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Crisis in the Classroom

Crisis in the Classroom: How Untreated Medical Problems
Are Seen to Interfere With School Performance

A Survey of New York City Public School Leadership

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Children’s Health Fund  and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) have released the results of a survey of New York City’s 1,700 public school principals and assistant principals that found that poor health has a major impact on a student’s ability to learn. “Crisis in the Classroom: How Untreated Medical Problems Are Seen To Interfere With School,” which focused on elementary and middle school findings, also compared the responses from principals and assistant principals in high poverty schools with lower poverty schools and found substantial disparities in the presence and classroom impact of unmet student health needs.

“As America struggles to improve the academic performance of our children, we need to focus on the reality that an alarming number of children are walking into their schools each day with significant health barriers to learning. What we learned about New York City from this study is a barometer for kids in poverty across the country,” said Dr. Irwin Redlener, president and co-founder of Children’s Health Fund and director of the Child Well-Being and Resilience Program at Columbia University’s Earth Institute. “Many of these health problems are readily preventable, treatable, or manageable, and we must do a better job of ensuring that all kids are healthy and ready to learn.”

Among the medical conditions cited by school principals and assistant principals, 63% said that asthma was a barrier to learning for students in their school, 57% cited vision problems, 28% cited hearing and 17% cited dental pain.  Mental health issues were also identified as significant problems by school leaders, with learning disabilities (87%), disruptive behaviors (86%) and depression (63%) cited as predominant concerns. Administrators of higher poverty schools (schools with at least 70% of students on a free or reduced price lunch program) reported significantly higher prevalence of health barriers to learning compared to administrators from schools where fewer than 70% of students were eligible for lunch programs. 

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Read news coverage of the report:

The Wall Street Journal

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