School Engagement and Academic Achievement
School engagement is a multidimensional construct that includes students’ cognitive investment, willingness to participate, and the emotional appeal of school (Blumenfeld et al., 2005). Each one of these cognitive, behavioral, and emotional components is related to academic performance and has been linked to early school withdrawal.
Research has shown that students who report being more engaged in school attain higher academic achievement (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2003). There also appears to be a bidirectional relationship between engagement and academic achievement. The more engaged the students, the more they learn; and the more that is learned, the better they feel about themselves and school, increasing their level of engagement, and so on (Hauser-Cram et al., 2006).
A two-year study of school engagement in middle childhood included over 600 students between grades 3 through 5 drawn from four urban schools with large numbers of Latino and African American students (Blumenfeld et al., 2005). Very small percentages of the students from these school districts met the state competency standards for reading or math. Although overall engagement was moderately high, examiners were able to identify six patterns of engagement over a two-year period. Students who were less engaged were more likely to be boys, from the higher grades, and doing very poorly academically. These less-engaged students also had less favorable perceptions of their school environments, including low teacher and peer support, poor work norms, and challenging tasks. One recommendation for resource-limited schools is to identify those students who are least engaged and direct resources towards them.
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