When school feels like prison, test scores,

Students in high schools with heavy safety measures have lower math scores, are less likely to go to college, and get suspended more than students in schools with less supervision, new research from Johns University finds. Hopkins.

The decline in average test scores and college enrollment persists even for students who have not been suspended, suggesting that the consequences of monitoring students perceived to be troublesome ripple through the educational experience of all students. students. The findings, in one of the first studies to measure the effects of school surveillance on academic achievement, suggest negative implications as school systems nationwide further tighten security in the wake of the mass shooting in ‘Uvalde, Texas.

“When schools are like prisons, the impact is not localized to students perceived as problematic – it has collateral consequences for children, regardless of their behavior,” says author Odis Johnson, Bloomberg Professor Emeritus social policy and STEM equity. “We suggest that there is a security tax that all students pay in these schools.”

The book has just been published in the Criminal Justice Journal.

Johnson, who is also executive director of the university’s Center for Safe and Healthy Schools, studies racial disparities in education and law enforcement, including the effect of school discipline on youth achievement. . Knowing that discipline has an effect, here his team wanted to know: What about surveillance itself?

School security measures considered by the study include metal detectors, random metal detector checks, closing campuses for lunch, random dog sniffing, random contraband scanning, drug testing , uniform requirements, strict dress codes, clear book bag requirements, student ID badge requirements; faculty ID badge requirements and security cameras.

“We understand that monitoring is part of the safety and security responsibilities of schools, but we also know that the primary mission of schools is to educate children and we wanted to know if fortifying schools in this way was related in any way any way to the primary mission of educating children. and send them to college,” Johnson said.

Using data from a national survey, Johnson and co-author Jason Jabbari, an assistant research professor at Washington University, St. Louis, created a model that allowed them to consistently compare academic achievement across high surveillance schools with schools that have less intense surveillance. The model allowed the team to factor in basic social and economic data.

They found:

  • High-surveillance schools had higher suspension rates. Greater detection has resulted in greater punishment, regardless of the demographics of students attending these schools.
  • Students in high-supervision schools had significantly lower math test scores.
  • Students in high-supervision schools were much less likely to go to college
  • Black students were four times more likely than students of other races to be enrolled in high-supervision schools. Black students were also more likely to be suspended
  • When the researchers controlled for in-school suspension, the monitoring still had a negative impact on math and college attendance.

“We say that lower scores and lower chances of going to college are not due to a student being suspended, it just isolates the impact of being in a school that monitors more heavily,” Johnson said, adding that all students in a high surveillance school pay this ‘safety tax’, but students who are also regularly punished as a result of the measures pay double it, with still academic results. worse.

When the model excluded surveillance, young black women became more likely to enter college than other women. And math test gaps have disappeared for black male students.

This suggests that a path to greater parity in STEM achievement and college attendance would reduce the use of excessive social control measures, Johnson said.

Next, researchers hope to study what causes children who are not targeted by suspensions to have lower test scores and less chance of going to college. Johnson suspects the reason has to do with the message sent by increased security: Students are not safe here. And even students who aren’t the target of surveillance see this happening to their peers and develop feelings of distrust.

“These are ways,” Johnson says, “that students feel less like students and more like suspects,”

The work was supported by the National Science Foundation [EEC-1619843].

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