Entries in Academic Performance (2)


Study: Even Slightly Early Birth May Hurt Academic Performance

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Kids who get too early a start at life -- even if they are born in the first half of the gestation period associated with "normal term" birth -- appear more likely to struggle at reading and math by the time they reach third grade, new research suggests.

In a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers aimed to find out whether there were differences in third grade reading and math scores among nearly 130,000 children considered to have been born within a "normal" gestational range between 37 and 41 weeks.

What they found was that those born at 37 weeks and 38 weeks had significantly lower reading scores compared to children born at 39, 40 or 41 weeks.  Math scores were also lower for children born at 37 or 38 weeks.

Lead study author Dr. Kimberly Noble, assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, said the findings should give parents-to-be pause before opting for early birth for non-medical reasons.

"The evidence from this study would suggest that elective induction of birth should be approached cautiously," Noble said.  "The data suggest that children born at 37 or 38 weeks may have problems with reduced school achievement later on."

Noble said that even after taking a number of other factors into account -- among them birth weight, socioeconomic background and maternal education -- the link between earlier birth and academic performance was still evident.  

She added that, while it was possible that some other unmeasured factor could be responsible for the connection, "until we have more data we would encourage parents and physicians to exercise caution when considering elective induction of birth prior to 39 weeks gestation."

The study is the latest addition to a growing body of evidence that purely elective induction of birth may be a bad idea.  According to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such births appear to be a growing trend.  Only 9.5 percent of all births in 1990 were through elective induction.  Compare that to 2007, which saw nearly 23 percent of all births electively induced.

Efforts by many hospitals to encourage full-term pregnancies appear to have blunted this trend in recent years.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Research: Physical Activity May Help Kids' Grades Too

Ezra Shaw/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands) -- While physical activity is known to improve children's physical fitness and lower their risk of obesity, new research suggests it may also help them perform better in school.

Dutch researchers reviewed 14 previous studies from different parts of the world that looked at the relationship between physical activity and academic performance.  Their review is published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

The data from the studies, "suggests there is a significant positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance," wrote the authors, led by Amika Singh of the Vrije Universiteit University Medical Center's EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research in Amsterdam.

While they didn't examine the reasons why the relationship may exist, the authors, citing previous research, said regular physical activity seems to be linked to better brain function. The effect on the brain could be the results of a number of factors, including increased flow of blood and oxygen to the brain as well as higher levels of chemicals that help improve mood.

This latest report comes at a time when schools across the country debate cutting physical education from their curriculum or have already eliminated it because of budget constraints, the desire to stress academics or a combination of both. There is also concern that physical activity in schools can be detrimental to academic performance.

But in addition to the latest research review, a 2010 literature review done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that out of 50 studies, more than half showed a positive association between school-based physical activity -- such as physical education, recess and extracurricular sports -- and academic performance, and about half found no effect. Only a few showed a negative relationship that could be attributable to chance.

Some of the research reported that concentration, memory, self-esteem and verbal skills were among the improvements noted in students who participated in school-based physical activity.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio