The ESG Initiative at the Wharton School
‘Why is there no air?’: An inside look at Philly’s early school dismissals amid extreme heat
More than 57% of Philly public school buildings lack adequate cooling systems. As climate change makes extreme heat more likely, students are bearing the consequences.
A 2021 study analyzed standardized test scores in dozens of countries and found that students’ scores were lower during years with more hotter-than-average school days.
“Learning is hard enough as it is, under the best of conditions,” said R. Jisung Park, an environmental economist at the University of Pennsylvania and the lead author of the study. “But when it’s hot, either during an exam or in the classroom [before the exam], it appears to be quite detrimental to student performance.”
In the U.S., Park and the other researchers found the effect was most pronounced for younger students. They also found the effect greatest for low-income school districts and Black and Hispanic students, a pattern they attributed to disparities in access to air conditioning.