The Puzzle of Discipline: An Examination of African American Disproportionality in School Discipline and Student Performance
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The intent of this study was to systematically investigate the relationship between African American disproportionality in school discipline which is the overrepresentation of students for exclusionary discipline practices (i.e., out-of-school suspensions and/or expulsions) - and student performance. Utilizing official disciplinary records and performance data obtained from the Colorado Department of Education and a single urban school district within the same state, a series of quantitative analyses that included correlations and logistic and multiple regressions, were conducted to determine how out-of-school suspensions and expulsions impact African American students. The premise upon which the present study is based relies heavily on the tenets of Critical Race Theory as it applies to education, which in part asserts that American schools are permeated by racism and that White privilege is used to preserve school inequities through the use of stratification. Given this, it is argued that out-of-school suspensions and expulsions have been used, or rather misused, to perpetuate the disproportionate exclusion of African American students from the classroom for relatively minor offenses; which in some ways, can explain why this group typically suffers from poor student performance. This dissertation was guided by two separate, yet interrelated studies, which posed the following research questions where the first study asks; What factors are important in predicting the likelihood of being suspended and/or expelled from school? and Are suspensions and race correlated? Here, the interest is in exploring the influence of race, class, gender and other possible demographic characteristics, such as school level and behavior role, on exclusionary discipline practices. The second study asks; How does the overrepresentation of African American students for exclusionary sanctions impact student performance? The interest, here, is in identifying the relationship between school suspensions and/or expulsions and its impact on the dropout rate, graduation rate, and performance on high stakes tests. This dissertation study produces two findings that are not only unprecedented; they are cutting-edge and provocative. First, female and elementary students were found to be more likely to face suspension and/or expulsion in comparison to male and secondary students, respectively. Second, by increasing the number of suspended and expelled African American students, school districts improved their overall student performance on high stakes tests. With the contribution of these findings, a paradigmic shift in research and discourse on disproportionality in school discipline is both fitting and warranted.
African American students
Butler, Bettie Ray (2011). The Puzzle of Discipline: An Examination of African American Disproportionality in School Discipline and Student Performance. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from