Behind the Headline: Data Doesn’t Back Tossing ‘Bad Apple’ Students

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Data Doesn’t Back Tossing ‘Bad Apple’ Students ($)
3/13/14 | Politico

Behind the Headline
Domino Effect
Summer 2009 | Education Next

A new report assembles evidence documenting the disparate impact of exclusionary disciplinary policies like suspension and expulsion on certain groups of students: minority students, students with disabilities, and gay and lesbian students. As Politico’s Caitlin Emma notes, the Obama administration has already acted on such data, teaming up with the Department of Justice to issue guidance to deter schools from bias in how they administer school discipline.

The authors of the report write that

One oft-repeated justification for frequent suspensions is that schools must be able to remove the “bad” students so that “good” students can learn. There is no research to support this popular theory. To the contrary, when schools serving similar populations were compared across the state of Indiana, and poverty was controlled for, those schools with relatively low suspension rates had higher, not lower test scores

However, two recent studies that looked at the impact of disruptive students in individual classrooms found that those students did have a negative impact on the achievement of other students in the class.

A study by Scott Carrell and Mark Hoekstra which was published in Education Next found that

children from troubled families, as measured by family domestic violence, perform considerably worse on standardized reading and mathematics tests and are much more likely to commit disciplinary infractions and be suspended than other students. We find also that an increase in the number of children from troubled families reduces peer student math and reading test scores and increases peer disciplinary infractions and suspensions… The results of our analysis provide evidence that, in many cases, a single disruptive student can indeed influence the academic progress made by an entire classroom of students.

In addition, a study by John Fantuzzo and other researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that

in schools with a high concentration of children with “risk factors,” the academic performance of all children – not just those with disadvantages – was negatively affected. For example, researchers found that children who were homeless or mistreated disrupted their classrooms, pulling down reading achievement and attendance rates among children who were not homeless or mistreated.

-Education Next

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