve very disadvantaged students who most need a very supportive environment. Yet, by attending these schools, students not only are at high risk of being suspended and missing instruction, but they also experience poor climates for instruction. The climate for learning is much worse in schools with high rates of exclusionary disciplinary practices, even when comparing schools serving similar student populations.

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