SATURDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- Students who go to schools that achieve better-than-expected academic results may be less likely to use drugs or alcohol, steal or fight, finds a new study.

University of Florida researchers looked at academic achievement scores at 61 inner-city middle schools in Chicago between 2002 and 2005. Seven schools did better than expected and the rates of drug and alcohol use and delinquency by students at those schools were as much as 25 percent lower compared to other schools.

The study was published in the March issue of the journal Prevention Science.

The schools in the study all had high numbers of students from ethnic minorities and poor homes, factors that are often associated with lower achievement in school, noted lead author Amy Tobler, a research assistant professor of health outcomes and policy at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

"It could be good teaching, better administration, whatever these schools are doing, if we can replicate it, it will lead to not only academic achievement but improvement in healthy behaviors as well," she said in a university news release. "Some schools can break that strong link between sociodemographic disadvantage and drug use and delinquency."

While the study shows that academic achievement at school can benefit disadvantaged students' health and behavior, Tobler warned that proposed funding cuts to educational programs across the United States threaten such success stories.

"Almost all states are cutting budgets to public education," Tobler said. "We are increasingly asking them to do more and more with fewer resources. The extent to which schools can achieve this value-added education or continue it may be severely limited by budget cuts."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about student health and academic achievement.