What is it about?

Zero tolerance, an easy and fast countermeasure to delinquency, mandates ‘predetermined consequences or punishments for specific offenses’. However, would it be possible for the punitive approach to stop youths from going through the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’? Rather, adolescents need more careful guidance for minor infractions through preventative interventions. This study attempted to answer two questions: ‘Do current delinquency prevention programs decrease exclusionary discipline practices (EDP)?’ and ‘Do student–teacher trust and parental contact with school mediate the effectiveness of prevention programs on suspensions?’

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Why is it important?

Many program evaluations use statistical methods to examine the effects of an intervention on a treatment group compared to a control group. However, comparisons derived from non-random assignments are often conducted in observational data settings, as random treatment assignment is often not practical. This uncertainty creates challenges in estimating the causal effect of the program intervention. The authors applied propensity score matching to the situation of non-equivalency to resolve inherent selection bias and improve identification of the biased estimate of a causal effect.

Perspectives

Trust in teachers and parental involvement in the educational arena are effective mediums to reduce adolescent disciplinary practices, since the resilience of school functionalities has been recognized not only as a mediator to overcome both educational problems (e.g. academic failure and increasing youth crimes) and social pathology (e.g. family dissolution and demise of trust) but also as a concept to respond to the recently deepened polarization in education. The authors suggested considering the use of student trust in teachers and parental contact with school as policy tools for creating more effective disciplinary practices.

Program Evaluation Researcher & STEM Educator, Jiwon N. Speers
University of Central Florida

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This page is a summary of: Effectiveness of delinquency prevention program using propensity score matching: is trust in teachers a turning point in zero-tolerance policies?, International Review of Public Administration, April 2018, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.1080/12294659.2018.1473942.
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