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Nothing Says “Fun” Like Standardized Tests: Creating Healthy Environments to Help Students Succeed

2010 October 4

By Cathy Davis

When I was about eight years old, I actually loved standardized tests. (Trust me, I know that’s strange.) My dad developed the student assessment program for the state board of education. He loved his job, and I loved hearing about it, so I loved standardized tests. He used to tell me about all the different factors outside a student’s innate ability that could affect their scores: having nutritious meals, family stability and support, family income, having a safe place to study and read, and so many other social and economic factors.

What I’ve learned since then is that there is growing evidence that the environment where children learn can also affect their achievement (see Greening America’s Schools: Costs and Benefits ). When schools have good indoor air quality, safe chemicals management programs (including pesticides and other chemicals), safe drinking water, and well-maintained facilities, the students are better learners. They don’t miss as much school, and it’s easier for them to pay attention when they’re in school. But many school buildings contain environmental conditions that may inhibit learning and pose increased risks to the health of children and staff.

Creating healthy school environments can seem like a daunting task. There are over 120,000 schools in the country, and there are many potential environmental hazards. But I think the benefits to children’s health now and their success in the future far outweigh the short-term cost and effort. EPA has many programs and tools that parents, teachers, and school administrators can use to improve the environmental health of schools. So here’s my question to you, which of these programs (or similar programs run by your state or community) are you going to put into action to make your community’s schools healthier places to learn?

Learn how you to promote healthy communities for healthy children, during Children’s Health Month and every month, at www.epa.gov/children.

About the author: Cathy Davis works on healthy schools and other children’s environmental health issues in EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection. She comes from a family of educators (and a couple of lawyers).

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

6 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    October 4, 2010

    Congratulations to U.S. EPA which initiated Children’s Health Month as away to remind Parents and other caregivers to protect Kids from Environmental Risks this October 2010. I have broken down thinking about many factors resulted “Standardized Tests Cathy’s Dad”, because we could see different ability students in many countries. We need the times to develop Green Earth….

  2. jko permalink
    October 5, 2010

    I think the benefits to the health of children now and their success in the future far outweigh the short-term costs and effort .

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    October 10, 2010

    Environmentally friendly schools make better learners and healthier kids and adults later. At the same time, spending on environmentally friendly programs in California is running head on into the budget crisis where over $1 billion more dollars was taken from schools last week. So environmental programs are taking a back seat to trying to maintain the basic academic programs in the schools. One thing that should be looked at as a health and safety issue is how are middle schools and high schools storing and using old chemicals in their chemistry class laboratories? As money gets tighter the standards for storing and use of the chemicals gets lower to save money. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  4. Barbara Rubin permalink
    October 24, 2010

    Not only are we guaranteeing our children won’t reach their intellectual potentials if we don’t clean up our schools but we are placing all of our teaching staff at risk. Teachers have a higher incidence of autoimmune diseases than occurs in the general population, indicating environmental contributions. I was the victim of pesticide poisoning in my own program and called in the EPA when I learned what had been applied and hidden from me after testing the building. Pesticides are largely developed for farm use and are neurotoxic. Dr. Phillip Landrigan, environmental pediatrician at Mt. Sinai Hospital also notes such exposures are associated with increased risks of childhood cancer.

    Older buildings may demonstrate residues of banned pesticides like chlordane while those near agriculture may suffer from current-day drift of chemicals which may be banned for use in schools today.

    We need the EPA to lobby for full disclosure of pesticide ingredients and for full disclosure of applications made to public building and living spaces. This isn’t a punitive measure against users of pesticides but a means by which individuals can make the decisions themselves as far as those exposures which are acceptable to them. It also permits exposure histories to be available to physicians since medical tests to show metabolites of current use pesticides are not available commercially.

    FIFRA laws cannot be enforced unless information about product ingredients (pesticides are in many cleaning products and paints etc.) is available to all. Administrator Jackson is advocating for disclosure of ‘inerts’ and reducing toxic exposures. We all need to support that effort.

    Barbara Rubin

  5. Alyssa Taylor permalink
    October 25, 2010

    Creating healthy school environments should clearly be a priority. The success of a school should be measured by the success of the students, but this becomes difficult when 14.7 million school days are missed due to Asthma (reported by the EPA). Severe asthmatic symptoms are often triggered by dust and mold. Old schools then face the problem of weighing costs and benefits of taking the time and resources to get rid of this problem in the schools and hopefully reducing the number of absences versus allowing the kids to remain in an unhealthy environment that will disproportionately disadvantage children with asthma. No school should have to question which option they should choose. However, it will require activism among communities to insist that healthy school environments are essential for children.

  6. Steven permalink
    February 21, 2011

    We need the EPA to lobby for full disclosure of pesticide ingredients and for full disclosure of applications made to public building and living spaces. This isn’t a punitive measure against users of pesticides but a means by which individuals can make the decisions themselves as far as those exposures which are acceptable to them. It also permits exposure histories to be available to physicians since medical tests to show metabolites of current use pesticides are not available commercially.

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