CHICAGO — New research examines the effectiveness of restorative practices in Chicago high schools.

Bessie Alcantara is the executive director of Alternatives Inc., a provider shaping restorative programming in Chicago Public Schools.

“We have a school that had a ton of other conflict resolution, 17 fights in one school year to three fights,” Alcantara said.

This week, the University of Chicago Education Lab released results of a study examining outcomes for students for CPS high schools, before and after, the district started implementing restorative practices in the 2013/2014 school year.

It encourages self-reflection, empathetic listening and safe spaces for conflict resolution.

The study found a 35% drop in in-school arrests and a 15% drop in arrests out of school.

“Students report having a better school climate so they feel an increased sense of belonging, they feel school is safer, teachers trust them and they trust their teachers,” Dr. Anjali Adukia, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, said.

And with schools still dealing with the impact of the pandemic, they hope the findings will encourage districts to buidl out restorative programs and training, as an alternative to reliance on suspension and expulsion, which have been linked to long-term negative outcomes.

“There is correlation with lower grades, less likely to complete high school, go to college and even more interactions with the justice system,” Alcantara said. “When we have this alternative to punitive practices, our young people are more likely to be successful in life period, in all aspects.”