Location, Location: How a School’s Site May Affect Student Performance

September 17, 2008

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

One of our fundamental issues at
HSC is how health and wellness affect student performance. While much of the
work we do falls into an area we consider common sense (eat well, reduce
exposures to toxic chemicals, improve acoustics in the classroom, exercise
more), we still look to the research to validate our efforts. A new
study
is beginning that will look at the effects of outdoor air pollution
and student performance.

University of Michigan researchers are studying
connections between air toxins and K-12 student performance in Michigan – and
possibly whether air quality should be a factor when deciding where to build
public schools.

The study combines census, air quality and school
district information to give a bird’s-eye view of where schools, poverty and
pollution intersect – kilometer by kilometer across the entire state. By using
additional public data supplied by Detroit Public Schools, researchers at U-M’s
School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) are taking the study a step
further: comparing student performance against environmental data.

The implications of this study will be significant and far
reaching – from issues of environmental justice, to real-world capital
budgeting questions about school siting and land acquisition. We are about to
begin a project with the National Trust and the Lt. Governor’s Office to look
into school siting policies and make recommendations on how to best develop
schools that promote community, health and quality education. We look forward
to reading the findings of this study. Stay tuned!