CUES Releases Practitioner Brief Examining the Impact of a Restorative Practices Culture on K-12 Urban Schools

The Center for Urban Education Success (CUES) at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education released a practitioner brief describing the work of three schools located in urban districts of New York City and Rochester, N.Y. that have shifted to and embraced a restorative practices culture—one that is based on a different set of values than the punitive system that is still common in some K-12 schools today. The brief, titled Becoming Restorative: Three Schools Transitioning to a Restorative Practices Culture, is available on CUES’s practitioner briefs webpage, where an initial brief highlighting the literature around restorative practices in schools posted earlier this year.
East students and staffAs explained in the first brief from CUES, restorative practices are an increasingly acknowledged and employed viable alternative to punitive measures addressing school discipline, student behavior, and relationships. For example, mounting evidence shows that punitive discipline is not only ineffective in reducing behavioral incidents but also detrimental to students, particularly those of color, as it leads to a collection of problems, including social justice offenses, fueling the school-to-prison pipeline, decreased achievement, increased misbehavior, and an increased likelihood that communities both inside and outside of school will suffer. Restorative practices offer something else—community, relationship, repair, decreased incidences of misbehavior, improved school culture, decreased racial discipline gap, and student agency—and can improve the experiences of the entire school community, including staff, parents, teachers, administrators, and especially students.
To illustrate and document the successes, as well as the challenges, of a restorative practices approach, CUES summarizes findings in the current practitioner brief from a series of administered interviews with representatives from three schools, Leadership and Public Service High School (LPS) in Manhattan, World of Inquiry School (WOIS) in Rochester, and East Lower and Upper Schools (East) in Rochester, all committed to restorative justice reform. Additional interviews, conducted by The New York Times Magazine with LPS staff, are included to supplement these findings.
The brief highlights some important similarities among the schools’ experiences in their culture transitions that have been organized into eight categories, including: Leadership, Community Building, Relationships, Whole School Buy-In, Community Agencies, Training, Sustainability, and Time.
Among some of the findings are:
  • Restorative practices success and survival require involving the entire school community, both inside and outside the building.
  • Transitioning to a restorative practices culture takes time—even several years—and patience.
  • Financial support from districts, ongoing training, and a clear vision are instrumental for sustaining the restorative practices culture that schools work hard to establish.
“The brief provides specific insights from the students, teachers, social workers, and administrators who are experiencing their schools’ transitions to a restorative practices culture, potentially informing the implementation of restorative practices in other urban school communities across the country,” says Valerie Marsh, assistant director of CUES and author of both briefs. “We hope that this report will help practitioners and school officials to understand and illustrate the pivotal role of restorative practices in advancing the health and well-being of the members of their school communities.”
In June 2017, Warner School Professor Kara Finnigan coauthored a National Education Policy Center (NEPC) policy brief, titled “Law and Order in School and Society: How Discipline and Policing Policies Harm Students of Color, and What We Can Do About It.” The report demonstrated how attempts to achieve “law and order” unfairly target students of color with a systemic form of violence that harms their abilities to secure equitable and just schooling. The report offers recommendations, including the integration of community-based policing programs with school restorative and transformative justice initiatives, to shift the emphasis from discipline and punishment to capacity building, relationship building, and positive behavioral interventions and support. Read the full report and recommendations.
The Center for Urban Education Success (CUES) is designed to support the success of K-12 urban schools both locally and nationally through a combination of clinical and academic research, relationship building with other institutions, and a commitment to pursue and share best practices. Grounded in the University of Rochester’s partnership with East, CUES brings together educational programs, community outreach, research about urban schools, and the University’s work at East. Thus, CUES is creating a model for urban school improvement and a robust clearinghouse of research, practitioner guides, and other resources to support urban schools and the challenges they face.
View the second full practitioner brief Becoming Restorative: Three Schools Transitioning to a Restorative Practices Culture published by CUES. For additional information, contact CUES at 585.210.9754 or urcues@warner.rochester.edu, or visit urcues.org.
About the Warner School of Education
Founded in 1958, the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education offers master’s and doctoral degree programs in teaching and curriculum, school leadership, higher education, educational policy, counseling, human development, and health professions education. The Warner School of Education offers PhD programs and an accelerated EdD option that allows eligible students to earn a doctorate in education in as few as three years part time while holding a professional job in the same field. The Warner School of Education is recognized both regionally and nationally for its tradition of preparing practitioners and researchers to become leaders and agents of change in schools, universities, and community agencies; generating and disseminating research; and actively participating in education reform. 
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Tags: Center for Urban Education Success, East, East Upper and Lower Schools, restorative justice, restorative practices, Valerie Marsh