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      Might School Performance Grow on Trees? Examining the Link Between “Greenness” and Academic Achievement in Urban, High-Poverty Schools

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          In the United States, schools serving urban, low-income students are among the lowest-performing academically. Previous research in relatively well-off populations has linked vegetation in schoolyards and surrounding neighborhoods to better school performance even after controlling for important confounding factors, raising the tantalizing possibility that greening might boost academic achievement. This study extended previous cross-sectional research on the “greenness”-academic achievement link to a public school district in which nine out of ten children were eligible for free lunch. In generalized linear mixed models, Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR)-based measurements of green cover for 318 Chicago public schools predicted statistically significantly better school performance on standardized tests of math, with marginally statistically significant results for reading—even after controlling for disadvantage, an index combining poverty and minority status. Pupil/teacher ratio %bilingual, school size, and %female could not account for the greenness-performance link. Interactions between greenness and Disadvantage suggest that the greenness-academic achievement link is different for student bodies with different levels of disadvantage. To determine what forms of green cover were most strongly tied to academic achievement, tree cover was examined separately from grass and shrub cover; only tree cover predicted school performance. Further analyses examined the unique contributions of “school tree cover” (tree cover for the schoolyard and a 25 m buffer) and “neighborhood tree cover” (tree cover for the remainder of a school’s attendance catchment area). School greenness predicted math achievement when neighborhood greenness was controlled for, but neighborhood greenness did not significantly predict either reading or math achievement when school greenness was taken into account. Future research should assess whether greening schoolyards boost school performance.

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          Most cited references 45

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          GeoDa: An Introduction to Spatial Data Analysis

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            Gender differences in mathematics performance: a meta-analysis.

            Reviewers have consistently concluded that males perform better on mathematics tests than females do. To make a refined assessment of the magnitude of gender differences in mathematics performance, we performed a meta-analysis of 100 studies. They yielded 254 independent effect sizes, representing the testing of 3,175,188 Ss. Averaged over all effect sizes based on samples of the general population, d was -0.05, indicating that females outperformed males by only a negligible amount. For computation, d was -0.14 (the negative value indicating superior performance by females). For understanding of mathematical concepts, d was -0.03; for complex problem solving, d was 0.08. An examination of age trends indicated that girls showed a slight superiority in computation in elementary school and middle school. There were no gender differences in problem solving in elementary or middle school; differences favoring men emerged in high school (d = 0.29) and in college (d = 0.32). Gender differences were smallest and actually favored females in samples of the general population, grew larger with increasingly selective samples, and were largest for highly selected samples and samples of highly precocious persons. The magnitude of the gender difference has declined over the years; for studies published in 1973 or earlier d was 0.31, whereas it was 0.14 for studies published in 1974 or later. We conclude that gender differences in mathematics performance are small. Nonetheless, the lower performance of women in problem solving that is evident in high school requires attention.
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                Author and article information

                Front Psychol
                Front Psychol
                Front. Psychol.
                Frontiers in Psychology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                25 September 2018
                : 9
                1Landscape and Human Health Laboratory, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign , Urbana, IL, United States
                2Virtual Reality and Nature Lab, Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign , Champaign, IL, United States
                3Illinois Informatics Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign , Champaign, IL, United States
                4United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Northern Research Station , Evanston, IL, United States
                Author notes

                Edited by: Ana Lucia Pereira, Ponta Grossa State University, Brazil

                Reviewed by: Ulrich Dettweiler, University of Stavanger, Norway; Mar Lorenzo Moledo, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Spain

                *Correspondence: Ming Kuo, fekuo@

                This article was submitted to Educational Psychology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

                Copyright © 2018 Kuo, Browning, Sachdeva, Lee and Westphal.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 4, Equations: 0, References: 64, Pages: 14, Words: 0
                Funded by: U.S. Department of Agriculture 10.13039/100000199
                Original Research


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