By Andrea Ochoa, Johns Hopkins University
A recent study by Grant and colleagues evaluated the effect of implementing Restorative Practices and Diplomas Now on school climate and teachers’ intentions to leave their school. Restorative Practices refers to a schoolwide shift away from punitive disciplinary methods and toward open dialogue that allows students to make amends by processing how their behavior affects others. Diplomas Now, another schoolwide reform model, focuses on building collaborative teacher teams, providing professional development, using early warning systems to provide students with tiered supports, and incorporating all supports by providing additional human resources to accomplish the work. It was hypothesized that when implemented together, the interventions would have a positive effect on school climate by improving student-teacher relationships, providing students with relevant and engaging learning opportunities, and increasing teacher retention.
The analytic sample for the study included 25 schools from large urban school districts that were randomly assigned to either implement both interventions or continue business as usual (control group). For the school climate measure, students and teachers responded to a survey designed for each stakeholder group. The intervention was implemented over two years. Because whole-school reform is complex and challenging to implement long-term, schools varied in their level of execution. Thus, Grant and colleagues conducted an intent-to-treat analysis. This means that they compared the average effect of intervention schools to the average effect of control schools without considering differences in implementation fidelity.
The study found that students and teachers in schools that implemented both programs reported perceiving a more positive school climate than in the control group (student ES= +0.15, teacher ES= +0.27). However, the study did not find that implementing both programs was associated with teachers’ intentions to continue working in their schools. Although modest, these findings suggest that implementing Restorative Practices in conjunction with Diplomas Now can have a positive effect on student and teacher perceptions of school climate such that teachers and students believe they have the support they need to be successful.
By Sooyeon Byun, Johns Hopkins University
Charlton and colleagues reviewed various types of school-wide interventions promoting students’ and teachers’ perception of school climate regarding engagement (quality of relationship), safety (the absence of aggression, bullying, and violence), and environment (quality of physical school environment). Only peer-reviewed studies published between 1989 and 2019 were included in this review.
The total of 26 studies (28 papers) were identified, including 18 studies on elementary students, 7 studies on middle school students, and 2 studies in mixed school settings. More than 60% of the studies were randomized controlled trials. The included programs were categorized into five subcategories: social–emotional learning, schoolwide positive behavioral interventions and supports, bullying prevention, community development, and teacher working conditions programs. Among the five subcategories, effect sizes for Schoolwide PBIS (a behaviour management approach) (ES=+0.61, 95% CI = [0.39, 0.83]) and SEL (ES=+0.48, 95% CI = [0.17, 0.79]) were the largest, followed by community development (ES=+0.42, 95% CI = [0.13, 0.71]), and bullying prevention programs (ES=+0.27, 95% CI = [0.14, 0.40]). A single study on a teacher working conditions program didn’t show any discernable effects on school climate. Although the effect sizes are not large, this study supports the idea that schoolwide interventions can improve school climate.
By Ashley Grant, Johns Hopkins University
The international call for justice reform in the wake of George Floyd’s murder links to similar reform needed in in US schools to address the school to prison pipeline. Restorative Justice (RJ, also called Restorative Practices) is one rapidly-spreading school-based intervention that promotes less punitive and exclusionary practices and more positive school environments. The most recent review of the evidence for RJ in schools, from Sean Darling-Hammond and colleagues in Contemporary School Psychology, reveals that the evidence base supporting RJ is growing, but some questions remain, and there is still a need for more rigorous causal research.
The research team looked at the past 20 years of quantitative studies of RJ in the U.S. Across these studies, RJ has consistently improved discipline, discipline disparities, and school climate, and reduced misbehavior. There is some evidence to show that RJ also reduces bullying and absenteeism, but RJ’s effects on academic achievement are inconclusive. Unfortunately, almost all of the studies of RJ in the U.S. remain limited by small samples and/or weak causal designs, in which it is uncertain if RJ is what is causing the observed effect. Clearly, further research is needed on outcomes of RJ. The authors particularly call for future studies using rigorous causal research designs (e.g., RCTs), examining RJ implementation (supports, pre-conditions, and success stories), and RJ’s interaction with other interventions.
Research published by the RAND Corporation assesses the impact of the New York City Community Schools initiative (NYC-CS) on outcomes related to attendance, achievement, student behavior, and school climate and culture.
Launched in 2014, the NYC-CS is a strategy to organize resources in schools and provide various services to address the comprehensive needs of students, families, and communities through collaboration with community agencies and local government. As part of the study, William R. Johnston and colleagues assessed the effects of NYC-CS during the 2017–2018 school year to determine whether students were performing better than they would be had their schools not been designated as Community Schools, using average student outcomes in each school. Among the key findings, the results indicate that NYC-CS had positive effects on most of the outcomes examined. In particular, NYC-CS had a positive impact on attendance for students in all grades, and these effects appear to be increasing over time. There was also evidence that NYC-CS led to a reduction in disciplinary incidents for elementary and middle school students, but not for high school students.