In December 2011, the Opportunity to Learn Campaign released 2020 Vision Roadmap: A Pre-K Through Postsecondary Blueprint for Educational Success. The report provides trajectory data and highlights systemic solutions to respond to the research that indicates for America to be globally competitive by 2020 the U.S. must be a global leader in post-secondary education. This imperative was also highlighted by President Barack Obama in his 2009 Address to the Joint Session of Congress. The data in 2020 Vision Roadmap reveals that America is far off this 2020 goal and will need to maintain an additional 5.3 million students in the elementary and secondary pipeline to have a shot at achieving this goal. In short, America’s ability to thrive globally requires us to reclaim those students we have consistently lost (disproportionately, Black, Latino and Native American) and extend to them the supports needed to achieve at a high level.
In the noted “Snow Day Study,” researchers estimated that in academic years with an average number of unscheduled closures (5), the number of third graders performing satisfactorily on state reading and math assessments within a school is nearly three percent lower than in years with no school closings. Today, Black and Brown students have fewer learning opportunities and, on average, spend more days out of school than any other group.
Every year, 3.3 million students in the United States are suspended from school, causing them to miss critical learning time, as well as opportunities to grow and succeed. Recent federal data show that→
One of the main contributors to the increase in their out-of-school and decreased learning time are state and district approaches to discipline. As the recent report from the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA’s Civil Rights Project indicates, well over three million students were suspended at least one time in 2009-10. The current approach to disciplining students in the U.S. runs counter to keeping them engaged and educating them. Studies show that students who have been suspended are three times more likely to drop out of school by 10th grade than students who have never been suspended. Those students that drop out have triple the chance of being incarcerated later on in life. Furthermore, chronic absenteeism has been linked to lower academic achievement, while more learning time is highly correlated with higher achievement. Children punished with out-of-school suspensions often return to school with the residual effects of a policy and practice that add to existing education inequities, including access to guidance counselors, mentors or mental health professional on site to support their needs.
According to the Center for Civil Rights Remedies report, current discipline policies show dramatic racial disparities regarding which students are pushed out of the classroom. More than three times as many Black as White, non-Latino students, nationally, are given out-of-school suspensions, despite the fact that researchers have found that these administrative measures are the first step toward falling behind academically and eventually leaving school altogether.
Too many students in our high-poverty communities are falling behind academically while also missing out on opportunities to excel in a well-rounded set of subjects and activities such as arts, music, physical education, robotics→
As the figure below indicates, across the nation nearly one out of every six African American students (17%), and one in 14 Latino students (7%) in the state sample were suspended at least once in 2009-10, compared to one in 20 White students (5%). Some of the most extreme data was found in districts like Pasadena, TX where 77% of Latino students have been suspended at least once and Pontiac, MI where 66% of Black students have been suspended at least once. These outcomes do not lead us to providing all students an opportunity to learn.
The disproportionate use of out-of-school suspension for Black and Latino children at all levels is the first step toward pushing them out and lowering their chances to graduate. The rampant use of out-of-school suspensions as a default disciplinary tactic undermines our goal of closing the opportunity and achievement gaps by increasing dropouts and decreasing valuable learning time for students. The data indicate the end result in too many cities and states is that Black and Latino students, the fastest growing population in U.S. schools, who need to make the most academic progress to close America’s achievement gap, are the most likely to be academically sidelined or pushed out of school.
Addressing America’s out-of-school suspension challenge is critical to reducing the pushout crisis and improving the outcomes for Black and Latino males. This is why the Schott Foundation supports the Solutions not Suspension’s call for a national moratorium on out-of-school suspension. We ask other philanthropic partners to join students, parents, educators, faith leaders and policymakers to end the massive use of out-of-school suspensions based on three core reasons: 1) There is no evidence that the practice is effective; 2) there is clear evidence that the practice has a racial/ethnic and gender disparity; and 3) there are more educationally sound ways to support students, educators and parents to deal with disciplinary challenges.
We recognize that merely reducing out-of-school suspensions without addressing the additional systemic supports needed, for both students and teachers, to provide expanded learning opportunities to keep students engaged is not productive. This is why we highlight the Ford Foundation’s Time to Succeed Coalition, a broad and diverse coalition working to ensure that all children in our nation’s high-poverty communities have more and better learning time in school to prepare them for success.