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Sunday, June 13, 2021

College of Education researcher finds link between stressful life circumstances and low test scores

The word “stressed” is commonly used among college students, but UF researchers have zoomed in on the stressors of younger students.

A new study from UF’s College of Education found solid links between socioeconomic status and academic performance among students in third through 10th grade.

Eric Thompson, a UF researcher in counselor education, began compiling information for the study in 2008. It was completed in June as a follow-up to a similar 2010 study.

The researchers examined test scores from Alachua County students by using data ranging from years 2004 to 2011. It was linked with the Department of Health records, Thompson said. The research found that students at low socioeconomic levels generally scored much lower than more affluent students on the FCAT reading test.

“Lower performing groups have many more stressors,” Thompson said.

Parental education, ethnicity, unemployment and even low birth weight were found to be contributing factors to scores.

But lower socioeconomic standing does not necessarily guarantee low scores.

UF student Angellica Martinez said though her high school peers were in lower income groups, they still did well.

“I think every individual has their own motivation as to how well they do in school,” said the 20-year-old aerospace engineering junior.

Martinez said she noticed the social gaps in high school more than middle school, and she does not believe that income is the greatest factor.

Thompson recognized the potential for exceptions.

“I believe that there are quite a number of outliers,” he said.

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Thompson said said a “one-size-fits-all” curriculum is not the best method.

“I’d like to see broader thinking about early life stress and risk factors,” he said. “I wanted to create some awareness.”

A version of this story ran on page 5 on 8/26/2013 under the headline "Socioeconomic status linked to test scores, UF study finds"

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