Can School Safety Improve Test Scores?

Posted by on May 27, 2010

Does research show a link between school safety and improved academic test scores?

I have been asked this by educators and school safety professionals a number of times in recent years.  Some are looking for ammunition to redirect the “test score” tunnel-vision attention of their administrators and boards back to including school safety.

When I was first asked this question, my thought was to spend hours digging through academic journals and online sources.  I figured I could assemble a comprehensive list of academic research linking school safety and improved academic achievement.

But then I realized the answer rested back in my undergraduate college coursework.  I’m sure it was there for most educators in their college studies, too.          

We need only to think about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:      

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow concluded that humans are motivated by unsatisfied needs.  He found lower level needs must be satisfied before higher needs can be achieved.

Safety and security needs, according to Maslow, immediately follow basic physiological needs such as food, water, etc.  If safety needs are not met, higher up social, esteem, and self-actualization needs cannot be met.

Applied to our schools, this means if students’ safety needs are not met, they cannot reach higher academic achievement.  If teachers are more focused on their safety, they will not be performing at their maximum capabilities.

And if students and teachers are both not functioning at their highest levels, the test scores will not go up!

While we could assemble some additional academic studies of more modern times, Maslow’s hierarchy sums up what most of us would accept as common sense.

Unfortunately though, common sense is not always common.

Ken Trump

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