Study shows connection between racial achievement gaps and suspension rates

JCPS was among the 2,000 districts studied, in part by a University of Louisville researcher.
Published: Oct. 16, 2019 at 8:31 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A new study shows the link between suspension rates and achievement gaps.

It was done in part by a researcher from the University of Louisville.

“We’ve known for decades that black and Hispanic students get suspended more than their white peers,” researcher Ben Fisher said. “We’ve also known for decades that black and Hispanic students score more poorly on standardized tests than their white peers, and our question was, are those two things associated?”

Fisher is an assistant professor of criminal justice at UofL.

The study was conducted by Fisher, Francis Pearman at Stanford University, F. Chris Curran from the University of Florida and Joseph Gardella at Drexel University.

“The flip side of that is there is hope,” Fisher said. “If we shrink some of these gaps, we would expect to see sort of a parallel shrinking of the other gap.”

The study focused on students in grades 3 through 8.

JCPS was among the 2,000 districts studied. There’s been a recent push for equity in Jefferson County; the district has invested in several new programs and developed a racial equity plan.

“We weren’t able to look at particular programs or strategies that schools or districts are using, but our findings do point to the potential for those things to be really effective,” Fisher said.

In 2018, the mandates issued by President Barack Obama’s administration directing schools to reduce racial disparities in how they discipline students were rescinded by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

“Our study suggests that paying attention to those guidelines and really looking toward equity is going to be a useful thing for our schools and districts,” Fisher said.

Click here to read the full study.

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