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Indicator: Positive behavior


Students are not suspended or expelled from school and do not experience other types of exclusionary discipline, such as restraint and seclusion.


Percentage of children who do not experience any of the following: in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions, disciplinary use of restraint and seclusion, or expulsions

Data Source(s)

Administrative data

Why it matters

Being subjected to disciplinary action in school is negatively related to a host of academic outcomes that are key to student success, including attendance, course passing, standardized test achievement, high school graduation, and college enrollment. Because it is a strong predictor of later outcomes, student behavior—as measured by disciplinary actions—is a component of many early warning indicators, along with attendance and course grades (these three primary predictors are known as the ABCs of early warning) However, disciplinary actions are a flawed measure of student behavior as they also reflect bias in disciplinary practices. Black and Latino students, students experiencing poverty, and students with disabilities experience suspensions at disproportionate rates. For instance, Black students are nearly four times as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than White students. Black and Latino students are also more likely than White students to be expelled for similar behavior. There is evidence that racial disparities in suspension rates are larger in counties with higher racial bias, as measured by data on implicit and explicit bias from 1.6 million respondents across the country. Racial disparities in exposure to exclusionary discipline start early on: Black preschoolers are 3.6 times as likely to receive one or more suspensions as White preschoolers.

What to know about measurement

Although the absence of exclusionary discipline is not a perfect measure of positive behavior, we recommend using the proposed metric as the most feasible proxy given the widespread availability of discipline data and their value in predicting future academic outcomes. As a system condition, we also recommend monitoring disproportionality in suspensions and other disciplinary actions (see the indicator on equitable discipline practices in the E-W system conditions section) to address bias.

Schools regularly collect discipline data as part of their normal operations. Although suspensions and expulsions are generally defined and tracked comparably, there are opportunities for states to apply more consistent definitions in determining what counts as physical restraint and seclusion. They can do so by adopting the revised federal definitions proposed by the Office of Civil Rights (see Arundel for a discussion of the challenges in defining and reporting restraint and seclusion in schools).

Source frameworks

This indicator appeared in eight source frameworks reviewed for this report. Several frameworks mention “disciplinary action,” including the P-16 Framework, the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) Birth to Grade 3 framework, and the National Education Association’s (NEA) Great Public Schools Indicators Framework. Research by CORE Districts, Council of the Great City Schools, and the Urban Institute also include measures of suspension and/or expulsion rates.


The framework's recommendations are based on syntheses of existing research. Please see the framework report for a list of works cited.

This website was funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.