RMC Research Analyses of Oregon Public School Data Examine the Relationship between Transition to Middle School and Student Disciplinary Action

RMC Research directs a study funded by the National Institute of Justice Comprehensive School Safety Initiative. The study is designed to take a comprehensive and longitudinal approach to examining school violence and the school-to-prison pipeline through the examination of root causes, consequences of, and implications for Restorative Justice approaches. In one of the first presentations of findings from the study, Dr. Emma Espel (RMC Research) and Dr. Julia Dmitrieva (University of Denver) presented on the topic of individual and school-level influences on discipline offenses for aggression in grades 1-6 at the American Society for Criminology annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia in November 2018.

Research links expulsion to negative academic outcomes and juvenile justice system involvement.  Further, Texas Appleseed (2007) identified where a student attends school is the greatest predictor of the likelihood of a disciplinary referral. School grade configuration has also been linked to disciplinary inequities, with studies demonstrating that students in middle schools are more likely to be cited for discipline problems than same aged peers in K–8 schools (Arcia, 2007; Cook et al., 2008). Two research questions were examined:

The analysis included multilevel short-interrupted time series analysis of longitudinal data nested within students and schools. The model tests students’ probability of receiving a disciplinary referral in Grade 6, relative to their elementary school trends (Grades 1–5), incorporating school-level characteristics, including grade configuration. We compare trends between students that transition into a 6-12 or 6-8 school in Grade 6 to those that continue into Grade 6 in K-12 and K-8 schools. The sample included 5 cohorts of approximately 71,000 Oregon public school students from Grade 3 through Grade 6 2004/05 and 2012/13. Individual- and school‑level characteristics relating to race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status were explored.


Arcia, E. (2007). A comparison of elementary/K-8 and middle schools’ suspension rates. Urban Education, 42 (5), 456-469.

Cook, P.J., MacCoun, R., Muschkin, C., & Vigdor, J. (2008). The negative impacts of starting middle school in sixth grade. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 27(1), 104-121.

Texas Appleseed. (2007). Texas’ school-to-prison pipeline. Dropout to incarceration: The impact of school discipline and zero tolerance. Austin, TX: Author.