Examining restorative practices in schools

A new research brief by Catherine Augustine and colleagues at the RAND Corporation examines findings from an evaluation of restorative practices as implemented in schools in Pennsylvania, USA. Restorative practices are described as inclusive and non-punitive ways to respond to conflict and build community, and these practices were implemented through the SaferSanerSchools Whole-School Change programme. Some key elements of the programme include:

  • Affective statements: Personal expressions of feeling in response to specific positive or negative behaviours of others.
  • Small impromptu conferences: Questioning exercises that quickly resolve lower-level incidents involving two or more people.
  • Fair process: A set of transparent practices designed to create open lines of communication, assure people that their feelings and ideas have been taken into account, and foster a healthy community as a means of treating people respectfully throughout a decision-making process so that they perceive that process to be fair, regardless of the outcome.

The research team conducted a randomised controlled trial of restorative practices in 44 schools in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, between June 2015 and June 2017. Data included findings from observations, surveys, and interviews, and administrative.

Key findings of the study were as follows:

  • Restorative practices were successful in reducing pupil suspensions.
  • Restorative practices reduced suspension rates of elementary grade (primary school) pupils, African American pupils, pupils from low-income families, and female pupils more than for pupils not in these groups.
  • Restorative practices did not improve academic outcomes, nor did they reduce suspensions for middle school pupils or suspensions for violent offences.

Overall, the research team concludes that restorative practices are promising, particularly for elementary schools seeking to reduce suspension rates.

Source: Restorative practices help reduce student suspensions. (December 2018), RAND Corporation RB-10051-DOJ

Interventions can reduce school exclusion but the effect is temporary

This Campbell Systematic Review examined the impact of interventions to reduce exclusion from school. School exclusion, also known as suspension, involves the removal of pupils from regular teaching for a period during which they are not allowed to be present at school. In some extreme cases, the pupil is not allowed to come back to the same school (expulsion).

The review summarised 37 studies, reporting 38 interventions’ effect sizes. Most studies were from the US (n=33) and the UK (n=3). All of them were randomised controlled trials.

The evidence suggested that school-based interventions are effective at reducing school exclusion during the first six months after the intervention (effect size =+0.30), but that this effect is not sustained. Some specific types of interventions showed more promising results than others. Of the nine different types of school-based interventions included in the review, four types (enhancement of academic skills, counselling, mentoring/monitoring and skills training for teachers) showed positive results in reducing exclusion. However, based on the number of studies involved, the researchers suggest that results must be treated with caution.

Source: School-based interventions for reducing disciplinary school exclusion: a systematic review (January 2018), A Campbell Systematic Review 2018:1, Campbell Collaboration Crime and Justice Coordinating Group