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How Do Neighborhoods Effect Educational Achievement? Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 15th, 2021

Neighborhood has a direct impact on the quality of education provided and on the way teachers and students work together in the classroom. Students are very perceptive. They may not be able to articulate their perceptions, but most of them know whether they are receiving a good education, an education that will prepare them to compete in the job market, college, or anywhere else. When students perceive that their education is inadequate or inferior, when the expectations for them are less than for others in the class, they often develop a sense of helplessness and frustration. This sense of frustration often turns to anger and violence when there appears to be no viable solution to the problem.

Critics and researchers (Sunderman, 2006: Neihart, 2006) pay a special attention to a negative impact of neighborhood on educational achievement of students. They state that violence typical for low class communities negatively affects education and class management. Following Sunderman (2006) students in school environments where violence occurs will not or cannot concentrate on the achievement of rigorous standards, stay in school, perform at high academic levels, and excel intellectually. When teachers and students are more concerned about being victimized than about education, they cannot concentrate on teaching and learning. Searches for weapons are a new phenomenon in schools. However, the administration and faculty believe that they are a necessary precaution. They do not want to experience an incident like the one that took place in the neighboring county when rumors about students bringing weapons into the school went unchecked (Crum 1999).

Low class neighborhood can facilitate misbehavior and lack of discipline. Inappropriate classroom behavior refers to unacceptable eating or drinking, refusing to cooperate, and talking back to the teacher (Sunderman 2006). Disruptive classroom or in-school behavior includes listening to cassette tapes, taking something from others without their permission, walking around the classroom, talking about non-class-related issues (especially while the lesson is being taught), playing or shoving, arguing, arriving late, or leaving class without the teacher’s permission. Violence refers to verbal or physical abuse (including the threat of or the actual use of guns, knives, and other weapons) perpetrated against school staff, students, or others. It also includes vandalism and property crimes (that is, taking someone’s belongings without their permission or by force, destruction of property). Neihart (2006) admits that

“Inner-city youth may adhere to the “street code” for behavior when they’re in their home neighborhood, but use more widely accepted behaviors when they leave the neighborhood for other opportunities. Many people who negotiate more than one cultural group at a time code switch without even being conscious that they are making the changes” (p. 196).

Another emerging trend is the number of acts related to race or religion. Schools reported that racism are rising significantly in America’s high schools. Seventy-five percent of all students surveyed reported seeing or hearing about racially or religiously motivated confrontations on a regular basis. It is important to examine, within the context of the school, who the victims and the perpetrators are. For example, two kinds of violence should be distinguished when we are discussing violence in schools. One is violence perpetuated by trespassers who enter school buildings to steal, rob, or assault someone (Milne and Plourde 2006).The other type of violence is committed against teachers, administrators, other staff members, or fellow classmates by students enrolled in the school. Students’ acts of violence may include stealing or extorting valuables or money, verbal abuse, intimidation, and physical assaults. Victims and perpetrators of school violence represent all racial, ethnic, and economic groups. Although males are more likely to be involved in acts of violence in schools, in recent years an alarming trend indicates that girls are engaging more frequently in such acts. These examples lead to low educational achievements and inability of students to concentrate on task completion, increased fear and depression (Neighborhood Poverty 2006).

Researchers perceive that the major factors contributing to poor achievements are lack of parental supervision at home, lack of family involvement with the school, and exposure to violence in the mass media (Milne and Plourde 2006). Teachers also believe that certain types of parenting produce children who contribute to school violence (Ainsworth 2002). On numerous occasions, teachers have shared anecdotes about students, even very young students, who state that their parents have told them (the children) that they do not have to do what the teacher says or that if anyone tries to take something from them, insults them, or hits them, they should fight back. Unfortunately, many parents admit that they have so instructed their child and are offended that teachers question such directions.

In poor neighborhood, children often receive mixed messages from parents and other adults about what is right and what is wrong. The use of material goods to persuade children to behave in one way or dissuade them from behaving in another is one example of sending a mixed message (Neighborhood Poverty 2006). In such situations, children are bribed by promises of expensive clothing or toys. In addition, today’s youth seem surprised when asked if they are required to perform chores in and around their homes (Entwisle et al 2005). Many indicate that they do not do chores unless they are paid to do them. These attitudes and actions relay strong lessons about roles, responsibilities, and rights all of us must learn to assume. How we learn what these lessons are is as important as what we learn. With more and more parents working outside the home, students are very aware that it is difficult for school officials to contact their parents, and that even if they do their parents often refuse to respond (Milne and Plourde 2006). It was found that:

neighborhood characterized by social cohesion and collective efficacy could provide positive role models to parents of young children through interactions with neighbors. In contrast, neighborhood with highly negative social climates could compromise a parent’s ability to interact positively with her own child because of increased stress and/or simply because of time constraints imposed by navigating daily life” (Neighborhood Poverty 2006, p. 141).

Exacerbating this problem further are parents who refuse to come to the school when asked to do so, because the child has been in trouble repeatedly and they are tired of dealing with the child’s problems, they believe the school is at fault, or they believe nothing they can do will control the child (Milne and Plourde 2006).

Poverty and racism force many children (especially African American children) to join gangs and use drugs. Students who were queried as to their membership in these groups or gangs often responded that they join because they want to be accepted by their peers and need to belong. Others join to feel empowered and to be respected. When there is group violence, whether against one person or many, those involved deny being personally responsible by claiming they were caught up in the frenzy of the crowd, or that they were afraid that failure to participate would result in their becoming a victim or being excluded by the group (Neighborhood Poverty 2006). These young people fail to realize that more often than not these memberships prove to be destructive, not constructive. These activities prevent many children to develop their educational skills nada quire new knowledge and skills. Most of them leave school and join the army of unemployed and criminals. It was found that:

“African American families are more likely to live in segregated poor neighborhood and middle- and upper-income African American families are more likely to live in socioeconomically mixed neighborhoods than European American families of similar economic means” (Neighborhood Poverty 2006, p. 141).

So, low class African-American have less chances to achieve educational standards and finish school.

Students frequently act out their hostility by being disruptive. This, in turn, creates an atmosphere in the classroom and the school that militates against constructive teaching and learning (Neighborhood Poverty 2006). For example, teachers are less apt to teach at their full potential, the class assignments are less creative and challenging, and the ethos in the school is less motivating if tension constantly permeates the environment. In addition, teachers, like students, are less eager to go to school every day. Thus, students in these schools are much more likely to be taught by a “revolving door” of substitutes (Neighborhood Poverty 2006). An act of violence could result from idle gossip, courtship jealousies, extortion, feeling slighted or disrespected, or an attempt to impress friends. It could result from the perpetrator’s dislike for a person or their perception that the person is weak or is a “nerd” (makes good grades). In other words, a logical reason for the incident is not necessary. The tempers of many students today are triggered quickly, and the results are often disastrous. When a fight occurs, for example, especially if it is outside the classroom, other students are not likely to try to stop it. To the contrary, students are more likely to “egg on” their colleagues. “The results suggest that educational achievement and early adaptive behavior in school are associated with risk for alcohol use disorders in adulthood” (Crum 1998, p. 318).

To improve the situation in classroom and allow the majority of students to master knowledge and skills, the institutionalization of discipline and dress codes are introduced. Schools are also establishing counseling programs for students and inviting high-profile leaders in the community (that is, police officers, athletes, media representatives, and parents) to visit schools and talk with students about crime and violence. Many schools are moving to physical means of control-fences, blocked access roads, and locked and chained doors (Neihart 2006). Such means are costly and reflect the real and unpleasant image of being locked up.

In sum, the issue of youth violence in our schools and communities has reached pandemic proportions. Since schools are part of communities, educators cannot separate what happens in schools from what happens in communities. In some communities the situation is so bad young offenders are being sent to boot camps, “shock incarceration programs,” or are required to perform supervised community service. These programs are generally for young men and women who are repeat offenders and whose actions are becoming increasingly violent (that is, committing sexual assaults or using weapons).


Ainsworth, J. W. (Sep, 2002). Why Does It Take a Village? The Mediation of Neighborhood Effects on Educational Achievement. Social Forces, 81 (1), 117-152,

Crum, R. M., Ensminger, M. E. Ro, M. J., Mccord, J. (1998). The Association of Educational Achievement and School Dropout with Risk of Alcoholism: A Twenty-Five-Year Prospective Study of Inner-City Children. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 59 (3), 318-328.

Entwisle, D. R.; Alexander, K/ L.; Steffel O., L. (Mar2005). First Grade and Educational Attainment by Age 22: A New Story. American Journal of Sociology, 110 (5), 1458-1502,

Milne, A., Plourde, L. A. (2006). Factors of a Low-SES Household: What Aids Academic Achievement? Journal of Instructional Psychology, 33 (3), 183-188.

eighborhood Poverty, Social Capital and the Cognitive Development of African American Preschoolers. (2006). American Journal of Community Psychology, 37 (1-2), 141-145.

Neihart, M (2006). Dimensions of Underachievement, Difficult Contexts, and Perceptions of Self: Achievement/affiliation Conflicts in Gifted Adolescents. Roeper Review, 28 (4), 196.

Sunderman, G. L. (2006). Do Supplemental Educational Services Increase Opportunities for Minority Students? Phi Delta Kappan, 88 (2), 117-119.

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