Last week, we looked at how Alabama’s school districts earned a Top 5 ranking for the percentage of students who received out-of-school suspensions during the 2011-2012 school year.
Now you’ll learn where to find a district’s suspension rates for 2011-2012 and district trends in suspension rates from 2009-2010 to 2011-2012, compiled and analyzed by the UCLA Civil Rights Project in “Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap?” released in February 2015.
Examining whether school officials increased or decreased out-of-school suspension rates is important to determine (1) whether a school district’s discipline policies are resulting in more or fewer suspensions, (2) are having a disparate negative impact on one or more racial subgroups, or (3) are having a disparate negative impact on students with disabilities.
School officials have proved it is possible to lower out-of-school suspension rates without sacrificing academic quality or school safety.
Recent studies have shown that suspending students out-of-school does not improve safety nor does it have a positive academic benefit for the school. Rather, extensive studies have shown that suspending a student contributes to the risk of students dropping out and becoming involved in illegal activity.
Furthermore, a recent study examining Indiana’s school suspension rates found that, after controlling for poverty and race, the principal’s attitude toward using harsh discipline was the contributory factor that most influenced suspension rates.
The UCLA report highlights school districts from across the country that have lowered their suspension rates through various methods, including the use of Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS).
In Alabama, five districts lowered their suspension rates at the secondary level by more than 20 percentage points in the time frame analyzed:
- Lowndes County – 81.05% to 40.4%
- Attalla City – 37.65% to 6.79%
- Greene County – 34.75% to 9.35%
- Selma City – 38.98% to 17.1%
- Troy City – 28.38% to 7.63%
While this article does not delve into how these districts lowered their suspension rates, that is a topic worth pursuing for any school officials or community members interested in keeping more students in school.
Suspension Rates by District
The report’s authors analyzed data at the school level, dividing a district’s schools into elementary and secondary groups. (See notes for which schools were included/excluded due to grade configuration.) The suspension rates were then aggregated by elementary and secondary groups at the district level.
Here’s an online tool from the report’s authors to review a school district’s suspension rate by gender and disability status.
For the remainder of this article, we will not examine data by gender or disability status, as the authors aggregated trend data and removed that level of detail.
If you don’t find your district, that is because only 113 of Alabama’s then-132 school districts (in the 2011-2012 school year) were analyzed due to data concerns identified, in general, by the author.
The table below was compiled using the data in the spreadsheets supplied by the report’s authors.
Trends in Suspension Rates by District
Trends in Alabama’s elementary and secondary schools by district can be found in this spreadsheet of Alabama’s data, taken directly from the supplementary data posted alongside the report. The table below allows you to choose which district’s trend data to view.
Notes on the Data
All data comes from the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), compiled by the U.S. Department of Education. The 2011-2012 school year is the latest year for which data is available.
It is important to note that school officials are required to enter discipline data directly into the CRDC. During a press conference held to announce the release of the report and its key findings, the authors indicated that there did appear to be problems with the data and that those districts were excluded from the report. The report’s authors examined actual de-identified student data, and thus were able to do a much deeper analysis than one can do with the data available online through the CRDC web site.
The data represent unduplicated students, meaning that the student was only counted once even if that student was suspended more than once during the school year.
Secondary schools are those schools with grades 5-8, 6-8, 7-9, 6-12, 9-12, 10-12, or 9th-grade academies. Elementary schools were those with any combination of kindergarten through 5th and without a 7th or 8th grade.
The shading on the published spreadsheet indicates the margin of error when the researchers configured and then analyzed the data. Any data cell with a margin of error more than 5% (indicated by the light blue shading) was not utilized for indicating that a district was “high-” or “lower-” suspending.