What Causes the School to Prison Pipeline?

school prison

Ross T has a good post on this over at Mike Goldstein’s blog.

His argument: strict discipline codes, coupled with strong academics, reduce the school to prison pipeline.

This argument of course runs antithetical to many civil rights groups, who view strict discipline as the cause of the school to prison pipeline. Many reporters, especially those who lean left, often also take this view.

Here’s my take: strict discipline can be used poorly or thoughtfully. It can be used to expel kids for minor offenses (which often sends them into the streets) or it can be used as a foundation for a strong academic culture (which increases the chance that students are prepared for career and college).

Terrible schools, not strict discipline in and of itself, cause the school to prison pipeline.

If a reporter, civil rights group, or anyone else wishes to understand whether discipline is being used poorly or thoughtfully, they should look at three numbers: student achievement scores, attrition rates, and expulsion rates.

In short, they should seek to determine whether: (1) students are learning and (2) students are staying in school.

What they should not do is visit schools, reflect on how this visit makes them feel, and ignore the data.

Ross’s post also resonated with me because many critics of the New Orleans reforms make the case that the efforts have increased the school to prison pipeline.

I’ve written much about the student achievement gains in New Orleans, so I won’t belabor that point here. But with regards to students staying in school, the Recovery School District has a lower expulsion rate than the state of Louisiana.


The Recovery School District serves a much more at-risk student population than the state as a whole.

Of course, even a .57% rate is high and hopefully this will go down further over time, as the effects of strong school cultures, better academics, thoughtful regulation of the expulsion system, and increased mental health services all work together to keep even more students in school.

Personally, I consider the mass incarceration of the citizens of this country as one of our nation’s greatest failures. I also believe that highly effective charter schools can be one part of the solution in reducing the number of people we force to live in caged cells.

2 thoughts on “What Causes the School to Prison Pipeline?

  1. avilesmantilla

    Reblogged this on Dr. Jose Aviles and commented:
    Finding unique and creative ways to keep kids in school is key. We must understand diversifying options for our students is essential and applying the one size fits all model simply does not work!

  2. Pingback: Dropout Nation » Overuse of Suspensions Must Stop

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