Date Thesis Awarded

4-2014

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

Government

Advisor

Paul Manna

Committee Member

Salvatore Saporito

Committee Member

Melissa McInerney

Abstract

When a school experiences a highly visible, traumatic event, such as a shooting or natural disaster, there is an expectation that teaching and learning at the school will be affected. In certain cases, such as after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, authorities have even taken actions to waive affected schools from testing accountability requirements, reflecting a belief that violence and trauma impact teaching and learning. However, the effects of gun violence and other types of violent crime extend far beyond high- profile events. Children attend school in dangerous neighborhoods around the nation where violence is an almost-daily occurrence. Past research has found exposure to violence to be associated with negative cognitive, behavioral, and mental health outcomes at the individual student level, but this issue has not been examined at the school level. This paper seeks to answer the following research question: does geographic proximity to violent crime affect a school’s performance? To examine the relationship between violent crime and school performance, I conduct a quantitative analysis, taking advantage of geo-coded data to examine crime as a factor that affects schools. Using GIS, I plot the locations where violent crimes occur and compare them to the locations of schools in the area. I control for other variables that are known to affect student achievement, such as student socioeconomic characteristics and teacher quality. This allows me to see whether an association exists between proximity to violence and school performance. I find a statistically significant and negative association between proximity to violence and test score results in the majority of models (9 out of 16).

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