How restorative practices can improve the school climate

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A new study The Rand Corporation, a non-partisan think-tank, shows how critical it can be to improve the school climate to reduce suspensions. In 2013, public schools in Pittsburgh were trying to find a way to address racial disparities in discipline. At the time, they had mandatory diversity training for staff who sought to fight against implicit bias and discrimination in class, but they wanted to do more. Restorative practices, which are non-punitive means of responding to conflict, were gaining popularity among school leaders to help reduce suspensions.

The district therefore obtained a grant to test repair practices in their schools, randomly selecting 22 of them to receive the restoration treatment, while another 22 continued as if nothing had happened. . The fundamental purpose of remedial practices is to create relationships between teachers and students so that students are less likely to move to the act. Teachers start the school year by asking trivial questions such as what they did this summer. Throughout the year, questions become more personal and introspective, and students develop trust with adults and their classmates around them. Of course, formal times for such events can be time consuming, so it is often recommended to incorporate practices into the day. Although remedial practices aim to change the way students are disciplined, they also seek to change behavior that might require discipline, thus improving the overall climate of the school.

The researchers looked at schools (primary, middle and high school) for two years and found that restoration practices significantly reduced the number of school days lost, especially among schoolchildren. The trough was highest among black students, low-income students and female students, and non-violent offenses led to declines. "It seems that restorative practices provide an alternative that staff feel they can use to apply the discipline, [especially] for offenses that were not extremely serious in terms of people's safety, "said John Engberg, a Rand researcher.

In addition, the report did not reveal any negative impact on the test scores of students in schools receiving remedial treatment. "This seems to indicate that keeping kids in school does not lead to a deterioration of the learning environment," Engberg said. And, for their part, teachers who worked in schools with restorative treatments rated their climate as relatively more positive.

There were some things that restorative practices could not change, however. Of course, academic results, such as test scores, have not dropped, but they have not improved either. The drop in suspension rates was greater for elementary school students than for college or high school students, where effects were more attenuated, suggesting that early intervention is important.