Frequent Bullying Linked to Lower Test Scores

A recent study by researchers at the Curry School of Education suggests that there is a significant impact on the academic performance of students experiencing bullying throughout their high school career. Moreover, the “bullying climate” of a school may be linked to overall student test performance, resulting in lower standardized test scores.

In the study, bullying was defined as “using strength or popularity to deliberately injure, threaten or embarrass another person, and that harassment can be verbal, physical or social. Two students close in strength who argue are not considered bullies.” 1

The study found that schools where students reported severe bullying experienced a drop of between 3% and 6% in the schoolwide passing rates on standardized tests for Algebra 1, Earth Science and History. Dewey Cornell, PhD, professor of education at the University of Virginia, noted that this is important because “it affects the school’s ability to meet federal requirements and the educational success of many students who don’t pass the exams.” In Virginia, not only must students pass the standardized tests to graduate, at least 70% of all students must pass in order for the school to continue to be accredited by the state.2 This is a provision of the No Child Left Behind Act, and affects students throughout the United States.

The study supports the idea that bullying prevention must be a school-wide initiative, engaging not only students, but also parents and teachers. Anti-bullying programs should provide support for victims, counseling and appropriate disciplinary measures for bullies, and education for everyone else (the “bystanders”) to discourage them from supporting bullying actively, or passively by remaining silent.


1  J. Stein, “Bullying climates at schools may be linked with lower test scores,” Los AngelesTimes, Aug. 17, 2011
2  American Psychological Association Monitor, “Bullying May Contribute to Lower Test Scores,” October, 2011.

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