Additional Resources:

Practice Profile

School-Based Interventions to Reduce Exclusion

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:

Effective - One Meta-Analysis Education - Expulsion/Suspension

Practice Description

Practice Goals
School exclusion, more commonly known as suspension and expulsion in the United States, is broadly defined as a disciplinary measure imposed in reaction to students’ misbehavior (e.g., violations of school policies or laws). Exclusion may include removing students from regular teaching for a period, during which they are not allowed to be present in classrooms (in-school exclusion or suspension) or on school grounds (out-of-school exclusion or suspension). Fixed-term exclusions consist of a certain number of hours or days that students are temporarily suspended from school (Cornell et al. 2011), whereas permanent exclusion involves students being expelled from school, transferred to a different school, or educated outside of the regular educational system (Spink 2011). The goal of these programs is to decrease the prevalence of students’ exclusion and thereby reduce the detrimental effects (i.e., demotivation regarding academic goals, low grades, dropping out), which multiple suspensions or expulsion may have on their learning outcomes and future training or employment opportunities.

Target Populations
The interventions tend to target students between the ages of 4 and 18 in non-specialized elementary, middle, and high schools. Some interventions target the whole school, others target individual students or teachers.

Practice Components
The interventions focus on changes at the school or teacher level or on changing student skills or behaviors. These interventions are often grouped into the following nine categories:

  1. Enhancement of academic skills to improve academic performance, increase motivation, and promote more adaptive behavior.
  2. After-school programs that provide academic support, paid apprenticeships, or recreational activities.
  3. Mentoring/monitoring programs that involve structured and supportive relationships between a young person and a non-parental adult who serve as role models providing support, supervising academic performance, providing advice, and assisting with academic tasks.
  4. Social skills trainings programs to enhance students' socio-cognitive, socio-emotional, and behavior skills to regulate maladaptive behaviors.
  5. Skills trainings for teachers that help teachers establish clear classroom rules and facilitate mutual respect between teachers and students.
  6. School-wide interventions that involve multiple actors and aim to create positive environments, with clear rules that promote good behavior, learning, and safety.
  7. Violence reduction programs that specifically target increasing self-control and reducing violence in schools.
  8. Counseling and mental health interventions that focus on providing services within schools or through specialized services from community mental health providers.
  9. Other interventions that involve multiple components, including community service, career awareness, character-building and civic engagement.
These school-based interventions are delivered on school premises or supported by schools with at least one component implemented in the school setting. They can be delivered by school staff (with or without assistance from external facilitators), school psychologists or counselors, and police or probation officers. Interventions vary in length and usually range from 12 weeks to 24 weeks, depending on the program.

Meta-Analysis Outcomes

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Effective - One Meta-Analysis Education - Expulsion/Suspension
Aggregating the results of 38 effect sizes across 37 randomized controlled trials, Valdebenito and colleagues (2019) found that students in the treatment group experienced a statistically significant reduction in school exclusion 6 months post-treatment, compared with the control group (standardized mean difference = 0.30). This suggests that students participating in school-based interventions were less likely to be excluded (i.e., suspended or expelled) from school, compared with students who did not participate.
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Meta-Analysis Methodology

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Meta-Analysis Snapshot
 Literature Coverage DatesNumber of StudiesNumber of Study Participants
Meta-Analysis 11980 - 20153737895

Meta-Analysis 1
Valdebenito and colleagues (2019) conducted a meta-analysis to determine the impact of school-based interventions on exclusion. The comprehensive search strategy included a keyword search of electronic databases (such as Criminal Justice Abstracts, ERIC, and PsycINFO) between September and December 2015. Key authors were also contacted for information on primary studies to be included in the review and lists of references from previous primary studies and reviews related to school-based interventions or exclusion were also assessed. There were no language restrictions placed on the searches, as long as the abstract was written in English. The methodological quality of each included study was evaluated using the Cochrane Effective Practice and Organization of Care risk-of-bias tool (Cochrane Effective Practice and Organization of Care 2007).

Literature included in the meta-analysis was drawn from published or unpublished studies from 1980 onward. Only studies with interventions that met the following criteria were included: 1) were randomized controlled trials; 2) targeted students from 4 to 18 years of age, irrespective of nationality, ethnicity, language, and cultural or socioeconomic background (studies involving students with serious mental disabilities or those in need of special schools were excluded); 3) were school-based interventions (delivered on school premises or supported by schools with at least one component implemented in the school setting); 4) encompassed a wide range of theoretical bases (targeting students or the whole school); and 5) addressed school exclusion as an outcome, regardless of whether the exclusion was fixed or permanent, in-school or out-of-school.

A total of 37 randomized controlled studies (reporting 38 effect sizes) of school-based interventions were included in the analysis. Included studies represented interventions carried out between 1980 and December 1, 2015. These studies were roughly equal in terms of being published (51 percent) or unpublished reports (49 percent). All were written in English and primarily represented studies from the United States (89 percent) and United Kingdom (8 percent). The remaining 3 percent represented one study in which the country of the sample was not reported.

In the meta-analysis, the mean age of the sample was 13 years old. The students attended schools with a high percentage of black (54 percent) and Latino students (20 percent). Approximately two thirds of students were eligible for/receiving free school meals (66 percent). A wide range of school-based interventions were included in the review, organized into the following nine categories: 1) enhancement of academic skills, 2) afterschool programs, 3) mentoring/monitoring programs, 4) social skills training for students, 5) skills training for teachers, 6) schoolwide interventions, 7) violence reduction, 8) counseling and mental health interventions, and 9) other interventions. Broadly, 27 percent of the interventions were focused on changes at the school or teacher level, and 73 percent focused on changing students’ skills/behaviors to affect exclusion rates. School staff (32 percent) or school staff assisted by external facilitators (24 percent) delivered the interventions. Most of those delivering the interventions were school psychologists or counselors (32 percent), and in two studies (5 percent), the intervention was delivered by police or probation officers. Forty percent of the interventions were designed and/or delivered by the same researchers who also evaluated the impact of the intervention. Thirty-eight percent of the interventions were delivered over a period of 12 weeks or less, and an equal percentage were delivered over a period of more than 24 weeks.

In 23 studies, the control group received no treatment, 6 studies reported controls receiving treatment as usual, 4 offered a placebo to the control group, and 4 allocated controls via a waiting list. Regarding the unit of randomization, 70 percent of the studies randomized individuals, and almost 30 percent randomized clusters of students, either as entire schools or classrooms. The measures of exclusion reported in the included studies were mainly based on official records (81 percent) provided by schools or other official institutions.

Using a random effects model, standardized mean differences were calculated to measure program effects between the treatment and control groups. Using a 95-percent confidence interval, mean effect sizes were calculated for all 37 studies. Moderator and meta-regression analyses were also conducted.
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There is no cost information available for this practice.
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Other Information

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Valdebenito and colleagues (2019) conducted additional analyses on a subset of studies in the meta-analysis to determine the long-term (12 months or more) impact of school-based interventions to reduce exclusion. They found that students in the treatment group experienced a reduction in school exclusion 12 months post-implementation; however, the finding was not statistically significant.

The authors also conducted subgroup analyses (or moderator analyses) to see whether the following factors had an impact on mean effect size and improved outcomes: 1) gender, 2) age, 3) type of intervention, 4) theoretical basis of the intervention, 5) quality of the intervention, 6) reasons for conducting the research, 7) cluster versus individual levels studies, and 8) evaluator role. One moderator analysis found that five types of interventions presented positive (small-to-moderate effect sizes) and statistically significant results in favor of the reduction of school exclusion. These five types were as follows: 1) enhancement of academic skills, 2) mentoring/monitoring, 3) skills training for teachers, 4) counseling/mental health services, and 5) other programs with components such as community service.
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Evidence-Base (Meta-Analyses Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Meta-Analysis 1
Valdebenito, Sara, Manuel Eisner, David P. Farrington, Maria M. Ttofi, and Alex Sutherland. 2019. “What Can We Do to Reduce Disciplinary School Exclusion? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Experimental Criminology 15:253–87.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the practice profile:

Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care (EPOC). 2017. Suggested Risk of Bias Criteria for EPOC Reviews. EPOC Resources for Review Authors. Retrieved January 3, 2020, from

Cornell, Dewey G., Korrie Allen, and Xitao Fan. 2012. “A Randomized Controlled Study of the Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines in Kindergarten through Grade 12.” School Psychology Review 41(1):100–15.

Farrell, Albert D., Aleta L. Meyer, and Kamila S. White. 2001. “Evaluation of Responding in Peaceful and Positive Ways (RIPP): A School-Based Prevention Program for Reducing Violence Among Urban Adolescents.” Journal of Clinical Child Psychology 30(4):451–63.

Ialongo, Nick, Jeanne Poduska, Lisa Werthamer, and Sheppard Kellam. 2001. “The Distal Impact of Two First-Grade Preventive Interventions on Conduct Problems and Disorder in Early Adolescence.” Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders 9(3):146–60.

Spink, Lucy. “Disciplinary Exclusion: The Impact of Intervention and Influence of School Ethos.” PhD diss., Newcastle University, 2011.

Wyman, Peter. A., Wendi Cross, Hendricks Brown, Qin Yu, Xin Tu, and Shirley Eberly. 2010. “Intervention to Strengthen Emotional Self-Regulation in Children With Emerging Mental Health Problems: Proximal Impact on School Behavior.” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 38(24):707–20.
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Related Programs

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Following are programs that are related to this practice:

Responding in Peaceful and Positive Ways (RIPP) Promising - One study
This program for middle school students is designed to provide conflict-resolution strategies and skills to reduce aggressive behavior and prevent violence. The program is rated Promising. Overall, findings were mixed. Results indicated a statistically significant reduction in violent disciplinary code violations and favorable attitudes toward violence for participants, compared with the control group. However, there were no differences between groups in drug use, anxiety, or aggression.

Good Behavior Game Promising - One study
This is a classroom management strategy designed to reduce aggressive and disruptive classroom behavior and create a classroom environment that is conducive to learning for students, ages 6 to 10. The program is rated Promising. At the 14-year follow up, the treatment group had statistically significant reductions in levels of alcohol-related disorders and antisocial personality disorder compared with participants in the control group.

Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) Promising - More than one study
This is a school-based program to prevent school failure and teen pregnancy by engaging teens for at least 9 months in curriculum-guided discussion and community service learning. The program is rated Promising. Participants experienced significantly lower levels of teenage pregnancy, course failure, and school suspension than students in the control group.

The Peacemakers Program Promising - One study
A school-based violence reduction intervention for grades 4 through 8. The program’s primary objectives were to prevent violence and improve interpersonal behavior among youth. The program is rated Promising. There was a significant decrease in self-reported measures of aggression; an increase in psychosocial skills; a decrease in disciplinary incidents; less involvement in conflict mediation; and fewer suspensions for violent behavior compared with the control group.

Peers Making Peace Promising - One study
A peer-mediation program designed to handle conflicts both in and out of school and to help maintain drug-free schools. The program is rated Promising. The treatment group had fewer assaults, expulsions, discipline referrals, absences, a greater improvement in self-efficacy, and significantly improved in academic performance.

Rochester Resilience Project (RRP) Promising - One study
A school-based intervention to improve the social-emotional and behavioral skills of young children (K – 3rd grade) at risk for mental health disorders and substance abuse. This program is rated Promising. The program had a significant, positive effect on measures of children’s task orientation, behavior control, assertiveness, and peer social skills. The program was also associated with a significant decline in the average numbers of suspensions and office disciplinary referrals.

School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS) Effective - More than one study
A universal, school-wide prevention strategy aimed at reducing behavior problems that lead to office discipline referrals and suspensions, and change perceptions of school safety. The program is rated Effective. Students in the SWPBIS schools received significantly fewer school suspensions than students in schools that did not receive SWPBIS training. Perceptions of safety improved in the schools that implemented SWPBIS, but declined in the schools that did not implement SWPBIS.

Achievement Mentoring Program (AMP) Promising - One study
An intervention for urban minority freshmen at risk of dropping out of high school. The goal was to enhance school-related cognitions and behaviors. The program is rated Promising. The program did not significantly impact students’ absences, grade point averages, or decision-making efficacy, but had significant effects on discipline referrals, negative school behavior, performance in mathematics and language arts, and other self-reported outcomes.

Prime Time No Effects - One study
The program aims to reduce precursors of teen pregnancy, including sexual risk behaviors, involvement in violence, and disconnection from school. The program is rated No Effects. There were mixed findings in the evaluations of Prime Time. There were some small significant effects on a few outcomes, but there were no significant differences between groups on the majority of the outcomes. Overall, the preponderance of evidence suggests the program did not have a significant impact on girls.
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Practice Snapshot

Age: 4 - 18

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Hispanic

Targeted Population: Truants/Dropouts

Settings: School

Practice Type: Academic Skills Enhancement, Afterschool/Recreation, Classroom Curricula, Leadership and Youth Development, Mentoring, School/Classroom Environment, Truancy Prevention

Unit of Analysis: Persons

Sara Valdebenito
Research Associate
Violence Research Centre at the University of Cambridge
Institute of Criminology, Sidgwick Avenue
Cambridge CB3 9DA