I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nurses Vs. Test Scores

Warning: This post is completely unscientific and only represents me thinking out loud. However...

Matt DiCarlo has an excellent post out today about school nurses. Only 41% of schools surveyed have a full-time RN on staff. Matt asks:
There are several ways to look at these results. One might ask, for example, how many children are sent home from school unnecessarily every day because there is no nurse on site, and whether that affects their academic performance (a point that is likely to be politically viable in today’s test-obsessed environment). Or, taking a different approach, one could wonder about cost effectiveness – it costs money to hire nurses, and school budgets always reflect difficult choices. Finally, one might zero in on the ever-present issue of underlying variation – i.e., whether the staffing patterns varied by school size and poverty (and they do). For example, many of the schools with less extensive nursing services were smaller schools. 
These types of issues are important, and worth discussing, but to some extent I think they are beside the point. Children spend very large proportions of their waking hours in schools. Many of them take medication or have serious conditions, and virtually all of them get sick or hurt once in a while. In many districts, particularly poorer districts, school nurses serve as de facto primary care providers. And, of course, regardless of income or where one lives, serious emergencies sometimes arise and lives can be at stake.
Matt's right... but I just can't help myself:

Again, no one should take this too seriously. These are state NAEP scores in 8th Grade math (top 20 most-populous states) against the percentage of schools in each state that were reported to have at least one full-time RN on site. The data on nursing comes from the report Matt cites, published by the National Association of School Nurses. It's just a survey, with lots of cautions about sample sizes.

Still, there is something of a correlation here; of course, that could mean anything or nothing at all. Please don't think I'm saying nurses make 8th Grade math students smarter...

Then again, who knows? I think Matt has given us cause to investigate further. And by "us," I mean "not me."

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