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Infographic: America’s school dropout epidemic by the numbers

The League of Education Voters is a member of the Dignity in Schools Campaign, which has organized the Fourth Annual National Week of Action on School Pushout, taking place September 28–October 5, 2013.

Higher rates of suspensions and expulsions lead to higher dropout rates, and students of color, low-income students, and special education students are disciplined at higher rates than other students, adding to our nation’s dropout epidemic. (more…)

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Study looks at suspension rates for Native American students

A comprehensive study of suspension rates in school districts across the nation from the UCLA Civil Rights Project has found serious disparities in the application of suspension to students of color and students with disabilities.

Opportunities Suspended: The Disparate Impact of Disciplinary Exclusion From School found that 17% of African American students nationwide received an out-of-school suspension compared to about 5% of White students. The comparable rate for Latinos was 7%. The suspension rates were equally striking for students with disabilities and revealed that an estimated 13% of all students with disabilities were suspended nationally, approximately twice the rate of their non-disabled peers.

In the early 1970s, the national average for suspensions was approximately three percent for White K-12 students. Today, many districts report suspension risks of lower than three percent for each racial/ethnic subgroup. However, according to the study:

Well over three million children, K-12, are estimated to have lost instructional “seat time” in 2009-2010 because they were suspended from school, often with no guarantee of adult supervision outside the school. That’s about the number of children it would take to fill every seat in every major league baseball park and every NFL stadium in America, combined.

The study also notes that while loss of seat time is obviously a barrier to learning, suspensions matter because a suspended student is much more likely to drop out of school and also more likely to be incarcerated. This is especially important because the study reiterates finding that suspensions are not doled out equally across demographic groups of students. African American children and children with disabilities are usually at a far greater risk than others.

These suspension rates are influenced by several factors closely controlled by schools and districts, the study’s authors found. Factors include differences in school leadership, differences in school policy, effective support and training for teachers, and possibly racial and disability bias.

One thing the study highlights is that the frequent use of suspension brings no benefits in terms of test scores or graduation rates. Authors conclude:

[T]he oft-repeated claim that it is necessary to kick out the bad kids so the good kids can learn is shown to be a myth. In fact, research suggests that a relatively lower use of out-of-school suspensions, after controlling for race and poverty, correlates with higher test scores, not lower.”

The report is based on an analysis of Federal government suspension-related data from the 2009-10 school year for grades K-12 in nearly 7,000 districts. The data analyzed covered about 85% of the nation’s public school students.

Read the full report here.

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Chicago Public Schools end two-week suspensions in new Code of Conduct

Chicago Public Schools released a new Code of Conduct that prohibits two-week suspensions for minor offenses. Chicago Public Schools have some of the highest rates of suspension, expulsion and arrests of any urban school district in the country. Last year in Chicago, students lost over 300,000 days of instruction due to school discipline. Youth advocacy group Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) has been working for several years to change the policies that lead to this loss of learning time, and has been a major advocate for limiting the length of suspensions for minor offenses.

At a rally to present its own Code of Conduct, VOYCE advocates shared their stories of how Chicago schools’ current discipline policies affect their lives. Keshaundra spoke about being arrested, at 13 years old, simply for walking past a fight. Mohamed spoke for the first time in public about being undocumented, and his fear that the overuse of school arrests would jeopardize his future.

Longer-term suspensions and expulsions are still allowed for major or violent offenses, but not for minor rule infractions like violations of dress code, talking back, or tardiness.

VOYCE says there is still much more work to be done in the schools, including putting limits on suspensions, arrests and fines at all publicly-funded schools, and requiring public reporting on the use of discipline measures at all schools.

Read more about the new code of conduct here or read the full code here.

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