STUDENTS’ ABILITY TO learn is undermined when their classrooms are too hot, new research says, a finding that could help explain persistent gaps in performance between students in poorer regions and countries without consistent access to air conditioning and those in wealthier areas.
An analysis published by the National Bureau of Economic Research comparing student test scores with average temperatures suggests that when classrooms get too hot it prevents students from learning as well as they would in more comfortable temperatures, with lasting impacts on students’ future success and their ability to contribute economically. It also found that adequate investment in school infrastructure – namely air conditioning – can mitigate the negative effects of hot weather.
Researchers compared daily historical weather data collected by a network of thousands of weather stations across the United States operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with the PSAT scores of 10 million students who took the test at least twice between 2001 and 2014.
In a recent Huff Post entry, “The Teaching Profession: Then and Now,” I described the autonomy I had as a young teacher, back in the ’60s, to experiment with my classes and create my own teaching materials. I loved teaching science because I was passionate about it and wanted to share my enthusiasm with others. My biggest problem was that there wasn’t enough time in the day for me to both teach and create the materials.
When I left teaching to raise a family, (which was what was done in those days), I had the opportunity to begin a career as a writer. At first, I naively thought that if I could talk about science I could write about it. I soon learned that the craft of writing well also took time — time to think, time to compose and time to iterate with feedback from editors. The funny thing about writing is that it changes the writer. You are not exactly the same person after doing a piece of work than you were before it. As long as I kept meeting new challenges in my various projects I experienced personal growth and development. This undoubtedly applies to every type of human endeavor. But being a professional writer demands that one consciously builds into each day time to think and reflect.
The Common Core State Standards require that students be able to read nonfiction so that they can identify the main idea, find evidence in the text to support the idea and then explain how the evidence supports the main idea. This last part is very difficult for children. It means that they have to think about what they’ve read and express their thoughts in their own words, not just parrot back what the teacher said or take a wild stab at what they think the teacher wants to hear. Teachers need time to figure out how to teach thinking. Right now many complain that teaching thinking would take too much time away from the busy schedule that mandates they cover the curriculum in order to be ready for the TEST. It seems no one in school these days has time to think.