Poverty, Stress, and Academic Performance: ACE Scores and the WSCC Model in an Urban District
23 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2017 Last revised: 8 Dec 2018
Date Written: October 18, 2017
BACKGROUND: Students living in poverty experience more traumatic stressors, which we measure using the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Scale. Health researchers continually find strong relationships between ACE scores and negative health outcomes.
METHODS: Using data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), we examine whether ACE scores also predict negative academic outcomes in a sample of almost 6,000 students from Buffalo Public Schools. We use regression to examine the relationship between ACE scores and reported grades.
RESULTS: Students with higher ACE scores in our data exhibit more behaviors correlated with lower performance (e.g. higher drug use and lower levels of self-belief and school attachment) and report receiving worse grades. At the school-level, though, ACE scores strongly correlate with higher graduation rates, college attendance, and test scores. Within our ACE variables, White and high-income students are more likely to report being insulted by a parent while minority and low-income students are more likely to report seeing somebody shot, stabbed, or beaten in their neighborhood (which correlates with worse school-level outcomes).
CONCLUSIONS: While the ACE scale has proven remarkably adept at predicting health problems, it may not be the ideal tool to predict academic challenges – particularly those associated with urban poverty.
Keywords: Child Abuse & Neglect, Risk Behaviors, Stress, Trauma, Poverty, Violence, Health and Academics, Whole School Whole Community Whole Child (WSCC) model, YRBS
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