A new research brief by Catherine H. Augustine and colleagues at the RAND Corporation examines findings from an evaluation of restorative practices as implemented in the Pittsburgh (PA) Public Schools. Restorative practices are described as inclusive and non-punitive ways to respond to conflict and build community, and in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, these practices were implemented through the SaferSanerSchools Whole-School Change program. Some key elements of the program include:
- Affective statements: Personal expressions of feeling in response to specific positive or negative behaviors 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 randomized controlled trial of restorative practices in 44 Pittsburgh Public Schools between June 2015 and June 2017. Data included findings from observations, surveys, and interviews, and administrative data collected from the district and the county.
Key findings of the study were as follows:
- Restorative practices were successful in reducing student suspensions in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
- Restorative practices reduced suspension rates of elementary grade students, African American students, students from low-income families, and female students more than for students not in these groups.
- Restorative practices did not improve academic outcomes, nor did they reduce suspensions for middle school students or suspensions for violent offenses.
Overall, the research team concludes that restorative practices are promising, particularly for elementary schools seeking to reduce suspension rates.
Source (Open Access): Augustine, C. H., Engberg, J., Grimm, G. E., Lee, E., Wang, E. L., Christianson, K., & Joseph, A. A. (2018). Restorative Practices help reduce student suspensions. Santa Monica, CA: RAND corporation.