Students Less Likely To Misuse Drugs If They Go To A High-Performing School – Forbes

Young people are less likely to misuse drugs if they go to a high-performing school (Pic: Getty … [+] Creative)
Students who go to a high-performing school are significantly less likely to misuse drugs, according to a new study published by journal JAMA Network Open.
Young people who have attended high-performing schools are also less likely to engage in delinquent behavior, ranging from graffiti and vandalism to armed robbery and participation in gang fights.
But while young men who had been to these schools had better physical health and a lower BMI, young women had substantially worse health and a higher BMI than peers who went to less high-performing schools.
The findings reinforce the view that schools have an important role to play in student health and that improving schools is a potentially effective strategy to improve health.
The study analyzed data on students who attended 147 high schools in low-income neighborhoods in Los Angeles, following them from eighth grade to three years after graduation, at age 21.
Researchers compared students who had attended high-performing public charter schools – whose results put them in the top third of public schools and where places are allocated by a random lottery – with those who were placed on a waiting list.
And the findings showed significant differences in the rate of substance misuse and delinquent behavior across the two groups, independent of academic achievement, according to the study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open.
Students who attended one of the high-performing public charter schools were significantly less likely to misuse cannabis or be dependant on alcohol, as well as engage in a range of delinquent behaviors, including armed robbery, burglary and joining a gang.
For example, they had 53% lower rate both of risky alcohol misuse and of delinquent behavior by the age of 21, according to researchers at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.
Male students were also less likely to report physical health problems if they went to a high-performing school, and were 33% less likely to be obese or overweight.
Female students, however, were more likely to report health problems and were more likely to be obese or overweight if they went to a high-performing school.
The researchers say it is unclear why going to a high-performing school had such a significant impact on substance misuse and risky behavior, even taking into account a student’s academic achievement.
They note that the high-performing schools in the study were all relatively small and were structured to minimize the student load, the total number of students a teacher is responsible for in one semester. This may help teachers monitor and support their students, the researchers argue.
“Other possible mechanisms are greater support from teachers and other adults, more structured school environments, higher academic expectations and long-term goal setting, and less exposure to peers who engage in risky behaviors,” they say.
The reasons for the difference in health and obesity levels between young men and women are also unknown.
“One explanation is that higher-performing schools raise expectations for success, potentially creating greater tension around decisions about education, career, and family,” researchers say.
These expectations may differ for men and women, who “may also cope differently with these expectations, possibly leading young women to experience more stress and worse physical health,” they add.
But they argue that the overall findings suggest that schools may be part of the strategy for combating the adverse health implications of poverty.
“Ultimately, improving schools is a potentially effective and scalable strategy to improve health,” they say.

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