Decades of research have established three solid outcomes related to education:

1. There is a strong relationship between academic achievement and student behavior.

“The concomitant relationship between academic underachievement and emotional and behavioral disorders is one that has been repeatedly established in research literature.” —Wehby, J. H., Falk, K.B., Barton-Arwood, S., Lane, K. L., & Cooley, C. (2003). The Impact of Comprehensive Reading Instruction on the Academic and Social Behavior of Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 11

2. Academic achievement is more effectively promoted with systematic, explicit and direct instruction than with many currently popular methods.

“The past half century of empirical research has provided overwhelming and unambiguous evidence that for virtually all students, direct and explicit instruction is more effective and more efficient than partial guidance [such as] constructivist instructional techniques, which can increase the achievement gap.” —Richard E. Clark, Paul A. Kirschner, and John Sweller; Putting Students on the Path to Learning: The case for fully guided instruction; American Educator (American Federation of Teachers); Spring, 2012

“Constructivism is too often seen in terms of student-centered inquiry learning, problem-based learning, and task-based learning, and common jargon words include ‘authentic’, ‘discovery’, and ‘intrinsically motivated learning’. The role of the constructivist teacher is claimed to be more of facilitation to provide opportunities for individual students to acquire knowledge and construct meaning through their own activities, and through discussion, reflection and sharing of ideas with other learners with minimal corrective intervention. These kinds of statements are almost directly opposite to the successful recipe for teaching and learning.” (emphasis added) —Hattie, John A. C. (2009). Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses related to achievement. New York, NY: Routledge Publishers. [page 26]
3. Student behavior is more likely to improve when exclusionary and other punitive measures—like suspensions—are minimized, and when positive measures that build real accountability and social support are maximized.

“A wealth of research shows the harms of exclusionary discipline. ” —NAACP, Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline, 2011

“Criminologists have known for decades that the building and maintaining of relationships with socially acceptable people is the best way to prevent violence.” — Frank J. Robertz, “Deadly Dreams: What Motivates School Shootings?”; Scientific American MIND, Aug./Sept., 2007

Restorative Justice and the Achievement Gap

Click here to view Michigan Department of Education Message # 126 -

Restorative Justice has been shown not only to decrease suspension rates anywhere from 40% to 80%, but has also resulted in a nearly 50% drop in absenteeism, and a 60% decrease in tardiness (Restorative Justice Colorado-2/4/13 website). Restorative Justice has also been credited with 50% reductions in disciplinary referrals and recidivism rates (Transformative Justice Australia, 1990).

A Discussion of the Problem

“Research demonstrates that when students are removed from the classroom as a disciplinary measure, the odds increase dramatically that they will repeat a grade, drop out, or become involved in the juvenile justice system.” (The Council of State Governments, 2011). Rates of suspension and expulsion have doubled since the 1970’s, with black students being expelled 3.5 times more frequently than their peers. A number of authors have argued that the increased use of suspensions and expulsions are directly responsible for increasing racial, ethnic, and developmental disparities in school discipline. Such disparities cannot be attributed to differences in socioeconomic status or to racial/ethnic differences in rates or types of misbehavior.

With more demanding high school curricula, attendance during instructional time is crucial. Schools need to rethink the impact of disciplinary measures that rely too heavily on school or social removal. Connection to school is a critical factor in preventing youth violence; school alienation has been found to be a key factor in the development of both juvenile delinquency and school violence.

In their Model Anti-Bullying Policy, the Michigan State Board of Education recommends the implementation of Restorative Practices as an effective disciplinary intervention.

The Alternative

In an era of educational policy defined by accountability, it is appropriate and important to examine the extent to which any widely implemented philosophy, practice or policy has been shown on the basis of sound research to contribute to important educational goals.

The American Psychological Association’s Zero Tolerance Task Force, in its full report, names Restorative Justice as one of three programs that “have been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of violence or disruption.”

Schools that have implemented Restorative Practices have demonstrated marked improvements in attendance, decreased instructional time lost to classroom disruptions, and increases in school climate ratings.