Critical Connections: How Student Health Impacts AchievementDecember 3rd, 2009
Is school a safe place for America's kids? Most parents I know feel good about sending their kids to school, where we expect they will learn, play, and grow. What if parents knew that it's estimated that 60% of all students are "at high risk daily due solely to the condition of their school"?* That's about 32 million kids. Fortunately, more advocates, citizens, and lawmakers are focusing on dangerous conditions in schools, poor student health, and their impact on student achievement.
On December 3rd, The Coalition for Healthier Schools, a national forum for school environmental health, announced its "Sick Schools 2009 - America's Continuing Environmental Health Crisis for Children" report. Policy advocates in 20 states contributed to the report, which is based on peer-reviewed research and offers compelling evidence that poor indoor air quality and polluted air outside schools are linked to higher health care costs, increased absenteeism, and poorer test scores. According to the report, in spite of "published, accepted science, there is no systematic national state-by-state survey of the conditions of schools, taking into account environmental factors" that affect children.
Green Schools Initiative is a member of the Coalition, and our own Executive Director, Deborah Moore, commented, "California still has a long way to go to ensure that all of its school facilities have healthy indoor environments and are adequately maintained." She urged the adoption of the Clean and Healthy Schools Act (AB821, pending in the California state legislature), which would enable schools to "switch to green cleaners and reduce asthma and absenteeism while saving money." Download the full report (pdf)
In a similar vein, California Assembly member Tom Torlakson (D- Antioch), Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Schools and Community, hosted a legislative briefing in Sacramento December 1st to explore the connection between student health and attendance, academic performance, dropout rates, and school district revenues. The briefing highlighted the findings of a paper developed by researchers at WestEd and UCSF called, "The Critical Connection Between Student Health and Academic Achievement: How Schools and Policymakers Can Achieve a Positive Impact." The report draws on 15 years of research exploring the many and varied costs of poor student health, yet it's short and to the point. The Critical Connection offers specific solutions and next steps for schools and policymakers alike. Read the report (pdf) to find out how schools can help improve student health so students can focus on learning.
*"Sick Schools 2009 - America's Continuing Environmental Health Crisis for Children"