New UCLA Research Finds Blacks, Other Students of Color Losing Instruction Due to School Suspensions

Study by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies reveals disproportionate inequity in punitive action, effect on the opportunity to learn.

In a  comprehensive analysis of the previously reported 11 million instructional days lost to out-of-school suspensions in 2015-16, new research by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the UCLA Civil Rights Project details deeply disturbing disparities and demonstrates how the frequent use of suspension contributes to stark inequities in the opportunity to learn. 

“The focus on the experiences of middle and high school students reveals profound disparities in terms of lost instructional time due to suspensions — stark losses that most policymakers and many educators were unaware of,” said Dan Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies and the lead researcher on the report. 

In secondary schools, the report found the rate of lost instruction is more than five times higher than the elementary school rates — 37 days lost per 100 middle and high school students compared to just 7 days per 100 elementary school students. The rates for Blacks and other students of color are starkly higher than those of white students. Black students lost 103 days per 100 students enrolled, 82 more days than the 21 days their white peers lost due to out-of-school suspensions. Alarming disparities are also observed when looking at race with gender. Black boys lost 132 days per 100 students enrolled. Black girls had the second highest rate, at 77 days per 100 students enrolled. 

The report, Lost Opportunities, produced in collaboration with the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), is the first to capture the full impact of out-of-school suspensions on instructional time for middle and high school students, and for those groups that are most frequently suspended. The findings include details for every state and district, uncovering high rates and wide disparities and offering insight into the full impact on every racial group and for students with disabilities. The report also reviewed the available data on school policing, and summarizes research released in July showing that in California, high schools’ higher rates of lost instruction from suspension was related to higher numbers of security guards on campus. 

“This new report documents a chronic and deeply concerning condition in U.S. education: the inequitable use of harsh and exclusionary discipline that deprives many students of color and students with disabilities of critical learning time, tracking them into the school-to-prison pipeline,” added Jessica Cardichon, director of federal policy at the Learning Policy Institute. “Schools should instead look to evidence-based approaches such as social-emotional learning and restorative justice that keep students in school and on track to becoming contributing members of society.”

You can read the full story and access the report on Knowledge That Matters.