Study Claims School Bus Emissions Influence Learning
published on October 14, 2019 by Sonia Mastros
There is ample evidence that the sort of emissions and pollution created by gasoline and diesel vehicles - like school buses - can cause significant health problems among people exposed to the emissions. What has been harder to demonstrate is whether or not those health problems include mental health as well.
However, a new study out of Georgia State University makes a strong argument that this is the case. Because Georgia school districts have been investing heavily into systems to reduce school bus emissions, the GSU researchers were able to make direct before-and-after comparisons of student health and student test scores.
The results? Students riding low-emission buses had higher average scores!
Can Reducing School Bus Emissions Improve Test Scores?
The methodology for the study was relatively simple: They looked at districts which had upgraded their school buses to include emissions control between 2006 and 2017, doing A-to-A comparisons within the school districts. The results were striking: Students riding retrofitted buses saw marked improvements in their English scores on standardized tests, as well as lower - but still significant - improvements in math scores.
Because Georgia also has a standardized system of physical fitness tests, they were able to correlate this to improvements in physical health as well. Districts with emissions control saw students' aerobic capacity increase, and this happened side-by-side with the improved test scores. On the other hand, students riding buses without emissions control did not show improvement in physical or testing performance.
While not strictly conclusive - due to the relatively restricted scope of the study - this still makes for a very strong argument that school bus emissions can actively harm student's brains!
Emissions Control Is an Affordable Solution
The study also offered very distinct advice for districts looking to improve scores. By their estimates, dollar-for-dollar, installing diesel particulate filters may deliver far better testing gains than investments aimed specifically at classrooms. These particulate filters capture harmful emissions at the tailpipe, and they are a relatively cheap upgrade which can be added to virtually any bus on the road.
The study did not look at situations where buses had been upgraded to electrical systems or other alt-fuels. Hopefully, researchers in the future will look into this, to add to the data available.
At any rate, it seems there are now more reasons than ever before to look into investing in some form of school bus emissions control. It's good for student health, it's good for public health, it's good for the environment, and now it seems that it's even good for test scores.
That really makes it difficult to argue against upgrades.
Has your district been investigating emissions control systems? Do you think this new study will help shift the discussion? Let's talk about it!