Study: When Bullying is Up, Test Scores Are Down

By Liana Loewus — August 12, 2011 1 min read
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A new study finds that schools with more bullying may also have lower test scores, writes Jeannine Stein on a Los Angeles Times health blog.

The study, presented at the American Psychological Association’s recent annual convention in Washington, looked at 9th grade students and teachers at 284 schools in Virginia. In schools with a more intense bullying climate, “passing rates on standardized tests in such subjects as algebra, Earth science and world history were 3% to 6% lower,” explains Stein. The research accounted for school variables including size and percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch.

Researchers note that the results reflect a correlation, not necessarily a cause. But they offer the explanation, according to Stein, that “students who attend schools with high bullying rates may not feel as connected to academics because they’re worried about the harassment, and teachers may be distracted by having to discipline students, leaving less time for lessons.”

It’s clear that individual students who are bullied often begin to have trouble academically. But it’s interesting to see this preliminary aggregate research showing that a culture of bullying affects an entire school—and in terms (i.e., test scores) that policymakers can hear.

For more on the subject, check out our Spotlight on Bullying.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.