Suspensions Used to Game Test Results

K-12 Testing
In response to high-stakes testing pressures, Florida schools suspended low-scoring students to exclude them from high-stakes testing and thereby improve test results, according to a recently published study by University of Florida economist David Figlio.


Figlio found clear evidence that lower scoring students were more likely to be suspended during test time and for longer periods than higher scoring classmates. He said that while it is not uncommon for schools to give harsher punishments to lower achieving students, this punishment gap grows substantially during testing periods and was only seen in the tested grades.


Figlio compared the punishment received by lower scoring and higher scoring students for the same type of infractions to see if there was a link between how students performed on tests the year before and what kind of punishment they received. He discovered lower and higher scoring students received different punishments nearly 60 percent of the time.


Students with the lowest FCAT scores were suspended for an average of 2.35 days, with 23 percent receiving sentences lasting one week or longer. Higher scorers were suspended an average of 1.91 days, and only 18 percent for one week or longer.


Figlio looked at data from the first four years of implementation of Florida's state test, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. He analyzed student suspension rates, looking at 41,803 incidents in 504 elementary, middle and high schools.


Filgio's findings were published in the May 2006 edition of the Journal of Public Economics. It is downloadable via