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California Schools See Drop in Suspensions, Expulsions

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California schools saw a sharp decline in suspensions and expulsions in the 2012-2013 school year, a trend the state's schools chief attributed to changes in district-level policies designed to keep students in the classroom.

Across the Golden State, the total number of expulsions decreased by 12.3 percent, from 9,758 in 2011-12 to 8,562 in 2012-13. The total number of suspensions—either in-school or out-of-school—dropped 14.1 percent, from 709,596 in 2011-12 to 609,471 in 2012-13, the state's department of education announced Wednesday afternoon.

"Educators across California work hard to keep students in school and learning," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a news release. "It can be a challenge to find the balance between maintaining a safe learning environment and giving young people the tools and opportunities they need to succeed. But we're working with schools and districts throughout the state to do exactly that."

It's been a big day for discipline news, as you can see from my previous post about Maryland's new state discipline regulations, which were designed to lower suspension and expulsion rates there.

California has worked with its districts to develop alternatives to classroom removal, and it has held regional workshops to teach "restorative justice, schoolwide positive behavioral interventions, and supports to reduce high rates of suspensions and suspensions coupled with racial disparities," the state department said in a release.

The state began collecting disaggregated discipline data, which allows it to identify disparities among racial groups, last year. That makes this the first year it can begin to examine year-over-year changes in those rates. According to the release:

"A review of almost every ethnic subgroup of students, particularly the larger subgroups, shows substantially fewer of them were suspended. Among African-American students, 53,187 were suspended in 2012-13, down 5,606 or 9.5 percent from the year before. Among Hispanic students, 179,867 were suspended in 2012-13, down 20,416 or 10.2 percent from the year before. Among white students, 68,913 were suspended, down 8,363 or 10.8 percent from the year before.

Still, disparities exist in the rates of suspension. For example, African-American students make up 6.3 percent of total enrollment, but 16.2 percent of suspensions. Hispanic students make up 52.7 percent of total enrollment, but 54.6 percent of suspensions. White students make up 25.5 percent of total enrollment, but 20.9 percent of suspensions."

You can download and explore all of the data on this agency website.

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