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Re-engaging Excluded Students
May 2020


What does the research say about re-engaging students who have been excluded from the school or classroom through expulsion or suspension?

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.


Flennaugh, T. K., Cooper Stein, K. S., & Carter Andrews, D. J. (2018). Necessary but insufficient: How educators enact hope for formerly disconnected youth. Urban education, 53(1), 113–138. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"This qualitative study investigated how educators in urban second-chance high school settings made sense of their work with formerly disconnected youth. Using Duncan-Andrade's framework of critical hope, we examined how adults' orientations toward hope shaped the educational context in ways that were necessary and sufficient for student success. Findings from this study highlight the need for more critical approaches to student engagement, specifically for students most affected by systems of marginalization. Implications for urban educators and the institutions that prepare them are discussed."

Jolivette, K., Swoszowski, N. C., Josephs, N. L., McDaniel, S. C., & Ennis, R. P. (2012). District-wide PBIS team questions related to using the PBIS framework to transition students with challenging behaviors from an alternative school to a neighborhood school. Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals, Fall 2012, 45–64.

From the Abstract:
"Students with emotional and behavioral disorders (E/BD) and those with challenging behaviors are often served in alternative education (AE) settings due to behavior that interferes with their learning and the learning of others to a degree that warrants placement outside of the traditional, neighborhood school environment. Placement in AE settings, however, is temporary as it is expected that students will transition out of the AE setting and back to their neighborhood school. Therefore, it is necessary for district schools collaborating on the transition of students between alternative and traditional placements to plan for the successful integration or reintegration of students in the least restrictive environment. This paper details the collaboration of one school district considering the use of the school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports (SWPBIS) framework to assist in the integration and/or reintegration of students with behavioral challenges from the district alternative school to traditional middle school and vice versa."

Litzau, C., & Rice, N. (2017). Effective aspects of reengagement and recovery programs in southeastern Wisconsin high schools. Journal of At-Risk Issues, 20(1), 36–43.

From the Abstract:
"The number of students in the United States who did not complete high school decreased by 27% from 2008 to 2012 (Alliance for Excellent Education, America's Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, & The Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, 2015). This is a positive trend. High schools can help students complete school and prepare for career and technical education (CTE) by incorporating (a) career academies, (b) dual enrollment, (c) paid employment/internships, (d) flexible scheduling, and (e) social services. The purpose of this study was to determine the presence of these proven characteristics in Reengagement and Recovery Programs in Southeastern Wisconsin. Twenty-seven of 85 survey responses were returned, for a response rate of 31.7%. It was found that a majority of programs provided flexible programs and support services, but were not focused on providing students career and occupational credentials. The study underscores the need for a stronger focus on CTE in high schools."

Mathur, S. R., & Clark, H. G. (2014). Community engagement for reentry success of youth from juvenile justice: Challenges and opportunities. Education and Treatment of Children, 37(4), 713–734.

From the Abstract:
"Based on our research over the past ten years, we have identified six evidence-based transition practices that are critical for promoting youth success after release from secure care. Success, however, also relies heavily on the engagement of community partners and stakeholders who receive these youth after release. To further understand the construct of community engagement, we conducted a reintegration survey and held focus groups with stakeholders representing several agencies that provided services to youth from the juvenile justice system. We also interviewed youth to identify barriers in the transition process. The findings suggest that juvenile justice personnel need to consistently work in collaboration with community partners to generate and sustain the resources and awareness necessary to improve reentry outcomes for youth. Definitions of community engagement are offered and specific barriers and challenges that interfere with effective reentry are identified. Suggestions to improve reentry are included."

Miller, A. A., & Therrien, W. J. (2018). Returning home: Reducing recidivism for juvenile offenders with disabilities through transition planning. Beyond Behavior, 27(2), 108–115. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Youth with disabilities are dramatically overrepresented in the juvenile justice system. These individuals have poorer outcomes compared with their nondisabled peers regarding school graduation, employment, and recidivism. This discussion article explores issues related to transition and outlines research-based practices aimed at increasing postrelease community engagement and decreasing the likelihood of rearrest. Three phases of transition are identified as well as key components, practices, and personnel that can guide transition from initial intake through reentry."

Other References

Clark, H. G., Mathur, S., Brock, L., O'Cummings, M., & Milligan, D. (2016). Transition toolkit 3.0: Meeting the educational needs of youth exposed to the juvenile justice system. National Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Neglected or Delinquent Children and Youth (NDTAC).

From the Abstract:
"The third edition of the National Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Neglected or Delinquent Children and Youth's (NDTAC's) "Transition Toolkit" provides updated information on existing policies, practices, strategies, and resources for transition that build on field experience and research. The "Toolkit" offers practical information that enables State and local administrators, teachers, and service providers to provide high-quality transition services for youth moving into, through, and out of education programs within the juvenile justice (JJ) system. Section I of this document provides an introduction to and overview of the Transition Toolkit. Section II of this document briefly addresses the topic of transition across five areas: (1) The transition process for youth in the JJ system; (2) The complexity of the JJ system; (3) Characteristics of the population; (4) Relevant transition literature and policies; and (5) Strategies for successful transitions. Sections III-VI each addresses a distinct stage of transition: (1) Entry into the JJ system; (2) Residence; (3) Exit from Secure Care; and (4) Aftercare. Each section provides strategies to improve the transition process at one of the four stages. Strategies specific to facilities, youth, families, and communities/systems are highlighted and examples are provided. Each section also includes pertinent resources, such as sample forms, protocols, and tools used at different stages of the transition process. Appendix A contains a self-study and planning document to guide program improvement at each stage of the transition process. Appendix B includes legal considerations related to transition. Appendix C provides additional information about transition-related requirements in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that are introduced in Section II. Appendix D summarizes Federal funding resources available to support transition programs. Appendix E features highlights of four transition-related programs around the country."

Mathur, S. R., Griller Clark, H., LaCroix, L., & Short, J. (2018). Research-based practices for reintegrating students with emotional and behavioral disorders from the juvenile justice system. Beyond Behavior, 27(1), 28–36. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"This article discusses the unique and influential role of school teachers in the rehabilitation and reintegration of students with emotional and behavioral disorders who have been involved with the juvenile justice (JJ) system. By adopting evidenced based practices, highlighted within this article, teachers can prevent further escalation of students’ negative behaviors and repeated involvement in the JJ system."

New Jersey Department of Education. (2017). New Jersey school reentry strategies to support students returning to school after confinement. Trenton, NJ: Author. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"The New Jersey Department of Education is committed to supporting school districts and youth returning from confinement as they work together for successful reentry. When students are reenrolled in schools and performing well, they are less likely to reoffend and more likely to have success in college and careers along with better economic stability in the future (Cusick et al., 2009; Nellis & Wayman, 2009; Seigle, 2014). Quality educational programs and services are critical for the positive development of all youth. The planned and timely transitioning of youth into the appropriate educational program upon exit from a correctional facility is needed for the greatest likelihood of sustainable success (Leone & Weinberg, 2012). The purpose of this document is to provide information to New Jersey school districts regarding the needs of students entering and exiting confinement. Research on best practices for transition back to school emphasizes a collaborative, supportive process to improve education and reduce recidivism."

Rafa, A. (2018). Suspension and expulsion: What is the issue and why does it matter?: Policy snapshot. Education Commission of the States.

From the Abstract:
"Suspensions and expulsions have long been employed in schools to discipline students for disruptive behavior and maintain a safe school environment. However, a growing body of research suggests that these types of disciplinary interventions negatively impact student achievement and increase both students' risk of dropping out and their likelihood of future involvement with the criminal justice system. The effects of these policies are more pronounced for students of color and students with disabilities, who have historically experienced higher rates of suspensions and expulsions. Recent national data show that black students in K-12 schools are 3.8 times as likely to be suspended, and twice as likely to be expelled, as white students. Similarly, students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to receive out-of-school suspensions as students without disabilities. These racial and gender disparities are evident as early as preschool, where black students are 3.6 times as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension as their white classmates. Additionally, while boys represent 54 percent of preschool enrollment, they constitute 79 percent of all suspended preschool children. Research indicates that a child's early educational experiences greatly influence their development and outcomes later in life, making these data particularly consequential. State policymakers have attempted to address these problems through legislation aimed at striking an appropriate balance between promoting a safe school environment and reducing the adverse effects of harsh disciplinary policies. Generally, recent legislative efforts to address school discipline policies have focused on: (1) Restricting suspension and expulsion by grade level and type of infraction; (2) Limiting the length of exclusion; (3) Implementing reporting requirements; and (4) Supporting re-engagement."

Varga, S. M., Margolius, M., Yan, C. T., Skubel, A., Cole, M. L., & Zaff, J. F. (2019). I'm going back: The re-engagement experiences of Tucson youth. America's Promise Alliance.

From the Abstract:
"Leaving school without graduating presents a significant challenge for young people and for society as a whole. One way communities and school systems are responding to this challenge is with coordinated efforts to re-engage young people in ways that make it more likely for them to earn a diploma. Re-engagement efforts vary across the country but typically involve identifying young people who have, or are at risk of leaving school before graduating, sharing existing re-enrollment options with them, supporting their re-entry into an appropriate educational setting, and providing supports to propel them toward graduation and, ultimately, success in adult life. To understand the barriers and supports to re-engagement and subsequent academic success in Tucson, Arizona, the Center for Promise spoke directly with Tucson youth who are re-engaging with their education. The Center sought to understand why the youth disengaged from their education, why some youth re-engaged while others did not, what factors contributed to or deterred this re-engagement, and what factors contributed to their persistence through high school graduation. Insights from these youth illustrate the vast challenges they face as well as the supports that can help put young people back onto positive educational pathways."


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: (Re-engage OR reengage OR reengagement OR re-engagement), (Re-entry OR reentry), (Re-enroll OR reenroll), (Exclusion OR expulsion OR expelled OR suspended OR suspension), School

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.