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A new study published by Temple University researchers in the July issue of the journal Obesity found that overweight kids are more likely to do poorly in school.

When grade point averages were compared among 566 middle school students in a suburb of Philadelphia, overweight students came in at about half a grade point lower than students at a healthy weight.

The study also found that overweight kids had lower reading comprehension scores on a nationally standardized test, averaging in the 66th percentile for their grade level, while students at a healthy weight were at the 75th percentile. Moreover, overweight students were much more likely to have behavioral issues in school: they were five times more likely than their healthy-weight peers to have six or more detentions. They also had more school absences.

Finally, and probably least surprising, the study found that overweight students were less than half as likely as kids at a healthy weight to participate on school athletic teams – 37% to 75%.

While these results may be surprising to some, they are not surprising to Wellspring. Ask any teacher or behavioral coach at a Wellspring Academy if they see a link between weight and underperformance academically, and they’ll tell you in no uncertain terms that they see a connection.

This connection was documented by Wellspring Academies earlier this year with a review of students’ academic records prior to attending Wellspring, vs. what they achieved at Wellspring. A random sample showed that students’ average grade point average (GPA) increased 27.5% at Wellspring compared to their most recent semester at home.

The lead author of the Temple study, Stuart Shore, speculates that overweight kids have low self-esteem and may be less inclined to attend school, and may not relate well with their teachers.

In Wellspring’s experience, this is part of it. Certainly, many incoming students to Wellspring Academy of California and Wellspring Academy of the Carolinas have experienced issues with school attendance. Many overweight students don’t enjoy spending time in an emotionally hostile environment where taunting and teasing is part of their daily routine. But the typical incoming Wellspring student is also underperforming academically, and some are behind grade level.

In almost all cases, this is not due to a lack of aptitude. Rather, many overweight students are less focused on succeeding in school. This is connected to low self-esteem, but also relates to the fact that many overweight students are less goal-oriented. In Wellspring’s experience, most overweight students are less likely to be thinking about long-term goals, like college. Again, this could be related to low self-esteem (i.e., “I’m not capable of succeeding”), but we also see that many overweight students are so caught up with their present problems that they are unable or unwilling to focus on the longer term.

If this describes your child, then an intervention of some kind might be required in order to help your child focus on succeeding in school, and with his or her weight. The comprehensive Wellspring Academy programs do exactly this, and also train students on self-regulatory skills such as self-monitoring, goal-setting and journaling so students become more organized and are better able to set and achieve short- and long-term goals.