School Psychology Review

Special Issue: Closing in on Discipline Disproportionality
Volume 47, Issue 2 (2018)

Editor: Amy L. Reschly


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  • Nudging the Gap: Introduction to the Special Issue “Closing in on Discipline Disproportionality”

    Jessika H. Bottiani, Catherine P. Bradshaw & Anne Gregory

    pp. 109–117

    Abstract. This special issue of School Psychology Review, entitled “Closing in on Discipline Disproportionality,” examined promising approaches and critical challenges to closing racial and ethnic gaps in schools’ use of exclusionary and punitive discipline practices. In this introductory article, we briefly review the rationale and urgency for a focus on disproportionality in discipline and highlight some of the most salient findings from the five empirical studies in this special issue. We identify directions for the field going forward, with particular attention to measurement dilemmas and structural factors that shape differential disciplinary outcomes. Consistent with the National Association of School Psychologists’ position statement, we emphasize the need to build the science of discipline disparities intervention through more systematic empirical research. Taken together, these new directions are intended to catalyze scientific rigor in the next generation of evidence-based interventions to close the discipline gap.

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  • Promoting Cultural Responsivity and Student Engagement Through Double Check Coaching of Classroom Teachers: An Efficacy Study

    Catherine P. Bradshaw, Elise T. Pas, Jessika H. Bottiani, Katrina J. Debnam, Wendy M. Reinke, Keith C. Herman & Michael S. Rosenberg

    pp. 118–134

    Abstract. This article presents findings from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) testing the impact of a novel coaching approach utilized as one element of the Double Check cultural responsivity and student engagement model. The RCT included 158 elementary and middle school teachers randomized to receive coaching or serve as comparisons; all participating teachers were exposed to school-wide professional development activities. Pre–post nonexperimental comparisons indicated improvements in self-reported culturally responsive behavior management and self-efficacy for teachers in both conditions following professional development exposure. With regard to the experimental findings, trained observers recorded significantly more proactive behavior management and anticipation of student problems by teachers, higher student cooperation, less student noncooperation, and fewer disruptive behaviors in classrooms led by coached teachers relative to comparison teachers. Taken together, the findings suggest the potential promise of coaching combined with school-wide professional development for improving classroom management practices and possibly reducing office discipline referrals among Black students.

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  • Addressing Discipline Disparities for Black Male Students: Linking Malleable Root Causes to Feasible and Effective Practices

    Clayton R. Cook, Mylien T. Duong, Kent McIntosh, Aria E. Fiat, Madeline Larson, Michael D. Pullmann & Jenna McGinnis

    pp. 135–152

    Abstract. Longstanding discipline disparities for Black male students are associated with untoward outcomes and necessitate feasible and effective school-based solutions. This study examined the efficacy of GREET–STOP– PROMPT (GSP) as a low-cost, potentially high-yield strategy designed to intervene on putative malleable root causes proximal to teacher–student interactions. GSP relies on three core components to mitigate proximal causes of exclusionary discipline decisions, including: (a) proactive classroom management strategies; (b) a self-regulation technique to mitigate the impact of teacher biases on the response to problem behavior; and (c) reactive strategies to increase empathic, consistent, and appropriate responses to problem behavior. Overall, results from a single case experimental concurrent multiple baseline design across schools indicated that the GSP strategy yielded systematic reductions in risk ratios. More specifically, these results showed that the likelihood of Black male students receiving an office referral was cut by two thirds following implementation of the GSP strategy. In addition, findings from this study indicated that Black male students’ self-reported school connections significantly improved from pre- to postintervention. Implications, limitations, and future directions of the results are discussed.

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  • Examining How Proactive Management and Culturally Responsive Teaching Relate to Student Behavior: Implications for Measurement and Practice

    Kristine E. Larson, Elise T. Pas, Catherine P. Bradshaw, Michael S. Rosenberg & Norma L. Day-Vines

    pp. 153–166

    Abstract. The discipline gap between White students and African American students has increased demand for teacher training in culturally responsive and behavior management practices. Extant research, however, is inconclusive about how culturally responsive teaching practices relate to student behavior or how to assess using such practices in the classroom. Identifying proactive behavior management and culturally responsive teaching practices that are associated with positive student behavior may inform teacher training and bolster efforts to reduce disparities in behavioral and academic performance. The current study examined the association between student behaviors and the observed use of and teacher self-reported efficacy in using culturally responsive teaching and proactive behavior management practices. Data were collected from 274 teachers in 18 schools. Structural equation modeling indicated a statistically significant association between observations of culturally responsive teaching and proactive behavior management practices, with observed positive student behaviors in classrooms. Implications for measurement and practice are discussed.

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  • An Examination of Restorative Interventions and Racial Equity in Out-of-School Suspensions

    Anne Gregory, Francis L. Huang, Yolanda Anyon, Eldridge Greer & Barbara Downing

    pp. 167–182

    Abstract. Districts have been engaged in efforts to reduce “differential processing” of discipline-referred students based on their racial backgrounds. They strive for fair assignment of exclusionary consequences across racial groups. The current study examines discipline records for one academic year in an urban school district (N = 9,039 discipline- referred students) to identify the factors associated with equitable assignment of out-of-school suspension (OSS). Multilevel logistic regression found that student participation in restorative interventions substantially reduced the odds that individual students received OSS. However, such participation was only marginally associated with more comparable assignment of OSS to Black students relative to their White peers. Together these findings suggest that alternatives to suspension, such as restorative interventions, may yield benefits for all student groups, but they may result in only marginal narrowing of the disparities in suspension rates between Black and White students. This indicates that greater attention is needed to address the inequitable school contexts in which disparities arise.

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  • Racial/Ethnic Parity in Disciplinary Consequences Using Student Threat Assessment

    Dewey Cornell, Jennifer Maeng, Francis Huang, Kathan Shukla & Timothy Konold

    pp. 183–195

    Abstract. School psychologists are frequently called upon to assess students who have made verbal or behavioral threats of violence against others, a practice commonly known as threat assessment. One critical issue is whether the outcomes of a threat assessment generate the kind of racial disparities widely observed in school disciplinary practices. In 2013, Virginia became the first state to mandate threat assessment teams in all public schools. This study examined the disciplinary consequences for 1,836 students who received a threat assessment in 779 Virginia elementary, middle, and high schools during the 2014–2015 school year. Multilevel logistic regression models found no disparities among Black, Hispanic, and White students in out-of-school suspensions, school transfers, or legal actions. The most consistent predictors of disciplinary consequences were the student’s possession of a weapon and the team classification of the threat as serious. We discuss possible explanations for the absence of racial/ethnic disparities in threat assessment outcomes and cautiously suggest that the threat assessment process may reflect a generalizable pathway for achieving parity in school discipline.

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  • Closing in on Discipline Disproportionality: We Need More Theoretical, Methodological, and Procedural Clarity

    Jeffrey R. Sprague

    pp. 196–198

    Abstract. Using disciplinary exclusions, such as office referrals, suspensions, and expulsions, has been the subject of significant concern related to student and family civil rights, school policy, and negative impact on short- and long-term outcomes for students. Embedded in this phenomenon is the documentation of significant and persistent disproportional application to traditional racial and ethnic minority groups, with Black males experiencing the highest rates nationally. This commentary on the current special issue addresses the need for further clarity in the design and implementation of research regarding theory, research, and practice methods. Specifically, it addresses the need to more deeply consider the contributions of applied behavior analysis assessment and intervention methods and to more clearly distinguish the influence of race/ethnicity from the influence of culture.

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  • The Role of Policy in Promoting Efficient and Quality Discipline Reform

    Edward Fergus

    pp. 199-202

    Abstract. The current policy terrain is primed for schools to absorb new discipline strategies and address bias-based beliefs. Over the past 10 years, numerous policy changes regarding discipline have emerged at the federal and state levels. I argue these policy shifts, primarily at the state level, are using two of four value levers (quality, efficiency, choice, and equity) identified in research as the impetus for policy development. I focus on the quality and efficiency levers, as I believe these have been central to the recent changes in discipline policy. Quality is defined in terms of optimal educational experiences, such as instructional time, rehabilitative discipline, and appropriate behavioral interventions based on age. This quality frame suggests that behavioral interventions should not jeopardize instructional time or be inappropriate toward children. Another basis for policy shifts, the efficiency frame, implies effective behavioral interventions are used at an appropriate and effective level. In sum, discipline policy shifts, whether based on a quality and/or efficiency frame, can potentially make room for schools to consider other approaches for addressing student behavior.

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  • Guidelines for Authors

    pp. 203-205

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