How homicides affect test scores - study
School reformers who say that poverty and family circumstance are only excuses for poor student performance might do well to look at a new study which found African-American children in Chicago scoring a lot lower on reading and vocabulary tests within a week of a homicide in their neighborhood -- even if they did not directly witness the violence.
The study was conducted by Patrick Sharkey, a sociologist at New York University, who analyzed 6,041 homicides between 1994 and 2002 in Chicago and testing data of about 1,100 African-Americn children from ages 6 to 17. He looked at scores of tests taken before a homicide and then compared them with test scores from before the violence.
“The results indicate that the impact of violence is not limited to those victimized or those who directly witness an act of violence, but appears to be felt by children across a community who live in close proximity to extreme violent events,” the study says. “This finding has implications for efforts to mitigate the harmful consequences of exposure to violence.”
The problem is acute; homicide remains among the leading causes of death among 15-24 year olds nationally and is the top cause of death among African Americans in this age range, the study says.
Earlier research looked at the impact of long-term exposure to community violence on children’s cognitive and development trajectories, while this study focused on the impact of acute events in children’s environments that might be felt over days or weeks.
The study says that the same negative effort was not seen in data on Hispanic students, though it is not clear why local homicides would generate acute stress among African-Americans and the Hispanics.
“One possible explanation is suggested by an analysis of victims’ race/ethnic backgrounds, which indicates that homicide victims in Hispanics’ neighborhoods are often African American, which could make the homicide less threatening or salient in a child’s life,” the study said. “By contrast, homicide victims in African Americans’ neighborhoods are almost always of the same race.”
Some school reformers like to say that poverty is used as an excuse for the failure of students to progress, and they blame teachers for not ensuring that kids rise above all of the outside factors that might affect how well they do in school.
Would they also say that fear induced by a homicide down the street is also just an excuse?
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| June 15, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: Equity, Research | Tags: effects of homicide on schoolchildren, effects of poverty on school performance, effects of violence on children, new york university research, school reform
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