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J Sch Health. 2011 Oct;81(10):641-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.2011.00639.x.

Inattention and hyperactivity and the achievement gap among urban minority youth.

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Department of Health and Behavior Studies, Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 West 120th Street, New York, NY 10027, USA.



To outline the prevalence and disparities of inattention and hyperactivity among school-aged urban minority youth, causal pathways through which inattention and hyperactivity adversely affects academic achievement, and proven or promising approaches for schools to address these problems.


Literature review.


Approximately 4.6 million (8.4%) of American youth aged 6-17 have received a diagnosis of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and almost two thirds of these youth are reportedly under treatment with prescription medications. Urban minority youth are not only more likely to be affected but also less likely to receive accurate diagnosis and treatment. Causal pathways through which ADHD may affect academic achievement include sensory perceptions, cognition, school connectedness, absenteeism, and dropping out. In one study, youth with diagnosed ADHD were 2.7 times as likely to drop out (10.0% vs. 22.9%). A similar odds ratio for not graduating from high school was found in another prospective study, with an 8-year follow-up period (odds ratio = 2.4). There are many children who are below the clinical diagnostic threshold for ADHD but who exhibit signs and symptoms that interfere with learning. Evidence-based programs emphasizing functional academic and social outcomes are available.


Inattention and hyperactivity are highly and disproportionately prevalent among school-aged urban minority youth, have a negative impact on academic achievement through their effects on sensory perceptions, cognition, school connectedness, absenteeism, and dropping out, and effective practices are available for schools to address these problems. This prevalent and complex syndrome has very powerful effects on academic achievement and educational attainment, and should be a high priority in efforts to help close the achievement gap.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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