In a recently published paper, a Michigan State University research team led by Mieka Smart, assistant professor in the College of Human Medicine’s Division of Public Health and the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, explored the association between academic achievement and a school’s neighborhood.
Researchers examined academic achievement and attendance for the 21 schools within the boundaries of Flint and found evidence that school neighborhoods may impact academic achievement. Students exposed to economically disadvantaged neighborhoods at school — regardless of what neighborhoods they reside in — may have poorer academic skills in comparison to students exposed to economically advantaged neighborhoods.
Smart defines neighborhood physical disorder as the visually perceivable problems present in a given area, which can include graffiti, garbage and public intoxication. The findings indicate that investment in solutions to neighborhood physical disorder might improve learning outcomes for Flint-area schoolchildren.
“We are the first to objectively evaluate and find a significant relationship between the school neighborhood physical environment and its impact on academically related youth outcomes,” said Smart, who is also director of CHM’s Leadership in Medicine for the Underserved. “We found significant relationships between neighborhood physical disorder and attendance, and neighborhood physical disorder and academic achievement in mathematics. Our research also provides an objective accounting of the conditions of the communities that children are exposed to while at school and while in transit to school.”