A Unique Approach to Address the Racial Gap in School Discipline

Researchers at the University of Virginia, Rutgers University and the University of British Columbia have a published a study that shows that teachers who change instruction practices can impact the large racial gap in school discipline.

African American students tend to have higher rates of detention, suspension, and expulsion than White students. Efforts to reduce the racial gap have usually focused on classroom behavior management and educating teachers to recognize implicit racial bias. But this new research shows that a video-based coaching program called MyTeachingPartner, developed at the University of Virginia, can reduce the racial gap in discipline by improving classroom instruction. The study found that in schools that used the new instruction method, the racial gap in school discipline rates disappeared.

Erik Ruzek, a research assistant professor at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, reports that “when teachers provided ways for students to engage in more critical thinking, analysis and problem-solving, the rate of disciplinary referrals for African-American students in that classroom decreased and was not significantly different from referrals of students from other racial groups.”

Anne Gregory, an associate professor at the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University and the lead author of the study, adds that the improved instruction changed the dynamic of the classroom, and in turn, the relationship between teacher and students. “I imagine that African-American students detected higher academic expectations and that they experienced being treated as scholars,” Dr. Gregory said.

The study, “Closing the Racial Discipline Gap in Classrooms by Changing Teacher Practice,” was published in the journal School Psychology Review. It may be accessed here.

Below is a video about the MyTeachingPartner program.

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