Prof. Brian Jacob says child abuse and neglect should be ‘central concern’ for state in new Brookings report

April 10, 2018


Late last month the Brookings Institution released a report by U-M professors Brian Jacob and Joseph Ryan. The assessment was the result of a partnership between the University and the State of Michigan, detailing the prevalence of abuse and neglect of third-grade children who attend Michigan’s public schools.

The report “How life outside of a school affects student performance in school,” takes a critical look at child maltreatment across the state. Jacob and Ryan questioned the prevalence of maltreatment, whether risk of maltreatment differed by demographic, and the association between maltreatment and academic performance.

By the end of the study, the pair suggested school systems develop ways to support children who have experienced maltreatment through collaborative efforts with social services.

The academics found 18 percent of third graders in Michigan’s public school systems have been subject to at least one formal investigation for child maltreatment. In Michigan, anyone is allowed to make an anonymous report for suspected abuse, and even an unsubstantiated complaint may signal some type of dysfunction within a family.

According the the report, the achievement gap between poor and non-poor children has increased faster than racial gap. Additionally, trauma has been less widely recognized –including homelessness, domestic violence, parental drug abuse neglect and physical or sexual abuse.

The report’s findings included lagging academic outcomes, prevalence of reported maltreatment to Child Protective Services, and association between poorer schools and high rates of maltreatment investigations. They say a ‘high concentration’ of children have been exposed to trauma inflicts a a substantial burden on teachers and administrators as well.

Based on the findings, the professors made policy recommendations for educational change. This included designing and implementing systems for effective data sharing, using the data to provide child support, and implementing programs to address the issue of child maltreatment.

Jacob is a non-resident senior fellow at Brookings and the Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Education Policy at the Ford School. Ryan is an associate professor in the School of Social Work.