Evaluating the Consequences of Suspension Reform for Special Education Placement and Services
Jo Al Khafaji-King

About the research

Award

NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year

2024

Institution

New York University

Primary Discipline

Educational Policy
Suspension bans have become a common policy response to counter high rates and disproportionalities in exclusionary discipline in K-12 public schools. However, little is known about the methods school personnel employ when suspension is no longer permitted, and even less is understood about the ensuing impacts of these alternative strategies. My dissertation evaluates the 2012 suspension ban in New York City (NYC), focusing on the impact of the ban on subjective special education classifications and, additionally, the impact of ban-induced classifications on student attendance, achievement, and graduation rates. I frame my results using Disability Critical Race Theory (Annamma et al., 2013), conceptualizing high stigma disability labels---as defined by Fish (2019)---as a partial substitute for suspension, while also recognizing that students who may have been excluded via suspension may now be receiving needed services when suspension is no longer permitted. I use longitudinal, student-level data from NYC Public Schools (NYCPS) to estimate these impacts. First, I leverage an event study difference-in-differences framework to estimate the increase in subjective special education classifications on average and for specific subgroups. Next, I estimate a student fixed effects model to compare the impact of special education for students classified post-ban relative to the pre-ban impact of classification. Taken together, my dissertation provides key evidence for policymakers interested in using suspension bans to reduce reliance on suspension, and provides a strong connection between suspension and special education that, until now, has been relatively theoretical or associative.
About Jo Al Khafaji-King
Jo Al Khafaji-King is a PhD candidate in Public Policy and Administration at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service. They are also an Institute of Education Sciences-funded Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training (IES-PIRT) fellow. Jo studies K-12 education policy in the U.S., with an emphasis on how exclusionary school discipline policies may impact equitable outcomes for marginalized groups, and how schools manage student behavior---whether through suspension, special education classification, or police in schools. Their work is framed by the economics of education and sociology literatures, and uses rigorous quantitative methods to understand investigate and estimate causal relationships between policy and student outcomes. Currently, their research focuses on inequities in school discipline and policing practices, how community-wide layoff events and social safety net policies interact to influence exclusionary discipline, as well as the unintended consequences of school discipline reform. Prior to their PhD at NYU Wagner, Jo earned their MA in Economics from Miami University of Ohio and their BA in Economics and Spanish from Western Washington University.

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