The Academic and Behavioral Consequences of Discipline Policy Reform: Evidence from Philadelphia

Publisher: Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Dec 05, 2017
Authors
Matthew P. Steinberg and Johanna Lacoe

Key Findings:

  • Changes in district policy resulted in an initial reduction in the number of low-level conduct suspensions, but the decrease did not persist. Notably, most schools did not comply with the policy change prohibiting such suspensions.
  • Previously suspended students were less likely to be suspended after the policy change.
  • Peers who did not receive a conduct suspension prior to the change experienced worse outcomes in schools that didn’t (or couldn’t) comply with the policy change prohibiting conduct suspensions.
  • Revising the district’s code of conduct was associated with an increase in racial disproportionality at the district level.

The School District of Philadelphia (SDP) made dramatic changes to its code of conduct in 2012–2013, prohibiting the use of out-of-school suspensions for low-level conduct offenses—such as profanity and failure to follow classroom rules—and reduced the length of suspensions for more serious infractions. This report addresses four questions:

  • Did Philadelphia’s discipline policy reform reduce the use of out-of-school suspensions?
  • Was the policy reform associated with changes in suspensions, achievement, and school attendance for students who were suspended prior to the reform?
  • Was the policy reform associated with changes in achievement and school attendance for peers who were not suspended prior to the reform?
  • Was the policy reform associated with a change in racial disproportionality?
Senior Staff

Johanna Lacoe
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