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Educator Experience and Discipline Disparities
May 2021


"What does the research say about the relationship among educator years of experience, educator certification, and school exclusionary discipline rates or discipline disparities?"

Ask A REL Response

Thank you for your request to our Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Reference Desk. Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 RELs that, by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. Ask A REL provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations in response to questions about available education research.

Following an established REL Northwest research protocol, we conducted a search for evidence- based research. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, Google Scholar, and general Internet search engines. For more details, please see the methods section at the end of this document.

The research team has not evaluated the quality of the references and resources provided in this response; we offer them only for your reference. The search included the most commonly used research databases and search engines to produce the references presented here. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The research references are not necessarily comprehensive and other relevant research references may exist. In addition to evidence-based, peer-reviewed research references, we have also included other resources that you may find useful. We provide only publicly available resources, unless there is a lack of such resources or an article is considered seminal in the topic area.


Camacho, K. A., & Krezmien, M. P. (2019). Individual- and school-level factors contributing to disproportionate suspension rates: A multilevel analysis of one state. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 27(4), 209–220. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Data from middle schools (n = 219), high schools (n = 200), and combined middle and high schools (n = 20) were used to examine individual- and school-level factors within a multilevel model associated with an increased risk of suspension for minority students and students with disabilities. Results indicate that the individual-level variables of race and disability status were associated with an increased risk of suspension. Multiple school-level factors were also found to be associated with an increased risk of suspension including school enrollment, attendance, mobility, the percent of highly qualified teachers, the percent of students receiving free and reduced priced meals, the percent of students receiving special education services, the school's Title I status, the student-to-teacher ratio, English Language Arts state exam scores, and the percent of White students in the school. In both analyses, the majority of variance was associated with the multilevel model which indicates the importance of examining individual factors within the context of school-level factors when trying to understand and respond to disproportionate suspension practices."

Deckman, S. L. (2017). Managing race and race-ing management: Teachers’ stories of race and classroom conflict. Teachers College Record 119(11), 1–40. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Background/Context: Research exploring suspension and expulsion practices suggests that teachers may play a key role in perpetuating racial disproportionality in school discipline by interpreting student behavior through racialized and racist lenses and by viewing the behavior of students of color as an affront to their authority, resulting in more frequent punishing of Black and Latino students. The problem may be compounded for novice teachers, who are likely to teach in high-poverty, high-"minority" schools where discipline is a pronounced concern for educators. Research Questions/Focus of Study: To illuminate the role of race in novice teacher interpretations of classroom management, this research explored the following questions: (a) How do novice in-service teachers narrate classroom management and disciplinary moments from their practice? (b) What do their narratives of these moments reveal about how they might negotiate racial difference in the classroom? Research Design: This study employs narrative analysis of classroom management stories (N = 51) shared by novice teachers participating in a 10-week hybrid online/in-person professional development course focused on race, class, and gender equity in urban schools. Specifically, this article analyzes how race is discussed in these narratives. Findings: Teachers in this study tended to share stories either about "managing race"--narratives about deescalating racial tension or reproaching transgressors of racial colorblindness—or "race-ing management"—stories that read race into incidents in such a way as to reveal latent racial dynamics. These patterns aligned with teachers' self-identified racial backgrounds, with teachers who expressed a more tenuous racial identity or who described themselves as White tending to focus on managing race, and those who expressed a strong minority racial identity tending to focus on race-ing management. Recommendations: To address issues of racial proportionality and justice in student discipline and to retain an experienced teacher workforce in underresourced schools, I offer two key recommendations. First, we must innovatively support novice teachers in reversing insidious trends by offering structured opportunities for critical reflection on management through the lens of identity. In this way, novice teachers can analyze the implicit beliefs at work in their understandings. Furthermore, school leaders and other professional development facilitators must make clear to novice teachers that their competence is not being questioned when we ask them to engage in critical reflection. I discuss specific ways to approach this and offer recommendations for future research."

Lacoe, J., & Manley, M. (2019). Disproportionality in school discipline: An assessment in Maryland through 2018. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic.

From the Abstract:
"The purpose of this report was to describe trends in disciplinary removals in Maryland from the 2009/10 to 2017/18 school years and apply the Maryland State Department of Education's (MSDE) definition of discipline disproportionality to identify and describe disproportionate schools. The report presents an analysis of administrative data from Maryland to identify trends in school removals (out of school suspensions and expulsions) from 2009/10 to 2017/18, and determine whether schools with and without discipline disproportionalities differ in significant ways. The analysis used school discipline, school enrollment, and student demographic data provided by Maryland, as well as enrollment and demographic data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics Common Core of Data. The study found that exclusionary discipline rates declined for all subgroups of students in Maryland over the past decade; however, Black students and students with disabilities continued to be suspended and expelled from school at more than twice the rates of other students. Even when they were involved in the same types of infractions, Black students and students with disabilities were significantly more likely to receive out-of-school suspensions than other subgroups. These findings indicate a need to identify and address the root causes of these discipline disparities. Inequitable punishment for the same offenses suggests the possibility that implicit bias against Black students and students with disabilities plays a role. The following are appended: (1) background on the study; (2) a description of methods; and (3) supporting analyses."

Losen, D., Hodson, C., Ee, J., & Martinez, T. (2014). Disturbing inequities: Exploring the relationship between racial disparities in special education identification and discipline. Journal of Applied Research on Children, 5(2), 15.

From the Abstract:
"This study used negative binomial regression to investigate whether exposure to novice teachers and risk for identification for special education predicted suspension rates. Data from the 2009-2010 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) was used. The sample was comprised of 72,168 schools from nearly 7,000 school districts from nearly every state. Identification as having emotional disturbance and specific learning disabilities were found to predict an increase in suspension rates for some subgroups across some school levels. Conversely, identification as being autistic was found to predict a decrease in suspension rates for some subgroups across some school levels. Policy implications are discussed."

Noltemeyer, A., Kunesh, C., Hostutler, C., Frato, P., & Sarr-Kerman, B. J. (2012). The effects of student and teacher characteristics on teacher impressions of—and responses to—student behaviors. International Education Studies, 5(4), 96–111.

From the Abstract:
"This study examined how student characteristics (e.g., race, gender) and teacher characteristics (e.g., race, gender, years of experience, confidence in behavior management) influence the way teachers perceive and respond to student behaviors in the U.S.A. A rigorous process was used to develop and pilot a survey consisting of questions about a defiant student behavioral incident that might be encountered in a school. This process involved systematically identifying student names that would imply different gender/ethnicity combinations, creating the instrument using these names, expert review, cognitive interviews, and a pilot study using 135 pre-service teachers. After refining the instrument based on feedback from each of these activities, we administered it to 57 practicing teachers. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four scenario conditions, each of which implied a student with a different gender/ethnicity combination (i.e., African American female student, African American male student, European American female student, European American male student). Although some interesting trends in responding emerged based on the implied student race and ethnicity, none were statistically significant. However, teacher characteristics significantly influenced responding, with less experienced teachers being less likely to ignore behaviors—and more likely to address them directly--than their more seasoned counterparts. This adds to the extant knowledge about how teachers in different phases of their careers may interpret and approach classroom situations, and reveals implications for teacher professional development efforts. Further implications, limitations, and future directions are also discussed."

Ohlson, M., Swanson, A., Adams-Manning, A., & Byrd, A. (2016). A culture of success—examining school culture and student outcomes via a performance framework. Journal of Education and Learning, 5(1), 114–127.

From the Abstract:
"This study is a report of the relationship between a collaborative school culture, teacher quality and the influence these variables have upon student attendance and suspensions. The research is based upon data gathered from 50 public schools throughout the southeastern United States. Surveys were administered to examine teacher quality characteristics, elements of educational leadership, and components of a collaborative school culture. Data were analyzed in relation to teacher input characteristics such as certification, years teaching, percentage teaching out of field, and highest degree obtained. The findings revealed that as teacher collaboration increased, the model predicted that student suspensions would decrease by 6.709%. In addition, the model predicted that when the percentage of out-of-field teachers within a school increased, student suspensions would decrease by 0.16%. Finally, as the percentage of non-certified teachers within a school increased, the student suspension percentage increased by .22%. The findings offer valuable insight into the characteristics of quality teaching and school culture that demonstrate the greatest impact on student attendance and suspensions and may influence educational policy, teacher training, educational leadership, and school reform initiatives."

Sullivan, A. L., Klingbeil, D. A., & Van Norman, E. R. (2013). Beyond behavior: Multilevel analysis of the influence of sociodemographics and school characteristics on students' risk of suspension. School Psychology Review, 42(1), 99-114. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Minority disproportionality in school discipline outcomes continues to trouble practitioners and scholars. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of sociodemographic characteristics and indicators of school policy enactment (e.g., retention rates, special education identification) on students' risk of suspension. The sample consisted of archival student and school-level data for approximately 18,000 kindergarten through 12th-grade students in 39 schools of a Midwestern school district. We used multilevel logistic regression and multinomial logistic regression to estimate students' risk of receiving one or more suspensions. Results indicated that gender, race, disability, and socioeconomic status were significantly related to suspension risk, but that school variables reflecting school-level demographics, performance, and teacher characteristics were not. Implications for future research, service delivery, and policy development are discussed."

Williams III, J. A., Persky, F. D., & Johnson, J. N. (2018). Does longevity matter?: Teacher experience and the suspension of Black middle school students. Journal of Urban Learning, Teaching, and Research, 14, 50–62.

From the Abstract:
"Decades of research have showcased the inequitable exclusion of Black students in urban middle schools via out-of-school suspensions. Black students exhibit the highest rates of suspensions when compared to their White peers according to the 2013-2014 Office of Civil Rights database. Urban middle school teachers are typically placed in high-stress situations, and are initially ill-prepared to manage classrooms, while their lack of experience as a teacher candidate could be exposing Black students to biased discipline practices, which may serve to reproduce societal inequities within the classroom. Although researchers have identified numerous factors which negatively impact Black students' suspension rates, this study sought to determine if there is a positive association between an increase in teachers' years of experience and lower out-of-school suspension rates for Black students in urban middle schools."

Williams III, J. A., & Wiggan, G. (2016). Models of success, teacher quality and student disciplinary infraction: A critical analysis of Chicago's Urban Preparatory Academies and Harlem Children's Zone. Journal of Educational Issues, 2(2), 73–89.

From the Abstract:
"School discipline disparities in U.S. education is accompanied by a litany of literature that focuses on African Americans in low-performing urban schools (Civil Right Project, 2000; Losen, 2011; Mendez & Knoff, 2003; Skiba, Michael, Nardo & Peterson, 2002; Wilson, 2014). Public K-12 institutions in the U.S. report that African Americans are suspended at three-times the rate of White students (23% for African Americans as compared to 7% for Whites). Furthermore, the most recent Civil Rights Discipline Collection report (Office of Civil Rights, 2014) indicates that students who receive one suspension have a much greater chance of being suspended multiple times, ultimately leading to expulsion and or involvement in the juvenile justice system (Allen & White-Smith, 2014; Gregory, 1995; Office of Civil Rights, 2014; Pane & Rocco, 2014). A significant amount of research focuses on public education institutions' dismal outcomes in this area (Skiba et al., 2002; Office of Civil Rights, 2014; Wilson, 2014), without examining charter schools to determine if discipline disparities are endemic in them as well. This study examined two urban, high achieving charter schools. Urban Preparatory Academies in Chicago and Harlem Children's Zone in New York. The school characteristics are assessed through critical race theory to better understand the relationship between teacher quality and student discipline. The findings of the study indicate that while both schools had similar student demographics, lower rates of discipline infractions were reported in the individual campuses that employed a higher number of qualified teachers. These findings have implications for teacher preparation and urban education."


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: (Novice OR beginning OR inexperienced OR experience? OR unexperienced OR quality), (Teacher OR teaching OR educator), Characteristics, Discipline, Disparities, Exclusionary, Disproportion?, (Certification OR credentials OR degree)

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.