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Elisa Batista's picture

Because the achievement gap is a theme I am passionate about and often pops up at my blog, MotherTalkers, I thought I would highlight a quick story on the racial disparity in school suspensions.

From the New York Times:

"In many of the nation’s middle schools, black boys were nearly three times as likely to be suspended as white boys, according to a new study, which also found that black girls were suspended at four times the rate of white girls.

"School authorities also suspended Hispanic and American Indian middle school students at higher rates than white students, though not at such disproportionate rates as for black children, the study found. Asian students were less likely to be suspended than whites.

"The study analyzed four decades of federal Department of Education data on suspensions, with a special focus on figures from 2002 and 2006, that were drawn from 9,220 of the nation’s 16,000 public middle schools.

"The study, 'Suspended Education: Urban Middle Schools in Crisis,' was published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization."

This is important because middle school suspensions have been linked to incarceration rates. Two districts in particular had very high rates for suspensions of black students. Both Palm Beach County, Fla., and Milwaukee had more than 50 percent of black male middle school students in suspension in 2006!

The actual study had all kinds of interesting tidbits like there is no evidence that suspensions improve on student behavior. It's one of those things we are doing because we always have, not because it's steeped in any kind of pedagogy. Also, a lot of these students have gotten in trouble due to zero-tolerance policies, not because they've committed a crime. Finally, we should be treating school suspensions with the same fervor as low test scores and high school dropout rates. Lots of good food for thought -- and discussion. What did you all think of the study? How should we discipline students who misbehave?

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