Identifying Best Practices in Implementation of Restorative Practices in Elementary Schools
April 16 @ 3 pm
The purpose of this qualitative research study was to explore the perceptions of educators involved with the initial implementation of Restorative Justice in four urban elementary schools. This quality improvement study included 26 participants who were involved in a focus group using semi-structured, open-ended questions and prompts. The research participants were identified on a Restorative Justice team within their school and a part of the implementation phase. The data identified three major factors in support of the initial implementation of Restorative Justice at each of the four schools studied using a priori codes to analyze the data. The a priori codes used to guide the data analysis included, (a) restorative positions within the school, (b) strategic plan, (c) ongoing professional development for all stakeholders, (d) leadership, and (e) system of collection and monitoring of data.
The data revealed three major findings for this QI study in alignment with the a priori codes: (1) Strategic planning to include systems of planning and implementation of RJ to include a continuous improvement cycle and quality professional development, (2) Leadership: District, school, community partnerships, parent involvement and student leadership are key stakeholders in the implementation process of Restorative Justice in elementary schools, and (3) RJ impact and Mindset Shift: To incorporate the impact of RJ on restorative teams, policies and practices for discipline aligning with the philosophy of RJ, additional resources in supporting RJ implementation and finding avenues to support crisis and extreme behaviors. All the findings are indicators that implementation components are critical to the successful outcomes of restorative practices as an alternate approach to handling discipline issues in elementary schools.
The implementation process requires a continuous improvement cycle to implement, review, employ, and evaluate each stage to determine the necessary adjustments to support the shift in the school culture to a restorative school. The data collected through a QI research study, supports the data and research in previous studies and literature. When the urban school district decided to shift from a punitive discipline policies and procedures within the elementary schools, they did this through a community partnership and professional development plan to create effective behavioral strategies and supports for schools. The ultimate goal of RJ implementation was to create a mindset shift in the educators that work in this urban school district that had an overabundance of out of school suspensions due to overwhelming behavioral incidents.
It is important to indicate that this study cannot be generalized to other schools or districts, as there is only preliminary data and information on initial implementation from four elementary schools. It did provide recommendations to support reflection and procedures for the research site district and schools regarding the implementation of RJ. These recommendations include that a strategic plan is a necessity with the support of quality professional development and opportunities for guided reflection on the systems, vision, goals and application of restorative interventions. Second, the leadership within the district and school are necessities to be invested, actively involved, and provide encouragement and guidance for teachers, families and students to have leadership opportunities within the restorative school model. Third, a quantitative study is recommended to support the exploration of concrete data to determine the impact restorative justice is having on the school site and district to review disciplinary data and outcomes. The initial implementation stages of Restorative Justice occurred at this urban school district and with the provided research data and recommendations there are opportunities to learn from this study on the process of shifting a school to be restorative.