by M Kuo, MHEM Browning, S Sachdeva, K Lee, L Westphal

Frontiers in Psychology 9:1669


For decades urban, low-income schools in the United States have been cited as among the lowest-performing schools academically. Due to a lack of large-scale, structural solutions to address poverty and discrimination, there is a growing need for low-cost interventions that boost academic achievement in schools serving disadvantaged urban students. Previous research has suggested that planting more vegetation around schools could actually increase academic performance, although none of these studies examined schools in low-income neighborhoods. This paper examines tree cover and green spaces in 318 Chicago public schools to determine the greenness-academic achievement relationship. Bivariate correlations were utilized to divulge which components of greenness and potential confounding variables were related to academic achievement. The results of this study suggest that green cover and academic performance are positively correlated, even in a highly disadvantaged population of schools. The authors also found that school tree cover, when compared to other forms of green cover, has the greatest potential to mitigate academic underachievement in high-poverty, urban schools. Given that school tree cover in extremely disadvantaged schools is roughly half that in less disadvantaged schools, the data further reinforces the necessity of this low-cost intervention. Based on this research, school administrators could find greater academic success through the increase of tree canopy cover on their campuses. To complement the existing body of cross-sectional work, future studies could examine test scores and control for confounding variables at the individual student level, while also considering changes in greenness over time.

Region: Chicago, Illinois
Publication Type: Journal article
Keywords: education, race and ethnicity, socioeconomics, tree canopy assessment, and urban greening