Study: Racial Discipline Disparities and Academic Achievement Gaps Are Connected

By Elfman, Lois | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, November 14, 2019 | Go to article overview

Study: Racial Discipline Disparities and Academic Achievement Gaps Are Connected


Elfman, Lois, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


National data shows consistent correlation between discipline disparities and academic achievement gaps for African-American students, according to a new study from AERA Open, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.

The study utilizes data from the Stanford Education Data Archive and the U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights Data Collection to confirm and expand on previous research that explored racial discipline gaps and racial achievement gaps.

The data examined involved grades three through eight in districts across the U.S., the only grades for which national achievement data is available. These were the grade levels tested nationally under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The researchers examined the 2011-12 and 2013-14 school years.

"Our study is an attempt to establish at the national level what has been hypothesized for several years and what has been demonstrated at the local level," said Dr. Francis A. Pearman, II, an assistant professor of education at Stanford University and lead author of the report, "Are Achievement Gaps Related to Discipline Gaps? Evidence from National Data."

"What we found was essentially that the racial discipline gap and the racial achievement gap are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. As racial discipline gaps go up, racial achievement gaps also go up," said Pearman. "We also looked at it the other way. As the racial achievement gap goes up, the racial discipline gap also goes up.

"The opposite of that also holds," he continued. "As racial discipline gaps go down, racial achievement gaps go down. When racial achievement gaps go down, racial discipline gaps also go down."

Last year the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education rescinded federal guidelines put in place in 2014 to address disparities in school discipline, which concerns the researchers. Pearman noted that students of color, particularly African-American students, face challenges that cannot be reduced to their socioeconomic status.

"Acknowledging that fact and tailoring procedures, programs and pedagogy in a way that acknowledges the lived experiences of Black student, in particular, will enable schools, teachers and districts to better serve them," said Pearman. "There are important differences in some districts versus others, which are important to explore, but in terms [of] framing up what we know in general about achievement gaps and discipline gaps, being able to talk about what happens at the national level is really important to be initial benchmarks for conversations around equity in U.S. schooling."

Problems appear more pervasive for Black students. …

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