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The negative effect of violence on test scores

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Children who attend school with a lot of kids from violent neighborhoods can earn significantly lower test scores than peers with classmates from safer areas. Depression, attention problems, and discipline issues are also very common.

Students in schools where more kids have a high exposure to violence score as much as 10% lower on annual standardised maths and reading tests and urban violence and school choice programs can work together to spread collateral damage.

Students who attended Chicago Public Schools from 2002 to 2010 were studied by analysing administrative data from the school system, crime statistics from the Chicago Police Department and school surveys from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research. Five cohorts of students who were freshmen between the fall of 2002 and 2006, were involved and each student was followed for up to four years.

High school students in Chicago public schools experience, on average, about 70 violent crimes a year within a few blocks of their homes. Children with high levels of exposure to violence, however, often experienced double that.

The crimes included homicides, sexual assaults, aggregated and simple batteries, aggravated and simple assaults, and robberies.

About half of the students studied were African American and about a third were Hispanic. Schools with students who experienced high levels of neighborhood violence, however, were more than 94% African American.

Students in Chicago often commute to schools across town. Students from nearly every neighborhood attend nearly every school which disseminated the experience of violence throughout the system.

Previous research shows that children living in violent neighborhoods experience trauma that makes them more difficult to teach and is related to an increased likelihood of high school dropout and low test scores.


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