This report assesses the efficacy of the Circles of School program in Boston Public schools.
The current study presents implementation and impact findings of a cluster randomized control trial examining a school-wide restorative practices model called Circle Forward. Overall, the study team found implementation of Circle Forward generally was happening as intended in the intervention schools. The Tier 1 training occurred as planned and the circles that staff were implementing in schools fit the CF model both in terms of format and expected behavior. The one implementation area that was lower than expected were staff attendance rates at the Tier 1 training. Previous research has indicated that multi-tiered professional development is important for implementation of restorative practices, including initial Tier 1 training that is school-wide and covers basic restorative principles to build knowledge and buy in. Each intervention school had a dedicated group of RLT members who implemented circles, planned professional development about circles, provided ongoing support for implementation, and helped encourage staff to use circles in their classrooms. With support from RLT staff as well as knowledge gained from the Tier 1 training, staff could create avenues for students to share their thoughts. Often, school staff implemented advisory circles with their students, which encouraged them to connect with others by voicing their opinions and discussing personal and nonacademic topics. Through this process, students also learned more about their peers and teachers and developed stronger relationships. In turn, these positive staff-student relationships and relationships between students helped build a positive, inclusive classroom climate. This finding is consistent with earlier research describing teacher and student perspectives in Tier 1 circle implementation and how it created space for student ownership and voice, as well as the clear connection to broader social-emotional learning. Further, others have indicated the importance of explicitly considering student participation and inclusion as a basic indicator of restorative practices implementation.
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