The purpose and overarching goal of this project, entitled Pursuing Equitable Restorative Communities, is to measure the capacity of restorative practices to improve the safety and climate in our schools. Data collected on the effectiveness of this intervention in targeted schools will be used to inform the district's decision to disseminate restorative practices across all schools. Significantly high numbers of PPS students report that they must fight to defend themselves and attendance rates at many of our schools reflect this concern. Motivated by the positive outcomes that restorative practices have demonstrated in a growing number of settings, we intend to implement a restorative practices intervention in Pittsburgh to address problematic school climates, high rates of violence and disproportionately high suspension rates among African American male students.
We will partner with RAND Corporation to provide objective evaluation on the impact of restorative practices on school safety and climate, and with the International Institute for Restorative Practices who will provide access to its SaferSanerSchools, Whole-School Change intervention, a comprehensive school climate reform program that proactively builds relationships and connections while also providing a disciplinary alternative to existing punitive and zero-tolerance policies like out-of-school suspensions. The project will be guided by the following research goals to (1) assess fidelity of restorative practices implementation; (2) assess effectiveness of restorative practices; and (3) determine the likelihood of sustainability. RAND will employ a randomized controlled trial, selecting half of 50 eligible schools (serving approximately 10,000 students) to implement restorative practices during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years. The other half of the eligible schools will serve as control schools, whose experiences will be compared to the experiences of the treatment schools, with the differences indicating the impact of the restorative practices program. This project, particularly if coupled with two other RAND evaluations of restorative practices in other contexts, provides an opportunity to provide the National Institutes of Justice and the field more broadly with rigorous evidence generated through random school assignment on whether schools and districts should invest in this particular restorative practices intervention.