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The Economic Effects of Exclusionary Discipline on Grade Retention and High School Dropout

Authors: Miner P. Marchbanks III, Jamilia J. Blake, Eric A. Booth, Dottie Carmichael, Allison L. Seibert, Tony Fabelo
Date Published: April 06, 2013

Prepared for the Center for Civil Rights Remedies and the Research-to-Practice Collaborative, National Conference on Race and Gender Disparities in Discipline
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Editor's Note: This research is part of the “Closing the School Discipline Gap Conference” of January 2013. An overview of the research project can be found here; for a list of the sixteen studies presented, click here


Nearly 15% of students are disciplined in a given year, with 60% of students being disciplined at-least once between grades 7 through 12. The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of school discipline contact on students’ risk for grade retention and school dropout using a statewide sample of 7th grade students tracked through their 12th grade year. Results indicate that school discipline is associated with approximately 4,700 grade retentions per year in the state of Texas. The delayed workforce entry related to grade retention has an effect of over $68 million for the state, including $5.6 million in lost tax revenue. Given the higher discipline rate for minorities, these costs disproportionately affect them. Further, the additional year of instruction costs the state nearly $41 million dollars. For each year an individual student is retained the effect on the net social surplus exceeds $23,000. Results also indicate that school discipline relates to a 29% increase in high school dropout. These additional dropouts account for an economic effect of $711 million per year. It is recommended that educational agencies adopt evidenced-based programs that reduce school officials’ use of punitive and exclusionary measures to manage student behavior such as Positive Behavioral Intervention Supports. Further, these results underscore the need for school officials to employ secondary and tertiary dropout prevention programs that are targeted at the most academically and behaviorally at-risk students in schools in addition to primary prevention programs.


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