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Ann Epidemiol. 2012 Oct;22(10):738-43. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2012.07.004. Epub 2012 Aug 15.

Lead exposure and educational proficiency: moderate lead exposure and educational proficiency on end-of-grade examinations.

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  • 1Department of Population Health Sciences, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA. amato@wisc.edu

Abstract

PURPOSE:

To investigate and quantify the impact of moderate lead exposure on students' ability to score at the "proficient" level on end-of-grade standardized tests.

METHODS:

We compared the scores of 3757 fourth grade students from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE). The sample consisted of children with a blood lead test before age 3 years that was either unquantifiable at the time of testing (<5 μg/dL) or in the range of moderate exposure (10-19 μg/dL).

RESULTS:

After controlling for gender, poverty, English language learner status, race/ethnicity, school disciplinary actions, and attendance percentage, results showed a significant negative effect of moderate lead exposure on academic achievement for all 5 subtests of the WKCE. Test score deficits owing to lead exposure were equal to 22% of the interval between student categorization at the "proficient" or "basic" levels in Reading, and 42% of the interval in Mathematics.

CONCLUSIONS:

Children exposed to amounts of lead before age 3 years that are insufficient to trigger intervention under current policies in many states are nonetheless at a considerable educational disadvantage compared with their unexposed peers 7 to 8 years later. Exposed students are at greater risk of scoring below the proficient level, an outcome with serious negative consequences for both the student and the school.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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