Poor Health, Poor Academic Performance Linked

Student health has a major impact on learning outcomes, according to a recent survey conducted by the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, AFSA Local 1, in New York City, and the Children’s Health Fund (CHF).

Children in poor health or with health disadvantages tend to perform more poorly than others. To find out which health issues affect learning the most, CHF and CSA partnered to survey elementary and middle school principals in New York City in May 2013.

The study found many of the health issues affecting learning outcomes are preventable, treatable or manageable. Topping the list, asthma was cited as a barrier to learning by 63 percent of school principals who responded to the survey. Principals also noted vision (57 percent) and hearing (28 percent) problems, and 17 percent cited dental pain. Other issues identified included mental health issues, disruptive behaviors and learning disabilities.

These results are more staggering once filtered by income disparity. High-poverty schools reported a significantly higher prevalence of these barriers compared with other schools. Principals of these high-poverty schools also cited student fatigue, hunger and health care accessibility for students as learning barriers at higher rates than schools with less than 70 percent of students on a free or reduced-price lunch program.

“When I was a middle school principal in an economically disadvantaged district, we were forced to call an ambulance at least weekly because a child had an uncontrollable asthma attack,” said Ernest Logan, president of CSA, in a press release from the Children’s Health Fund and CSA.

“In many of our schools, we continue to see how undiagnosed and untreated health problems, particularly asthma, affect students and learning in dramatic ways. We all have an obligation to work on solutions for problems such as asthma in the classroom and collaborate to obtain additional health care resources and promote better family education.”

Closing the achievement and opportunity gaps for all students, regardless of background, location or race, must be a top priority. The results of this survey demonstrate concern among administrators that unmet health care needs are affecting learning. For administrators, working toward closing this health care gap is a step in the right direction for closing the achievement gap. Administrators have an obligation to work on solutions and collaborations to help improve learning outcomes.

The full results of the study can be read here: http://bit.ly/CSAStudy