Students in Better Performing Schools Less Likely to Use Drugs and Alcohol

Students in schools that perform better than expected are less likely to use drugs and alcohol, a new study finds. The study looked at 61 inner-city middle schools in Chicago, and found students in these same schools were also less likely to steal or participate in fights compared with children in schools that did not perform as well.

The study, published in the March issue of the journal Prevention Science, found that higher performance in the classroom cut the rate of drug use in schools by as much as 25 percent. The schools included in the study had high populations of ethnic minorities and students from underprivileged homes, which the researchers note are factors that are often linked to lower achievement in schools.

 The researchers followed students in their sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade years from 2002 to 2005. The student academic achievement was judged based on their standardized test scores in reading and math. Of the 61 schools, seven performed better than expected on the tests.

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    Allan Cohen

    April 5, 2011 at 2:44 PM

    Ms. Vimont,
    First, congrats and best of luck in continuing the critical service of Join Together’s daily site.
    I hope you will become bold enough to do what most science writers do now in major newspaper reports of research: make appropriate disclaimers regarding causality.
    Without knowing the details of the study, I am confident that there is substantial research suggesting the converse vector of causality–demonstrating that students who use fewer drugs and alcohol perform better in school. At the least, the phenomenon is synergistic. Writing the story to imply that a great strategy to reduce substance abuse might involve improving standardized test scores (of non-dropouts) is not a great service to readers.
    Let’s see some editorial courage here!
    Good luck.
    Allan C.

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    Cliff Carr

    April 5, 2011 at 12:29 AM

    It may be true for inner city schools but overall the kids who use the most are generally rich white kids in high performing schools.

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