If you ask any teacher, they’ll tell you that many factors affect how a child performs at school. Research has shown that everything from the ‘poverty’ achievement gap (which refers to the difference in academic achievement between poor kids and non-poor kids), the racial and ethnic achievement gaps, and even the size and location of schools. But one of the primary factors that affects a kid’s school performance, particularly on an individual level, is what’s happening at home.
A recent research partnership between the University of Michigan and the State of Michigan has allowed researchers to match child neglect and abuse records with educational records. The data gathered from this comparison has painted a clearer picture of the direct impact that maltreatment can affect a child’s school performance, and in what ways.
What does this research hope to achieve for Michigan’s children?
While policymakers are paying more attention in recent years to the many ways a child’s educational outcomes can be influenced by factors beyond school itself, there has been very little focus on how trauma affects a child’s performance at school. Although the term “trauma” can refer to many different factors, common examples include sexual assault, physical and emotional abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and parental drug abuse.
There is extensive documentation showing that all of these traumas negatively affect children, both at the time they occur, and later in life. There is, however, very little research that directly connects these traumas to school outcomes. This research hopes to create a more complete picture of how childhood trauma can directly affect school performance, which then directly affects a child’s future in myriad ways.
What answers were the researchers looking for in the data?
Although the researchers were interested in all provable connections between school performance and child maltreatment, there were three specific questions they were hoping to answer. These questions were:
- How prevalent are child maltreatment investigations (for abuse or neglect) in the public school population, by the time students reach third grade?
- Does the risk of maltreatment differ for students based on race, gender, socioeconomic status, or geographic location? (are certain populations at greater risk than others?)
- What is the association between maltreatment and academic performance?
And did they find their answers? Indeed they did. Brian A. Jacob, a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and Professor of Education at U of M, and Joseph Ryan, Co-Director of the Child and Adolescent Data Lab and Associate Professor of Social Work at U of M, who authored the study together, provided some very illuminating results to the questions.
What did the research show, and how will it help?
Join us next time, as we look at the findings, and how researchers believe it should inform public policy in the future. Until then, if you or a loved one have been accused of neglecting or abusing a child, we can help! The highly skilled abuse and neglect defense attorneys at The Kronzek Firm have spent decades helping parents protect their rights and keep their families together. We can help you too! Call 866 766 5245 right now, and talk to someone who can make a difference.