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For Immediate Release
Thursday, November 17, 2016
Contact:Jacqueline Reis, 781-338-3115

Massachusetts Releases Second Year of Suspension Data

Work to Reduce Suspensions Continues with Professional Learning Network of Districts

MALDEN - The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education today released its second annual analysis and report of student discipline data as required by state regulations that went into effect on July 1, 2014.

Overall, the 2015-16 data that schools reported were similar to that from the 2014-15 school year, with the percentage of students who were suspended at least once rising slightly from 4.1 percent to 4.3 percent. In 2015-16, as in 2014-15, there were approximately 10,000 fewer students suspended compared to before a state law took effect that was aimed at reducing the amount of learning time students miss due to suspensions or expulsions. Almost half of the offenses in both 2014-15 and 2015-16 were in the non-drug, non-violent category, and ESE is considering creating sub-categories within that group to help pinpoint why students are being suspended.

"While orderly learning environments are essential, I am concerned with schools that over-rely on or disproportionately use suspensions," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "The Department will continue to work with districts to find effective alternatives to suspension and to identify and address instances in which suspensions are used disproportionately."

Both national and Massachusetts data show that African American/black students, Hispanic/Latino students and students with disabilities are suspended at greater rates than students overall, and research has found that suspended students are more likely to drop out. The suspension rate for Massachusetts English language learners in 2015-16 was 5.4 percent (compared to 5 percent in 2014-15), for students who are economically disadvantaged it was 7.7 percent (compared to 7.2 percent in 2014-15), and for students with disabilities it was 8.3 percent (compared to 8 percent in 2014-15). The suspension rate for female students was 2.5 percent (the same as in 2014-15), while the rate was 5.9 percent for males (compared to 5.7 percent in 2014-15). Statewide differences by race/ethnicity are also of great concern: the suspension rate for African American/black students (9.3 percent, compared 9 percent in 2014-15) was more than three times that of white students (2.7 percent, the same as in 2014-15), and the rate for Hispanic/Latino students (7.7 percent, compared to 7.4 percent in 2014-15) was more than twice the rate of white students.

At the state level, ESE continues to work with the Rethinking Discipline Professional Learning Network that was created in June to collaborate with schools and districts to reduce the inappropriate or excessive use of long-term suspensions and expulsions. The network includes more than three dozen schools and districts that were identified based on their previously submitted data. The Department is in the process of further analyzing the 2015-2016 data to inform the next annual determinations.

Additionally, during the past several weeks, ESE's Problem Resolution System Unit, in collaboration with staff from other offices at ESE, hosted a series of four "Sharing Solutions" trainings regarding discipline, bullying and restraint regulations, among other topics. The effort reached 130 school districts and the state's 26 collaboratives.

At the individual school level, changes in discipline statistics should be examined carefully. While there are several areas of concern, it is also possible that reporting errors at the district level during the first year of implementation (2014-15) may have led to significant percentage jumps when incidents were more consistently reported in 2015-16. Percentage changes should also be considered in conjunction with the number of students disciplined; as always, even small changes can produce large percentage differences.

School leaders in Massachusetts and across the country have found that supports and strategies that reinforce positive behavior, include conflict resolution, and improve classroom management not only reduce suspensions but also promote school safety, decrease the need for out-of-class discipline referrals and improve academic success.

Data from the 2015-2016 school year are available through the Student Discipline and the Student Discipline Days Missed reports on the ESE website.

For more information and resources related to student discipline, see Student Discipline Resources and Information.

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Last Updated: November 17, 2016
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