Troubled kids hurt classmates' test scores, behavior

Sep 10, 2008

Troubled children hurt their classmates' math and reading scores and worsen their behavior, according to new research by economists at the University of California, Davis, and University of Pittsburgh.

The study, "Externalities in the Classroom: How Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Affect Everyone's Kids," was published in August by the National Bureau of Economic Research and is available online at papers.nber.org/papers/w14246.

Scott Carrell, an assistant professor of economics at UC Davis, and co-author Mark Hoekstra, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Pittsburgh, cross-referenced standardized test results and school disciplinary records with court restraining order petitions filed in domestic violence cases for more than 40,000 students enrolled in Alachua County, Florida, public elementary schools for the years 1995 through 2003.

The researchers linked domestic violence cases to 4.6 percent of the elementary school students in their sample. These children scored nearly 4 percentile points lower on standardized reading and math scores than their peers whose parents were not involved in domestic violence cases. (A percentile score reflects the percentage of scores that fall below it; a student who scores in the 51st percentile on a test, for example, has scored higher than 51 percent of all students who took that test.) In addition, the children from households linked to domestic violence were 44 percent more likely to have been suspended from school and 28 percent more likely to have bee disciplined for bad behavior. School performance and behavior of these children suffered across genders, races and income levels.

Not only did the children from troubled homes suffer, however: Test scores fell and behavior problems increased for their classmates as well.

Troubled boys caused the bulk of the disruption, and the largest effects were on other boys. Indeed, Carrell and Hoekstra estimate that adding just one troubled boy to a class of 20 children reduces the standardized reading and math scores of other boys in the room by nearly two percentile points. And adding just one troubled boy to a class of 20 students increases the likelihood that another boy in the class will commit a disciplinary infraction by 17 percent.

Across all students, having a troubled student in a class reduced classmates' combined test scores by nearly 1 percentile point and increased their likelihood of getting into disciplinary trouble at school by 6 percent.

The researchers conducted sophisticated statistical tests to ensure that they were observing only the impacts of a troubled child on classrooms, not the impact of broader socioeconomic issues in the community. They compared classes from the same grade in the same school over time; some years the classes had troubled students, some years they did not. They also compared how siblings performed when one student was in a class with troubled classmates and another student from the same family was in a class with fewer troubled students.

"Our findings have important implications for both education and social policy," Carrell and Hoekstra write in their study. "First, they suggest that policies that change a child's exposure to classmates from troubled families will have important consequences for his or her education outcomes. In addition, the results also help provide a more complete measure of the social costs of family conflict."

The research does not suggest that all disruptive school children come from families that experience domestic violence, nor are all children from domestic violence disruptive, Carrell emphasized.

"There are many reasons for disruptive classroom behavior; domestic violence is one particularly good indicator of a troubled child," Carrell said.

Source: University of California - Davis

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Modernmystic
1 / 5 (3) Sep 10, 2008
Please oh please God tell me we didn't spend more that $10 on this research....
Keter
2.7 / 5 (3) Sep 10, 2008
Agreed with Modernmystic that this study only tells us what people with simple common sense already know. However, I am troubled by the implication that what will be done is to isolate and further punish the child who is already in a troubled home. My experience with such programs is that they do not support the child, they warehouse them. We'll be adding to the already significant hurdle these kids face.

Besides, the "normal" kids will have to deal with the "troubled" ones as adults, so they need to be exposed to them and learn how to deal with them. Unless the implication is that all troubled children should be removed from society proactively and permanently. [Shudder, but in today's world, wouldn't surprise me.]
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (2) Sep 10, 2008
Ack good point Keter....didn't think about it further than my wallet.

I guess there really is no good answer. The current vouge however seems to be drugging them down.
holmstar
3 / 5 (2) Sep 10, 2008
while it's easy to see that "troubled children" tend to create distractions, it isn't easy to see mathematically what effect this has on learning without doing a study. Education has a huge effect on society, so I don't see this as a waste of money. On the contrary, now that the study has been done, we have a baseline by which we can judge the effectiveness of programs to improve learning in classes with troubled kids.
TomS
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 10, 2008
Common sense answers can be wrong when looked at critically. This is useful evidence. The danger as Keter points out is that these kids may get further disadvantaged because of pressure from other parents or admindroids wishing to avoid extra expense in "helping" them
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (3) Sep 10, 2008
while it's easy to see that "troubled children" tend to create distractions, it isn't easy to see mathematically what effect this has on learning without doing a study. Education has a huge effect on society, so I don't see this as a waste of money. On the contrary, now that the study has been done, we have a baseline by which we can judge the effectiveness of programs to improve learning in classes with troubled kids.


*snicker* A mathematical baseline for troubled kids effect on the class room. Like everything can be quantified and put in a box so we can have a one size fits nobody solution from the federal government.

Whatever....

It was an idiotic use of funds, bordering on criminal in my opinion. We seemed to do much better in the class rooms in years past without the "benefit" of "research" like this.
Bazz
not rated yet Sep 13, 2008
How is getting more information bordering on criminal? The use of this information can be anything between good or bad, depending how you trust the ones that will get to use it.