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Study Compares Suspensions and Expulsions For English Learner Students and Their Non-English Learner Peers


Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Graphic of publication cover

Our latest study to be published by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) examines whether English learner (EL) students in six Oregon school districts were suspended or expelled with similar frequency—and for similar reasons—as non-English learner students. Conducted on behalf of the Oregon Leadership Network and drawing from school district data in the 2011–2012 school year, the study found that EL students and non-EL students were suspended or expelled at similar rates in elementary school; however, in middle school and high school, EL students were suspended or expelled at higher rates than non-EL students. Across all grades, aggression and insubordination/disruption were the most common reasons why EL and non-EL groups of students were suspended or expelled.

“Parents and educators nationwide have grown increasingly concerned over reports that schools discipline some groups of students more than others,” said REL Northwest’s Art Burke, lead author of the study. “Particularly worrisome is discipline that removes children from their classrooms for extended periods of time.”

The study also looks at the number of instructional days lost by EL students and the rates at which they met standards for proficiency on state assessments in reading and math. English learner students and non-English learner students were suspended for similar numbers of days in elementary school and middle school, but in high school, EL students were suspended for nearly a full day more than non-EL students. Additionally, EL students who were suspended or expelled had substantially lower achievement on state assessments in reading and math than EL students who were not.

The findings shed light on disciplinary practices in a group of Oregon districts with a growing number of English learner students and could help inform policy and practice decisions,” said Burke. “Other states and localities may wish to conduct similar comparisons of suspension and expulsion rates for English learner students and non-English learner students.

The study follows a May 2014 study released by REL Northwest, which found disproportionately high suspension/expulsion rates for students of color. The earlier study did not report results specifically for EL students, who are the fastest-growing student group in the state.

The full report of Suspension, Expulsion, and Achievement of English Learner Students in Six Oregon Districts is available for download on the IES website.