June 1, 2017

Brea L. Perry, (812) 856-0447, blperry@indiana.edu
Daniel J. Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

Paper showing positive impact of out-of-school suspensions not useful for policymakers, review finds

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Jun. 1, 2017) — The Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas released a recent working paper on the association between out-of-school suspensions and student test scores. The paper concluded that punishment works, and that out-of-school suspension had a positive relationship to math and language arts test scores. However, an academic review of the paper released today finds multiple methodological and validity concerns, which limit the claims made.

Brea L. Perry, Indiana University, and Daniel Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies initiative at the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, reviewed the paper, Understanding a Vicious Cycle: Do Out-of-School Suspensions Impact Student Test Scores?, for the Think Twice think tank review project. Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, is funded in part by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The working paper used multilevel regression modeling of student discipline records across six years for all K-12 public schools in Arkansas. In contrast to prior work, the report found a modest positive relationship between days of suspensions and student test scores.

The reviewers find multiple problems with the report, including: (1) the effects of out-of-school suspensions are not measured in the same year in which the suspensions occurred; and (2) other factors were not considered (viz., lost instructional time; the deterioration of student-teacher relationships; psychological distress; and other more immediate consequences of suspensions).

Perry and Losen note that past research has predominantly shown exclusionary discipline to adversely effect test scores, GPA, grade retention, and increases the chances of a student dropping out. Because of this, the findings, according to the review, have weak face validity.

In their conclusion, the reviewers state: "This paper offers no value for guiding disciplinary policy and practice."

Find the review on the GLC website:

Find the original report on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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