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Washington State Institute for Public Policy
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Restorative justice in schools

Pre-K to 12 Education
Benefit-cost methods last updated December 2023.  Literature review updated March 2020.
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Restorative justice is a set of principles that guide responses to conflict and harm within a community, in this case, a school community. In place of punitive punishment on perpetrators of school harm (e.g., suspensions or expulsions), restorative justice allows for a student to restore that which they harmed to its original state.

In this analysis, the primary restorative justice model implemented is SaferSanerSchools™, which uses 11 essential elements that support whole-school change. Licensed teachers and school staff are trained and coached in the SaferSanerSchools™ model, to act as mediators between students and engage in mentorship that aims to improve school attendance, test scores, and delinquent behavior.
As an example, in the SaferSanerSchools™ model, a student who is consistently disruptive in class is placed within in-school suspension (ISS), rather than a suspension where they are removed from the school community entirely. While in ISS, the student must speak with a teacher who is trained as a mentor and reflects on the student’s behavior to promote positive change in the student and in the student’s classroom. In the included studies, student outcomes in schools with restorative justice policies were compared to similar schools without such policies.
For an overview of WSIPP's Benefit-Cost Model, please see this guide. The estimates shown are present value, life cycle benefits and costs. All dollars are expressed in the base year chosen for this analysis (2022). The chance the benefits exceed the costs are derived from a Monte Carlo risk analysis. The details on this, as well as the economic discount rates and other relevant parameters are described in our Technical Documentation.
Benefit-Cost Summary Statistics Per Participant
Benefits to:
Taxpayers ($1,937) Benefits minus costs ($9,182)
Participants ($4,686) Benefit to cost ratio ($56.19)
Others ($2,345) Chance the program will produce
Indirect ($54) benefits greater than the costs 11%
Total benefits ($9,022)
Net program cost ($161)
Benefits minus cost ($9,182)

^WSIPP’s benefit-cost model does not monetize this outcome.

Meta-analysis is a statistical method to combine the results from separate studies on a program, policy, or topic in order to estimate its effect on an outcome. WSIPP systematically evaluates all credible evaluations we can locate on each topic. The outcomes measured are the types of program impacts that were measured in the research literature (for example, crime or educational attainment). Treatment N represents the total number of individuals or units in the treatment group across the included studies.

An effect size (ES) is a standard metric that summarizes the degree to which a program or policy affects a measured outcome. If the effect size is positive, the outcome increases. If the effect size is negative, the outcome decreases. See Estimating Program Effects Using Effect Sizes for additional information.

Adjusted effect sizes are used to calculate the benefits from our benefit cost model. WSIPP may adjust effect sizes based on methodological characteristics of the study. For example, we may adjust effect sizes when a study has a weak research design or when the program developer is involved in the research. The magnitude of these adjustments varies depending on the topic area.

WSIPP may also adjust the second ES measurement. Research shows the magnitude of some effect sizes decrease over time. For those effect sizes, we estimate outcome-based adjustments which we apply between the first time ES is estimated and the second time ES is estimated. We also report the unadjusted effect size to show the effect sizes before any adjustments have been made. More details about these adjustments can be found in our Technical Documentation.

Meta-Analysis of Program Effects
Outcomes measured Treatment age No. of effect sizes Treatment N Adjusted effect sizes(ES) and standard errors(SE) used in the benefit - cost analysis Unadjusted effect size (random effects model)
First time ES is estimated Second time ES is estimated
ES SE Age ES SE Age ES p-value
11 2 49694 -0.058 0.021 11 n/a n/a n/a -0.058 0.006
11 1 4470 0.057 0.021 12 n/a n/a n/a 0.057 0.007
11 2 2948 -0.055 0.026 12 -0.039 0.029 17 -0.055 0.036
11 1 5124 -0.006 0.020 12 -0.006 0.020 20 -0.006 0.761
1In addition to the outcomes measured in the meta-analysis table, WSIPP measures benefits and costs estimated from other outcomes associated with those reported in the evaluation literature. For example, empirical research demonstrates that high school graduation leads to reduced crime. These associated measures provide a more complete picture of the detailed costs and benefits of the program.

2“Others” includes benefits to people other than taxpayers and participants. Depending on the program, it could include reductions in crime victimization, the economic benefits from a more educated workforce, and the benefits from employer-paid health insurance.

3“Indirect benefits” includes estimates of the net changes in the value of a statistical life and net changes in the deadweight costs of taxation.
Detailed Monetary Benefit Estimates Per Participant
Affected outcome: Resulting benefits:1 Benefits accrue to:
Taxpayers Participants Others2 Indirect3 Total
Crime Criminal justice system $52 $0 $125 $26 $203
Test scores Labor market earnings associated with test scores ($1,989) ($4,686) ($2,470) $0 ($9,145)
Program cost Adjustment for deadweight cost of program $0 $0 $0 ($80) ($80)
Totals ($1,937) ($4,686) ($2,345) ($54) ($9,022)
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Detailed Annual Cost Estimates Per Participant
Annual cost Year dollars Summary
Program costs $72 2018 Present value of net program costs (in 2022 dollars) ($161)
Comparison costs $0 2018 Cost range (+ or -) 40%
To calculate the per-participant costs, we assume the materials and teacher-time as reported in Augustine, C.H., Engberg, J., Grimm, G.E., Lee, E., Wang, E.L., Christianson, K., & Joseph, A. (2018). Can restorative practices improve school climate and curb suspensions?: An evaluation of the impact of restorative practices in a mid-sized urban school district. Rand Corporation. We estimate that teachers will spend approximately 50 hours engaged in SanerSaferSchools™ training and implementation in a school of roughly 233 students (per Augustine et al., 2018). We apply the average Washington State compensation costs (including benefits) for a K–6 teacher as reported by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Also, we account for costs of two-days of training, SaferSanerSchools™ materials, and coaching for school principals (as reported in Augustine et al., 2018).
The figures shown are estimates of the costs to implement programs in Washington. The comparison group costs reflect either no treatment or treatment as usual, depending on how effect sizes were calculated in the meta-analysis. The cost range reported above reflects potential variation or uncertainty in the cost estimate; more detail can be found in our Technical Documentation.
Benefits Minus Costs
Benefits by Perspective
Taxpayer Benefits by Source of Value
Benefits Minus Costs Over Time (Cumulative Discounted Dollars)
The graph above illustrates the estimated cumulative net benefits per-participant for the first fifty years beyond the initial investment in the program. We present these cash flows in discounted dollars. If the dollars are negative (bars below $0 line), the cumulative benefits do not outweigh the cost of the program up to that point in time. The program breaks even when the dollars reach $0. At this point, the total benefits to participants, taxpayers, and others, are equal to the cost of the program. If the dollars are above $0, the benefits of the program exceed the initial investment.

Citations Used in the Meta-Analysis

Augustine, C.H., Engberg, J., Grimm, G.E., Lee, E., Wang, E.L., Christianson, K., & Joseph, A. (2018). Can restorative practices improve school climate and curb suspensions?: An evaluation of the impact of restorative practices in a mid-sized urban school district. Rand Corporation.

Davidson, M., Penner, A.M., & Penner, E.K. (2019). Restorative for all? Racial disproportionality and school discipline under restorative justice. Annenberg Brown University.