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SCIENCE DISCOVERY

Two Behaviours Linked To High School Dropout Rate – Study Reveals

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he factors that may lead to a student’s decision to leave school are complex, but a new study from the University of Georgia sheds light on how two behaviors — aggression and weak study skills — contribute to the problem.

“What we find in our study is that the students who are dropping out have complex behavioral and academic problems,” said Pamela Orpinas, a professor of health promotion and behavior at UGA’s College of Public Health and lead author on the study.

The returned benefit of reducing dropout can’t be overstated, she said. A good education can level the playing field for students who may face other challenges in their environment, such as living in resource-poor neighborhoods or an unstable home.

“Graduating from high school is almost like a miracle drug,” said Orpinas. “If you think of one thing that we could do to improve students’ health, it’s make sure kids have a good education and graduate from high school.”

The key to helping a student stay in school is spotting the signs and behaviors that put students at risk of dropping out earlier in their academic careers, she said.

Students exhibit both aggression and study skills early in school, and both behaviors have been independently associated with learning and success, or lack of it. Orpinas’ study is the first to track the two together over a period of seven years.

The researchers randomly selected 620 sixth-graders from northeast Georgia schools. Teachers completed a behavior rating scale for these students every year from sixth through 12th grade. Based on teacher ratings, the students were grouped into low, medium and high aggression trajectories from middle to high school, and into five study skills groups.

Orpinas was particularly interested in tracking behaviors that teachers could observe and, more importantly, affect their classrooms.

“You can examine dysfunction in the family or problems in a neighborhood, but there’s very little teachers can do about it. Aggression and study skills are issues that the teachers could manage in the classroom,” she said.

Students classified in the high aggression/low study skills group had a 50 percent dropout rate compared to students with low aggression and high study skills who had a dropout rate of less than 2 percent.

“That is a dramatic difference,” said Orpinas, “and the study illustrates how well these behaviors were able to predict dropouts across all groups of students.”

This study points to the importance of supporting schools and educators with the resources they need to detect and correct all behaviors that put students at risk, Orpinas said. It will not be enough to address just one of them, either aggression or study skills.

“Simple and single solutions do not work,” she said.

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SCIENCE DISCOVERY

Bottled Water Is Contaminated With Plastic Particles – Study Reveals

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he research found that the bottles are contaminated with tiny plastic particles that are likely seeping in during the packaging process.

Even more shocking was the recommendation of the researchers: tap water is much safer than bottled water. “Tap water, by and large, is much safer than bottled water,” said Sherri Mason, a micro-plastic researcher at State University of New York and leader of the team.

“Widespread contamination” with plastic was found in the study, according to a summary released by Orb Media, a US-based non-profit media collective.

Water from Tap water safer, say researchers
Researchers tested 250 bottles of water in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Thailand, and the United States.

Plastic was identified in 93 percent of the samples, which included major name brands such as Aqua, Aquafina, Dasani, Evian, Nestle Pure Life and San Pellegrino. Some of the brands are also available in Nigeria.

The plastic debris included polypropylene, nylon, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used to make bottle caps.

“In this study, 65 percent of the particles we found were actually fragments and not fibers,” Mason told AFP.

“I think it is coming through the process of bottling the water. I think that most of the plastic that we are seeing is coming from the bottle itself, it is coming from the cap, it is coming from the industrial process of bottling the water.”

Particle concentration ranged from “zero to more than 10,000 likely plastic particles in a single bottle,” said the report.

On average, plastic particles in the 100 micron (0.10 millimeter) size range — considered “microplastics,” — were found at an average rate of 10.4 plastic particles per litre.

Even smaller particles were more common — averaging about 325 per litre.

Other brands that were found to contain plastic contaminated included Bisleri, Epura, Gerolsteiner, Minalba and Wahaha.

Experts cautioned that the extent of the risk to human health posed by such contamination remains unclear.

“There are connections to increases in certain kinds of cancer to lower sperm count to increases in conditions like ADHD and autism,” said Mason.

“We know that they are connected to these synthetic chemicals in the environment and we know that plastics are providing kind of a means to get those chemicals into our bodies.”

The three-month study used a technique developed by the University of East Anglia’s School of Chemistry to “see” microplastic particles by staining them using fluorescent Nile Red dye, which makes plastic fluorescent when irradiated with blue light.

“We have been involved with independently reviewing the findings and methodology to ensure the study is robust and credible,” said lead researcher Andrew Mayes, from UEA’s School of Chemistry.

“We know plastics are building-up in marine animals, and this means we too are being exposed, some of us, every day,” she said.

“It’s more urgent now than ever before to make plastic water bottles a thing of the past.”

 

NAN

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