Improving IAQ to Close Education Equity Gap

A man pointing at a whiteboard with information on it while a female colleague looks at what he is pointing at; the widening achievement and equity gaps in schools require a new initiative to bring forth action.

The pandemic created countless new challenges for our schools and worsened many pre-existing ones, from teacher shortages to widening achievement and equity gaps. School closures have taken a severe toll on children—a social, emotional, and academic setback so extreme that some experts warn of dire, long-lasting repercussions on our society and economy.1 Over 50 million students2—especially low-income students—were impacted by school closures, setting them months behind core curriculum standards in reading and math.3,4

COVID-19 exacerbated disparities that existed before the pandemic, especially disparities at the intersection between the affluence of the community served, the environmental quality of the school building, and student performance. Now more than ever, schools must approach learning environments in a new and evolved way while addressing the countless pressures of aging building infrastructure, resource constraints, and ongoing risk management issues.

One positive outcome of the pandemic is a clearer understanding of the critical importance of managing indoor air quality to reduce the spread of disease. However, a much broader awareness of the link between indoor air quality, equity, and academic performance is needed. For one, poor indoor air quality is associated with increased absenteeism and reduced academic performance.5 Beyond that, the body of research on poor indoor air quality—including levels of CO26 and PM2.57 —demonstrates their direct impact on cognition (and thus academic performance).8 The evidence is overwhelming; students need clean indoor air in order to thrive.

Healthy Education Initiative Launched to Bridge Gap

Through rigorous research and an international review process with scientific experts, Agile Evolutionary Group identified and selected ActivePure as the core operator of Agile's purpose-driven mission: Voices for Excellence Healthy Education Initiative. This landmark initiative seeks the most innovative leaders both domestically and internationally to close the excellence and equity gaps in our schools. The initiative will focus on leveraging data, technology, and innovation to enable schools, students, teachers, and stakeholders to set and achieve bold visions and new standards of excellence and health education. The Voices for Excellence Healthy Education Initiative will use the Disruptive Excellence Framework to define equity for all students.

Dr. Michael Conner, founder of Agile Evolutionary Group & award-winning superintendentDr. Michael Conner, founder of Agile Evolutionary Group & award-winning superintendent

Both the Disruptive Excellence Framework and the Voices for Excellence Healthy Education Initiative grew out of the pandemic experience of Agile's founder, Dr. Michael Conner. Dr. Conner is an experienced superintendent whose leadership has been recognized by the National School Superintendents Association, the Connecticut NAACP, the Network Journal, and United Way.

During the pandemic, Dr. Conner became acutely aware that healthy learning environments are the underpinning of equitable education, and that indoor air quality should be a strategic focus for learning organizations across America. As Dr. Conner stated, “Education and health are two essential needs that ALL humanity deserves at high levels in the context of quality. The opportunity for action is now; collectively, we can achieve equity and excellence to change the world.”

With ActivePure's strategic focus on helping create healthier learning environments for the 21st century, we are thrilled to be chosen as the first core operator by the Agile Evolutionary Group for this landmark initiative. Educational opportunities should be universal for all children and are committed to doing our part to help make that vision a reality. Using the Disruptive Excellence Framework, the Voices for Excellence Healthy Education Initiative will uncover and promote the critical role of technology, innovation, and collaboration in closing equity and achievement gaps and unlocking student potential. ActivePure and Agile will empower school districts to access tangible strategies and customized indoor air quality management solutions focused on achieving real-world outcomes, such as reduced absenteeism and improved performance. Grounded in advanced technology, science, and real-time data, ActivePure is committed to creating better learning environments that maximize indoor air quality and energy efficiency while enabling better equity and achievement outcomes.

Creating change at this scale doesn't happen overnight. Our nation's schools face multi-faceted, macro-systems issues ranging from building infrastructure to teacher and student burnout. By working on the Voices for Excellence Healthy Education Initiative, we are calling attention to the importance of creating learning environments which serve all students and increasing awareness to accelerate needed change. Together, we work toward unlocking the aspirations and potential of all students in our nation's schools.

Sign up to participate in our Voices for Excellence Healthy Education Initiative podcast, and receive updates, event information, and more.

1 “How Covid-19 Caused a Global Learning Crisis.” McKinsey & Company.
https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/education/our-insights/how-covid-19-caused-a-global-learning-crisis
2 Zviedrite, Nicole, et al. (2021). “Covid-19-Associated School Closures and Related Efforts to Sustain Education and Subsidized Meal Programs, United States, February 18–June 30, 2020.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science
https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0248925
3 Kuhfeld, M. et al. (2022). "The pandemic has had devastating impacts on learning. What will it take to help students catch up?" Brown Center Chalkboard. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2022/03/03/the-pandemic-has-had-devastating-impacts-on-learning-what-will-it-take-to-help-students-catch-up/
4 Dorn, E., et al. (2021). "COVID-19 and education: The lingering effects of unfinished learning." McKinsey & Company.
https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/education/our-insights/covid-19-and-education-the-lingering-effects-of-unfinished-learning
5 Wargocki, Pawel, et al. (2020) “The Relationships between Classroom Air Quality and Children's Performance in School.” Building and Environment, Pergamon, 17 Feb. 2020.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360132320301074?via%3Dihub
6 Satish, U., et al. “Is CO2 an indoor pollutant? Direct effects of low-to-moderate CO2 concentrations on human decision-making performance.” Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Dec;120(12):1671-7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23008272/
7 Marcotte, Dave E. “Something in the Air? Air Quality and Children's Educational Outcomes.” Economics of Education Review, Pergamon, 14 Dec. 2016. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0272775716303703
8 Grineski SE, Clark-Reyna SE, Collins TW. “School-based exposure to hazardous air pollutants and grade point average: A multi-level study.” Environ Res. 2016 May;147:164-71. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26875067/

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