News Brief

Air Filtration in Schools May Improve Test Scores

Students with cleaner indoor air significantly out-performed their peers in a recent study.

The cognitive effects of outdoor air pollution can be devastating, particularly for schoolchildren. A new working paper suggests that there may be an inexpensive correction for this—cleaning up indoor air using air filters.

The study took advantage of the political fallout from a 2015–16 gas leak in California. Residents demanded protection from the effects of the gas, and as part of that, the gas company ended up installing air filters in schools located within five miles of the leak. It turned out that the gas dissipated before ever entering the schools, but the circumstances inspired working paper author Michael Gilraine, Ph.D., of New York University to study the impacts of the air filters.

He compared test scores between schools with air filtration and those nearby that did not have air filtration. Students with filtered air significantly out-performed their peers without filtered air on both math and English tests. The effects were comparable to decreasing class size by a third, according to Matthew Yglesias, writing for Vox.

Gilraine claims that air filtration might be the most cost-effective way to boost test performance, adding that the impacts could be greatest for low-income students, who tend to live in the most polluted neighborhoods. “Installing air filters in schools throughout many areas of the United States should generate similar test score gains,” he concludes, adding that this relatively inexpensive fix could even potentially remove persistent test score gaps between low-income children and more affluent students.

The study did not address the level of filtration that might be required, nor did it assess the potential energy costs associated with filtering air.

For more information:

National Education Working Papers

Published March 2, 2020

Melton, P. (2020, March 2). Air Filtration in Schools May Improve Test Scores. Retrieved from

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March 4, 2020 - 6:58 pm

You may wish to check into this further.