Education

California suspension rates way down, study finds

FILE: A new study shows suspension rates for California schools declined in recent years following efforts to keep students in class as much as possible.
FILE: A new study shows suspension rates for California schools declined in recent years following efforts to keep students in class as much as possible.
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As California public schools have overhauled their suspension policies in recent years, a new study out Monday quantifies the effects.

Statewide, there were 709,580 suspensions in the 2011-2012 academic year. Two years later that number declined nearly a third, to 503,101. Los Angeles Unified School District’s suspensions dropped by nearly two-thirds.

African-American students saw the biggest suspension drop of any ethnic or racial group. 

The group dropped from 33 suspensions per 100 students in the 2011-2012 academic year to 25.6 per 100 students in 2013-2014.

Researchers said the drop is good news in the struggle to improve education in the state.

“Districts that tended to have higher than average achievement tended to have lower than average suspension rates. And that was found not only for all kids, but every single ethnic and racial group in the state,” said Daniel Losen, director of UCLA’s Center for Civil Rights Remedies and lead author of the study.

Administrators in school districts such as LAUSD have urged administrators not to suspend students for minor behavioral problems such as acting out. The UCLA study finds that more than three-quarters of the suspension drop came from schools reducing how often they suspended students for disruption and willful defiance. Schools continue to suspend students for serious behavior problems such as bringing weapons to school and violence. 

As school districts introduce changes aimed at reducing the amount of class time students miss because of suspensions, some educators worry that more lenient rules drain campus resources and test teachers' patience. Losen argues that schools can combat those challenges by using expected state funding to increase teacher training and hire more counseling staff to help students with minor behavioral problems.

“Research points to ways we can still hold students accountable for conduct, and improve the learning environment for all, while only denying students access to instruction as a measure of last resort,” Losen said in a written statement.