Study links civic unrest to declines in student achievement

Ferguson_riots_CC_200pxJust a few days before civic unrest erupted in Milwaukee, a study was released indicating that the unrest that occurred two years ago in Ferguson, Missouri, may have had a negative effect on student achievement in that community.

While student achievement in Ferguson held constant from 2010 through 2014, there was a significant achievement drop in Ferguson-area schools in the school year following the riots, according to a new research paper published by The Institute for the Study of Labor and highlighted by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

“Understanding how and when civic unrest harms student learning is crucial for educators, parents, community leaders, and policymakers looking to support students in affected communities by implementing programs that support and facilitate student learning during episodes of civic unrest,” the study concludes.

According to the report, “the unrest in Ferguson decreased the fraction of high-needs students scoring at or above basic in math and reading by 11 and 7 percentage points, respectively. These effects were concentrated in elementary schools. We find smaller effects in middle schools and no effects in high schools.”

“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,” researchers wrote. They argue that disruptions to learning and reduced student achievement are one potential cost of protest movements.

Read a summary in U.S. News & World Report

Read the Brookings Institution summary:

Students in Ferguson schools flounder amidst civic unrest | Brookings Institution

Citizens of healthy democracies routinely use protests and acts of civil disobedience to alleviate injustices. While these tools may be successful in the long run, in the short run they impose additional burdens on already vulnerable populations and neighborhoods: protestors are arrested, local economic activity is disrupted, and so on.

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