This page is related to the Suburban Disparities subpage of the Discipline Disparities page and varied other pages on this site that discuss the way that relative differences in adverse outcomes tend to be larger while relative differences in the corresponding favorable outcomes tend to be smaller within advantaged subpopulations (where the adverse outcomes are less common) than within disadvantaged subpopulations.
In March 2014, DOE and DOJ jointly released a report, titled Data Snapshot: School Discipline, that included information on demographic disparities in suspensions from preschool programs. The report elicited great concern that preschool administrators would find reason to suspend preschoolers in other than the rarest of cases as well concern over what were perceived to be huge racial disparities in suspension rates among preschoolers. No one grasped the connection between the two issues, specifically, that relative differences in suspension rates tended to be especially larger among preschoolers precisely because suspension are so rare in preschools.
Table 1 presents the figures from the report on multiple suspensions (which were the focus of much of the media coverage) both for preschool and K-12. It shows the patterns that persons with an understanding of risk distributions would tend to expect – i.e., larger relative differences in the adverse outcome, but smaller relative differences in the corresponding favorable outcome, in the setting where the adverse outcome is less common. And the EES tells us that, whatever the forces causing multiple suspension rates of blacks and whites to differ, the strength of the forces is essentially the same in preschool as in K-12.
Table 1. White and black rates of multiple suspensions in preschool and K-12, with measures of difference
B/W Susp Ratio
W/B No Susp Ratio
Perceptions about the size of the preschool disparities, however, are likely to cause general reduction in suspension rates among preschoolers. A March 21, 2014 Education Week blog post titled “Researchers Offer Some Solutions to Preschool Discipline Disparities” discussed measures aimed at generally reducing rates as being measures that may reduce the disparities. Reducing discipline rates, however, will tend to increase, not reduce, relative differences in discipline rates.[i] See the California Disparities , Maryland Disparities, Los Angeles SWPBS, and Denver Disparities subpages regarding the way that reductions in discipline rates in those areas led to increased relative differences in discipline rates. See the DOE Equity Report subpage regarding data in a Department of Education report indicating that relative racial differences in expulsions are larger in school districts without zero tolerance policies than in school districts with zero tolerance policies.