This study shows that improved indoor air quality in classrooms leads to higher test scores for students.
Education budgets are tight. Politicians are busy putting limits on school budgets to “put more money in the classroom.” The problem is – if you do not provide safe, healthy and encouraging environments, it does not matter how much you restrict spending on infrastructure, the end product – educated students – is going to be limited. Now, I know that sounds a bit over dramatic, but the reality is that environmental conditions have an impact on student performance.
In a very interesting controlled study produced by Dr. Richard Shaughnessy, et. al., and published in the Journal of Indoor Air (December 2006) it was found that indoor air quality had a significant impact on test scores of students. This study was done with 55 Fifth grade elementary school classrooms. Ventilation rates were calculated from CO2 concentrations. Student performance was based on standardized math and reading tests. Other factors such as male/female ratios, free lunch program, limited English, gifted student percentage, absenteeism rate and ethnicity were all neutralized.
The study showed that increased ventilation rates had a significant impact on math and reading test scores. With a ventilation rate of less than 5 cfm the mean math scores were 56.32 and the mean reading scores were 47.73. When ventilation rates were over 10 cfm mean math scores were 64.46 and reading scores were 54.27. This represented a 14.7% increase in math scores and a 13.7% increase in reading scores with improved ventilation. Even the best teachers would be very happy with this type of increase.
While these results are preliminary, they are very interesting. The researchers are in the process of expanding the study and further results should be available relatively soon.
The study certainly supports the proposition that the environment as well as the students, teachers and administrators need to be in concert to achieve the best educational results in our school systems.