Linking student performance in Massachusetts elementary schools with the "greenness" of school surroundings using remote sensing

PLoS One. 2014 Oct 13;9(10):e108548. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0108548. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

Various studies have reported the physical and mental health benefits from exposure to "green" neighborhoods, such as proximity to neighborhoods with trees and vegetation. However, no studies have explicitly assessed the association between exposure to "green" surroundings and cognitive function in terms of student academic performance. This study investigated the association between the "greenness" of the area surrounding a Massachusetts public elementary school and the academic achievement of the school's student body based on standardized tests with an ecological setting. Researchers used the composite school-based performance scores generated by the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) to measure the percentage of 3rd-grade students (the first year of standardized testing for 8-9 years-old children in public school), who scored "Above Proficient" (AP) in English and Mathematics tests (Note: Individual student scores are not publically available). The MCAS results are comparable year to year thanks to an equating process. Researchers included test results from 2006 through 2012 in 905 public schools and adjusted for differences between schools in the final analysis according to race, gender, English as a second language (proxy for ethnicity and language facility), parent income, student-teacher ratio, and school attendance. Surrounding greenness of each school was measured using satellite images converted into the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) in March, July and October of each year according to a 250-meter, 500-meter, 1,000-meter, and 2000-meter circular buffer around each school. Spatial Generalized Linear Mixed Models (GLMMs) estimated the impacts of surrounding greenness on school-based performance. Overall the study results supported a relationship between the "greenness" of the school area and the school-wide academic performance. Interestingly, the results showed a consistently positive significant association between the greenness of the school in the Spring (when most Massachusetts students take the MCAS tests) and school-wide performance on both English and Math tests, even after adjustment for socio-economic factors and urban residency.

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Child
  • Educational Measurement
  • Educational Status
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massachusetts
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Schools
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Students*
  • Trees*

Grant support

These authors have no support or funding to report.