In one of the first rigorous, large-scale evaluations of restorative practices in a large urban school district, researchers from RAND Corporation found that restorative practices improved school climate, reduced student suspensions and decreased discipline disparities in Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS).
The randomized controlled trial compared 22 PPS K-12 schools that adopted restorative practices with 22 similar schools that did not, between June 2015 and June 2017.
PPS contracted with the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) Graduate School SaferSanerSchoolsTM program to implement the practices, supported by a grant from the National Institute of Justice. PPS is now implementing restorative practices in all district schools.
The study found that climate and relationships in the restorative practices schools improved, compared with the control schools. In addition, the number of days lost to suspension declined in the restorative practices schools, as did racial and income disparities in suspension rates, when compared to the control schools.
Reductions in suspension rates were greater for African American students, students from low-income families, female students and elementary grade students than for students not in these groups.
Other school districts can learn important lessons on training, practice, support and data collection from Pittsburgh when adopting a restorative practices program.
"This is an exciting study that shows the promise of restorative practices as an important prevention strategy," comments Gina Baral Abrams, Dr.P.H., IIRP Director of Research and Program Evaluation and Assistant Professor. "To move the needle on longstanding cultural issues, it takes an environmental approach that includes relational community building. Restorative practices provides this, in addition to ways to respond to harm."
"The report is very encouraging. It affirms that restorative practices has a positive effect on school climate and in reducing suspensions," notes Keith Hickman, IIRP Director of Continuing Education. "Perhaps most significant, it found that restorative practices reduced the suspension disparity for African American students. This punishment disparity is a serious challenge facing our nation today."
Read a research brief here: https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB10051.html
Read the full report here: https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2840.html