Subsequent to the initial creation of this page, Padres y Jovenes Unidos issued its “3rd Annual Community Accountability Report Card: Toward Ending the School-to-Jail Track in Denver Public Schools 2012-2013.” The report shows that, as the number of suspensions was further reduced in the 2012-13 school year, the ratio of the black suspension rates to the white suspension rates increased from 5.5 to 6.1. The Hispanic-white ratio was unchanged from the prior year. The original version of prefatory note states that page will eventually be amended to further discuss the recent report. But I am not sure that I will get around to doing that.
A Spring 2017 article in Future of Children titled “Social and Emotional Learning and Equity in School Discipline” discusses the effects of programs that generally reduce discipline rates on measures of racial disparity. Because the authors apparently did not understand that it is possible for relative and absolute differences to change in opposite directions – much less that, in the school discipline context, this tends to occur systematically – they make a number of statements suggesting or stating that reductions in discipline rates reduced relative racial differences in discipline rates (although not by very much). One of these statements is discussed on the Oakland (CA) Disparitiespage.
With respect to Denver the article states (at 125):
“From 2006 to 2013 in Denver, the district’s overall suspension rate dropped by half, from 10.58 percent to 5.63 percent. In Cleveland, suspensions dropped by 60 percent over three years.
“Denver saw a slight narrowing of racial suspension gaps: from 2006 to 2013, suspension rates for black students fell by 7.2 percentage points—the largest reduction among the district’s racial groups in absolute terms. Still, in 2013 the suspension rate for black students, at 10.42 percent, remained almost five times higher than that for white students, at 2.28 percent.35”
Readers would assume that the ratio of the black suspension rate to the white suspension had declined, while still remaining high. In fact, however, as shown in Table 10.1 (at 6) of the article’s reference 35, over the period discussed the ratio increased from 3.0 (17.61/5.88) to 4.6 (10.42/2.28). (Had the article discussed the percentage decline, it would have been 41% for blacks and 61% for whites.)
In addition to the situations in Oakland and Denver, situations where observers mistakenly regarded an larger absolute reduction for blacks than whites as indicating a reduction in the relative difference are discussed on Allegheny County (PA) Disparities and Massachusetts Disparities pages
The following matters warrant mention with regard to Colorado, however. Pages 3-4 of aforementioned letter to Maryland State Department of Education discuss DOE data showing that nationally and in all but 5 states that black-white ratio of multiple suspension rates is greater than the black-white ratio of rates of one or more suspensions as an illustration of the way that eliminating what would otherwise be first suspensions would tend to increase the black-white ratio of rates of one or more suspensions. But Colorado, where the black-white ratio is 3.6 for one or more suspension and 3.1 for multiple suspensions is one of the states where the pattern does not hold. I am uncertain of the reasons for this and it would be useful to know the pattern in Denver itself.
Colorado is one of the jurisdictions that relaxed discipline standards based, at least in part, on the mistaken perception that doing so would decrease racial and ethnic disparities in school discipline rates.As discussed in “Misunderstanding of Statistics Leads to Misguided Law Enforcement Policies,” Amstat News (Dec. 2012) (which mentions the Colorado legislation), relaxing discipline standards will tend to increase, rather than reduce, relative differences in discipline rates.The Colorado legislation was enacted in May 2012, so it may be some time before data are available to appraise the results of the legislation.
But even before Colorado relaxed standards, the Denver Public Schools had begun to reduce suspension and expulsion rates.According to a December 2012 report by the group Padres y Jovenes Unidos (DPS Accountability Meeting Report Card), in the 2011-2012 school year, out-of-school suspensions and expulsions were down 13% and 40% from the prior year.But the report also found that race/ethnic discipline disparities remained large.Black and Hispanic students experienced out-of-school suspensions 5.5 and 2.4 times as often as white students.The report did not explain how those disparities compared with disparities from the prior year.
Without knowing precisely how the 5.5 and 2.4 figures were derived, one cannot make exact comparisons with prior year data.But available data seem to indicate, as one knowledgeable about the relevant statistical patterns would expect, these ratios reflected increases from prior years.
The most recent available data from the Department of Education is for 2009.Often observers report racial differences in discipline rates separately for students with and without disabilities.But there is no indication in the Padres y Jovenes Unidos report that the figures are other than total figures.In any case, Table 1 presents the figures for black and Hispanic out-of-school suspension rates compared with white out-of-school suspension rates, separately by total (including students with and without disabilities, which is probably the approach in the report), by students without disabilities, and by students with disabilities.No ratio of the black out-of-school suspension rate to the white out-of-school suspension rate is above 4.0 and no ratio of the Hispanic out-of-school suspension rate to the white out-of-school suspension rate is above 2.0.
Table 1:2009 Out-of-School Suspensions in Denver Public Schools by Race and Ethnicity with Ratios of Minority to White Rates (overall and by disability status) [ref N2/b4920a1]