2008 August 27 Wednesday
Poorly Behaved Children Lower Learning For All

One of the characteristics of our era is the need to rediscover common sense. For example, our schools suffer from the effects of supposed expert educators who insist upon less discipline and the placement of problem children into mainstream classrooms. This and other causes of decay have necessitated flight to exurbs as people try to protect their children from schools damaged by leftist ideology. Now some UC Davis researchers have rediscovered that poorly behaved children disrupt the learning of better behaved children.

Troubled children hurt their classmates' math and reading scores and worsen their behavior, according to new research by economists at the University of California, Davis, and University of Pittsburgh.

The study, "Externalities in the Classroom: How Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Affect Everyone's Kids," was published this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research and is available online at http://papers.nber.org/papers/w14246.

Scott Carrell, an assistant professor of economics at UC Davis, and co-author Mark Hoekstra, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Pittsburgh, cross-referenced standardized test results and school disciplinary records with court restraining order petitions filed in domestic violence cases for more than 40,000 students enrolled in public elementary schools in Florida's Alachua County for the years 1995 through 2003.

One rotten apple spoils the whole bunch.

Not only did children from troubled homes suffer, however: Test scores fell and behavior problems increased for their classmates as well.

Troubled boys caused the bulk of the disruption, and the largest effects were on other boys. Indeed, Carrell and Hoekstra estimate that adding just one troubled boy to a class of 20 children reduces the standardized reading and math scores of other boys in the room by nearly two percentile points. And adding just one troubled boy to a class of 20 students increases the likelihood that another boy in the class will commit a disciplinary infraction by 17 percent.

Troubled girls, in contrast, had only a small and statistically insignificant impact on the test scores or behavior of their classmates. The study did not investigate the reasons for the gender differences.

It would be reasonable to keep the trouble makers out of the classes that most children sit in. Such a change would allow most children to learn more quickly.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 August 27 02:15 AM  Education

kurt9 said at August 27, 2008 4:21 PM:

So, money must be spent on research to find out what horse sense would tell anyone who thinks. That kids who disrupt class adversely affects the learning of the other kids.

Me, Myself and I said at August 27, 2008 8:17 PM:

The article also makes the mistake of assuming that it is exposure to domestic violence that is the problem, when it is likely genetic in origin ...

The fathers of troubled males are likely passing on those genes that make them likely to commit violence ...

Randall Parker said at August 27, 2008 9:16 PM:

Me, Myself and I,

Yes of course they have to assume the Standard Social Science Model where current environment is all powerful and the environment of our evolutionary past has no effect at all.

mike said at August 27, 2008 10:31 PM:

Another issue with poorly behaved kids - they often get extra help with learning difficulties at the expense of quiet kids with learning problems.

The worst thing for an underachieving kid with add without hyperactivity, is to be in a class with a disruptive extrovert with ADHD.

Unfortunately, this is rarely mentioned in all the PC literature on learning problems among children.

The fair thing would be assess kids using psychometric tests and base interventions of the difference between IQ scores and academic achievement rather than behaviour in class.

z said at August 28, 2008 5:14 PM:

This is why the elite want poorly behaved kids in classrooms....................they pull the striving classe's kids down, so that the private educateion the elite's children recieve is all that much more of an advantage.

The internet, where a questioning kid can really learn all sorts of things, probably sticks in the craw of "educrats" who want to dumb all the kids down. Kids who want to learn, still can, but the classroom time becomes a waste when a couple of hoodlums wont shut up.

I have to "educators" in my family. One a college professor and another a high school math teacher. They both have encountered some comic situations of kids expecting to be passed for F-quality work (English prof) and kids who wont shut the hell up because they think they are rap stars (Math teacher). She (math teacher) teaches a couple of honors classes. She says (sarcastically) that THOSE kids in honors mysteriously behave very well, are quiet, and REALLY want to know the material covered back and forth. Wonder why that is?

shalini said at August 29, 2008 12:41 AM:

As a mother I find it so true and very disturbing

Rims n' Bling said at August 29, 2008 6:51 AM:

"rap stars"

I have a hunch they aren't of European or NE asian ancestry. Beyond that, it is impossible to say...

Thai said at September 8, 2008 6:32 AM:


do you know how to get information on the fractal/non-linear nature of per pupil spending within single schools and within single school districts? I am trying to see if education follows patterns similar to medicine and have found it INCREDIBLY difficult to find the data I am looking for.

As an example: In medicine, 1% of patients spend 25% of all healthcare dollars and 5% spend 50% (so the other 95% of the people in the system split the other 50% between all of them). I won't go into the details but one of the reasons other countries are able to achieve better overall national health outcomes than the US has is because they ration spending on the patients who spend the most money (in effect they have less of a fractal healthcare spending patterns than we do in the US). The net effect is that these countries invest more healthcare dollars as a % of their GDP in those who are likely to be alive and continue to work and pay into the system than America does (they get a higher healthcare investment ROI than we get for this very reason... the downside is 'the needy' actually get less spending than they would otherwise need were no rationing permitted-- oddly America is MORE compassionate for its needy than they are).

I was wondering if the same pattern holds true in education?

I do know that educational spending does follow non-linear patterns (whether these non-linear relationships are truly fractal I don't know): larger amounts of money are spent on a few children with significant 'needs' while significantly less money is spent on children deemed 'OK'-- say gifted and talented students or even 'above average', or even 'average', etc...).

Do you have any data on this? In particular do you have any as it relates to funding within THE SAME SCHOOL and within THE SAME SCHOOL DISTRICT?

If children WITHOUT significant educational issues ultimately produce more economic gain for the US economy than children WITH significant needs, then the non-linear nature of educational spending today MIGHT significantly worsen US educational investment ROI (again MIGHT)

More equal spending in education in other countries (thereby allowing smaller class sizes, etc...) MIGHT be ONE explanation for their supposedly better educational outcomes. I.e. supposedly 'socialist' systems MIGHT be less compassionate than ours and as a result have better outcomes.


Michelle said at September 1, 2009 3:53 PM:

Teachers have known this for years, glad the research might help the crazies catch on.

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