Teacher coaching, threat assessment can reduce disparities in discipline, studies show

Jun 25, 2018 by

Linda Jacobson –

Coaching teachers on classroom management and culturally responsive strategies can result in fewer racial disparities in discipline, according to a study appearing in a special issue of School Psychology Review.

Led by Catherine Bradshaw of the University of Virginia, the random controlled trial, involving 158 elementary and middle school teachers in a Maryland school district, compared those who received the coaching to those who did not. The coached teachers were less likely to refer black students to the office for discipline reasons and were observed to have classrooms with more student cooperation.

Called Double Check, the coaching model is designed to be part of School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SW-PBIS) — a widely used approach to improving school climate. The coaches, who didn’t work at the schools and had an advanced degree in either education or school psychology, used a process called Classroom Check-Up, which takes teachers through problem-solving strategies.

While teachers also receive professional development on culturally responsive practices and use the PBIS framework — which sets behavior expectations for all students — the researchers found that it was the individual coaching that led to fewer disparities.

“This pattern of findings is consistent with prior research, which suggests that professional development provided in a workshop format may improve knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs but is less effective at improving teacher and student behaviors,” they write.

The study, “Promoting Cultural Responsivity and Student Engagement Through Double Check Coaching of Classroom Teachers: An Efficacy Study,” is one of five in the special issue that aims to bring more awareness to efforts to reduce racial disparities in the numbers of students being suspended, expelled or becoming involved with law enforcement.

‘Nudging the gap’

The topic is one of several the Federal Commission on School Safety is considering. Advocates for black and Hispanic students are also closely watching whether U.S. Secretary Betsy DeVos will rescind Obama-era guidance stating that the departments of Education and Justice will investigate such disparities under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

A report released in April, drawn from the Civil Rights Data Collection for the 2015-16 school year, showed that while suspensions have dropped by 100,000 students since the previous collection in 2013-14, the gap between black and white students being suspended has remained almost the same. Also in April, The Civil Rights Project at the University of California Los Angeles and Harvard University law professors released a report showing that black students with disabilities miss significantly more instructional time due to suspension than their white peers.

The overall message from the papers included in the issue is that despite widespread attention to racial disparities in discipline outcomes, there is little research evidence pointing to solutions that educators can use to reduce these gaps.

“In reviewing this collection of articles, we conclude that the field has made some progress in nudging the gap rather than closing in on it,” Bradshaw and Jessika H. Bottiani, also of UVA, and Anne Gregory of Rutgers University in New Jersey, write in the introduction to the articles. “Nonetheless, we anticipate that this research will help advance the field and inform the next stage of rigorous empirical work on interventions related to equity, inclusion, and culturally responsive school environments.”

The federal commission, which will meet Tuesday in Lexington, Ky., for another three-part listening session, also heard a presentation on PBIS at a Maryland school in late May. But the study led by Bradshaw suggests that PBIS on its own is not enough to reduce disparities.

An “alternative to zero-tolerance” policies

Continue: Teacher coaching, threat assessment can reduce disparities in discipline, studies show | Education Dive

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