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Evidence-Based Interactions Between Indoor Environmental Factors and Their Effects on K-12 Student Achievement

Research Team

Name Name

Principal Investigator: Lily Wang

Co-Principal Investigators: James Bovaird, Clarence Waters, Josephine Lau

Funding Information

Funding Agency: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Award Date: Nov 1, 2014

End Date: Oct 31, 2018


The proposed research aims to establish how indoor environmental conditions in K-12 school buildings impact student scholastic achievement. The objectives are to: 

  1. Study the impacts of a wide set of indoor environmental factors (including indoor air quality, thermal, lighting and acoustic conditions) on student achievement.
  2. Investigate how these conditions interact with each other to impact student achievement.
  3. Rank the environmental variables in terms of their relative impact on student achievement.
  4. Determine how these effects vary with different demographic (e.g. socio-economic) groups. 
There are four main research tasks to be completed towards accomplishing the objectives:

  1. Investigate how the school environment impacts student achievement by data-mining from publicly available databases on Academic Performance Index (API) scores, including California schools that have received High Performance Incentive grants as compared against other schools with similar demographics.
  2. Conduct detailed indoor environmental measurements in classrooms at local Nebraska and Iowa school districts.
  3. Statistically analyze the relationship between the measured conditions with classroom-aggregate student achievement data.
  4. Confirm the findings by implementing an intervention in which certain classroom environments are changed to test expected relationships between the indoor environmental conditions and student achievement. 
The research results will establish how the indoor air quality, thermal, lighting and acoustic conditions in K-12 school buildings interactively affect student achievement, determine the relative significance of each environmental variable, and reveal how student demographics may affect these results. The project directly addresses the research needs identified in the solicitation by providing better understanding of how multiple aspects of the built environment impact student achievement, across a wide spectrum of classrooms, depending on demographics. Armed with such results, school districts with limited funds will be able to make more well-informed decisions on how to improve their infrastructure to most impact student achievement.

Academic Intervention & Learning

Jim Bovaird, far right, joins UNL architectural engineering faculty, from left, Josephine Lau, Clarence Waters and Lily Wang in an EPA-funded study to examine schools’ indoor environmental effects on students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
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