Bullying may contribute to lower test scores
The study found that schoolwide
passing rates on standardized exams
for algebra I, earth science and world
history were 3 percent to 6 percent lower
in schools where students reported
significantly lower scores on standardized
tests that students must pass to graduate,
according to research presented at APA’s
2011 Annual Convention.
“A bullying climate may play
an important role in student test
performance,” said Dewey Cornell, PhD,
a clinical psychologist and professor
of education at the University of
Virginia. “This research underscores
the importance of treating bullying as a
schoolwide problem rather than just an
The research, which is part of the
ongoing Virginia High School Safety
Study, compiled surveys about bullying in
2007 from more than 7,300 ninth-grade
students and almost 3,000 teachers at
284 high schools located across Virginia.
About two-thirds of the students were
white, 22 percent were African American
and 5 percent were Hispanic.
High schools in Virginia where students
reported a high rate of bullying had
more severe bullying. “This difference is
substantial because it affects the school’s
ability to meet federal requirements and
A study found that schoolwide passing rates on standardized exams were 3 percent to
6 percent lower in schools with severe bullying.
the educational success of many students
who don’t pass the exams,” Cornell said.
Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, students must
receive a passing grade on the standardized tests to graduate
from high school, and at least 70 percent of a school’s students
must pass the tests for the school to keep its state accreditation
Ninth-grade students were surveyed because ninth grade
is the year students enter high school, and research has shown
that poor academic performance in that grade predicts a higher
climate and facilitate academic achievement,” he said.
Effective anti-bullying programs must take a schoolwide
approach that involves students, teachers and parents, Cornell
said. The programs should provide help for bullying victims,
counseling and discipline for bullies, and education for
bystanders to discourage them from supporting bullying.
Cornell doesn’t believe bullying has increased in schools, but
media attention has highlighted the serious problem. “We have
become more aware of bullying due to a series of high-profile
probability of high school dropouts.
Schools are under immense pressure to improve
standardized test scores because of the No Child Left Behind
Act, Cornell said. “This study supports the case for schoolwide
bullying-prevention programs as a step to improve school
tragic cases involving school shootings and suicides,” Cornell
said. “Our society does not permit harassment and abuse of
adults in the workplace, and the same protections should be
afforded to children in school.”