Brown University and Princeton University researchers recently coauthored a study on how levels of lead in the preschoolers’ blood relate to their testing scores in reading when they reach the third grade.
“(Rhode Island) had a particularly
aggressive program of testing for lead, and 80 percent of all three-year-old
children in the state have at least one blood lead level measurement,” researchers said in the study.
They were able to “match information on preschool blood lead
levels from the R.I. Department of Health with the child’s test scores from the
R.I. Department of Education in order to examine the effects of preschool blood
lead levels on third grade test scores.”
Published as a working paper with the
National Bureau of Economics Research, the study’s authors found that for ever
unit increase in a child’s blood lead level, there was a corresponding one
point decrease in their future reading scores and a 3.1 percent increase in the
likelihood that they would be substantially below proficient in reading. While
the study’s results also suggested a negative affect on math scores, the
estimates were less precise.
“This study underscores the importance of
looking at factors outside the educational setting to help explain persistent
gaps in test scores,” Anna Aizer, Brown University professor of economics and coauthor of the study, said.
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