Bullying can affect a student's academic performance, but a school's bullying climate may be linked with lower overall test scores, a study finds.
The study, presented recently at the American Psychological Assn.'s recent annual convention in Washington, D.C., surveyed 7,304 ninth-grade students and 2,918 teachers who were randomly chosen from 284 high schools in Virginia. Students and teachers were asked about incidents of bullying and teasing at the school. Ninth-grade students were chosen because researchers felt this first year of high school was a critical adjustment period, and because poor test scores in this grade may be linked with a higher drop-out rate.
In the study, bullying was defined as using strength or popularity to deliberately injure, threaten or embarrass another person, and that harassment can be verbal, physical or social. Two students close in strength who argue are not considered bullies.
In schools that had a more intense bullying atmosphere, passing rates on standardized tests in such subjects as algebra, Earth science and world history were 3% to 6% lower. Researchers controlled for a school's percentage of minority students, the number of students getting meals free or at a reduced price and school size.