-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
MONDAY, Aug. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Students attending high
schools dominated by bullies are more likely to have lower
standardized test scores, a new study shows.
In fact, researchers in Virginia found that schoolwide passing
rates on three different standardized exams (Algebra I, Earth
Science and World History) were 3 percent to 6 percent lower in
schools where students reported a more severe bullying climate. The
findings, they added, highlight the fact that bullying is a
pervasive problem in schools.
"Our study suggests that a bullying climate may play an important role in student test performance," Dewey Cornell, a clinical psychologist and a professor of education at the University of Virginia, said in a news release. "This research underscores the importance of treating bullying as a schoolwide problem rather than just an individual problem."
In conducting the study, researchers compiled surveys about
bullying from more than 7,300 ninth graders and about 3,000
teachers at 284 Virginia high schools. The researchers pointed out
that even a 3 percent to 6 percent drop in test scores associated
with bullying is significant.
Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, students must
receive a passing grade on these standardized tests to graduate.
Moreover, in the state of Virginia at least 70 percent of a
school's students must pass the tests for the school to keep its
"This difference is substantial because it affects the school's ability to meet federal requirements and the educational success of many students who don't pass the exams," said Cornell. "This study supports the case for school-wide bullying prevention programs as a step to improve school climate and facilitate academic achievement."
The researchers argued the poor academic performance was due to
the fact that students are less engaged in learning when they are
afraid about bullying. They also suggested bullying leads to a
greater level of school disorder, which may have negatively
affected test scores.
The study authors noted bullying programs should not only
provide help for victims, but also counseling and discipline for
bullies. Bystanders, they added, should also be discouraged from
"We have always had bullying in our schools. What has changed is we have become more aware of bullying due to a series of high-profile tragic cases involving school shootings and suicides," concluded Cornell. "Our society does not permit harassment and abuse of adults in the workplace, and the same protections should be afforded to children in school."
The study was to be presented on Sunday at the American
Psychological Association annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
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