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CPRE : Consortium for Policy Research in Education

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Research Report

Discipline in Context: Suspension, Climate, and PBIS in the School District of Philadelphia

A new report highlights findings from a two-year research study on the disciplinary practices and climate of schools serving K–8 students in the School District of Philadelphia (SDP). Educational leaders across the United States are turning away from exclusionary practices like suspension, in favor of less punitive approaches to managing student behavior. Many districts are changing their policies and turning to evidence-based initiatives like Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) to bring about shifts in school climate. 

The new report Discipline in Context: Suspension, Climate, and PBIS in the School District of Philadelphia was produced by a team of researchers led by principal investigator Abigail Gray, Philip Sirinides, and Ryan Fink of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.

The report reveals that SDP schools are making efforts to reduce suspensions and improve climate, but critical barriers to these efforts include resource limitations and philosophical misalignments between teachers and school leaders.  Further, the study identified three profiles among SDP schools serving K–8 students based on information about disciplinary practices and climate, and found that these profiles are predictive of suspension and academic outcomes.  Students attending schools with collaborative climates and less punitive approaches to discipline have lower risk of being suspended and better academic outcomes. The report offers a series of recommendations for strengthening the implementation of climate initiatives, including PBIS, across the District.

Publication Date

November 2017