Restorative practices (RP) promote the development of socio-emotional learning by encouraging self-reflection, empathetic listening, and the creation of non-judgmental spaces for conflict resolution.
While RP is a fairly new concept in public schools, it is quickly increasing in use across the nation. To measure its effects on student behavior, the University of Chicago Education Lab evaluated student-level, short-run educational and behavioral outcomes across 239 high schools within the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system. The study analyzed data from the start of the 2008-2009 school year through the end of the 2018-2019 school year – both before and after CPS began the implementation of RP programs in 2013-2014. By comparing student behavior before and after exposure to RP and across multiple school environments, the study provides first-of-its-kind insights into the causal effects of restorative practices programming.
From Retributive to Restorative: An Alternative Approach to Justice
This research brief details the findings from the Education Lab’s study of the effect of restorative practices in Chicago Public Schools.
NBER working paper- From Retributive to Restorative: An Alternative Approach to Justice
Becker Friedman Institute Working Paper- From Retributive to Restorative: An Alternative Approach to Justice
Read the working paper on the results of the Education Lab’s findings from a study of the implementation of restorative practices in Chicago Public Schools.
Press Release- University of Chicago Education Lab Study Finds Restorative Practices Decrease Student Arrests In and Outside School
Chicago Public Schools saw a 35 percent reduction in arrests in school and a 15 percent reduction in out-of-school arrests for students at schools that implemented Restorative Practices.
The Education Lab study found that restorative practices reduce student arrests in and outside of school and for violent and non-violent offenses, and may generate positive, genuine changes in student behavior. Schools that implemented RP policies saw a staggering 35 percent reduction in student arrests in school and a 15 percent reduction in out-of-school student arrests. The study saw declines in arrests for both violent and non-violent offenses.
In addition to significant decreases in student arrests, RP decreased out-of-school suspensions by 18 percent and improved students’ perceptions of school climate. This improvement in perception is driven by large increases in students’ perceptions that their peers’ classroom behavior improved, their increased feeling that they belong at school, and that school is a safe place to be.
Programmatic benefits were particularly large for Black students, although the authors also found evidence that Latino male students’ test scores may have declined in response to RP adoption. Future research is needed to understand why students might have been affected in different ways.
Schools that implemented RP policies saw a staggering:
reduction in arrests in school
reduction in out-of-school arrests
While RP policies have previously shown promising results regarding the relationship between RP and positive outcomes, this study fills a critical gap in the research by providing the first causal evidence of the effectiveness of RP in schools. Administrators can now take into consideration this extended analysis when implementing their own programs, particularly as schools continue to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic dramatically reduced in-classroom instruction and corresponded with an uptick in student disciplinary incidents. As schools now work to accelerate student learning, boost in-classroom instruction, and address students’ socio-emotional needs, RP programs may help to generate tangible, positive results.
For the last decade, CPS has been working tirelessly to reduce the reliance on punitive measures as a response to student behavior. As more evidence becomes available regarding the benefits of restorative practices, I hope school districts follow our lead and implement similar programs with equally successful outcomes.
The implementation of restorative practices in schools has been critical for our young people, and these practices are driving down the use of harsh discipline methods that disproportionately impact youth of color. The programming is valuable not only to students but also to educators, who receive ongoing professional development and support from our expert coaches.
Our research shows that restorative practices can make a real, positive difference in addressing students’ socio-emotional needs. We hope these findings inform how schools advance the health and success of students.