Does Civic Unrest Impact Student Achievement?
A new research paper explores the relationship between protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and lowered student test scores.
Demonstrators, marking the one-year anniversary of the shooting of Michael Brown, confront police during a protest on Aug. 11, 2015 in Ferguson, Missouri. (SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES)
For students in and around Ferguson, Missouri, the start of the 2014-2015 school year was unlike any other, occurring amid a period of protests and violence following the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager shot by white police officer Darren Wilson.
Now, a new research paper published by The Institute for the Study of Labor and highlighted by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, explores whether stress caused by the civic unrest could explain a drop in academic achievement and a spike in chronic absenteeism that occurred among Ferguson-area students that year, especially among students of color and poor students.
The authors, Seth Gershenson, an assistant professor in American University's School of Public Affairs, and Michael Hayes, an assistant professor at Rutgers University-Camden, compared the performance of students in the Ferguson region to that of students from the broader St. Louis area from 2010 to 2015.
Student achievement, while lower in Ferguson than St. Louis, held constant from 2010 through 2014. But there was a significant change in Ferguson-area schools in 2015, the researchers found. Specifically, the proportion of high-needs students scoring at or above basic in math and reading dropped by 11 and 7 percentage points, respectively, with the effects largely seen among elementary school students.
"Together, these facts suggest that something, likely the sporadic, intense bouts of civic unrest, affected student performance in Ferguson-area schools in 2015 but did not affect other schools in the St. Louis area," Gershenson and Hayes wrote in a Brookings post on their findings. They argue that disruptions to learning and reduced student achievement are one potential cost of protest movements.
The rate of chronic absence in Ferguson-area elementary schools also increased by about 5 percent, the researchers note in their paper, which likely played a role in poorer student Did Civic Unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, Impact Student Achievement? | US News: