Boston MA’s schoolyards had seriously deteriorated since the middle of the 20th century resulting in dangerous and unusable outdoor spaces. Beginning in the mid 1990s, a program to renovate these schoolyards has resulted in approximately half of the schools now having outdoor recreational, learning and garden spaces. This study compared the 4th grade test score results in renovated vs. unrenovated schools. Controlling for school demographics, schools that had a renovated schoolyard had more of their students passed the state mandated math test (1.06, 95% confidence interval = .00012, .12). Effects on the state mandated English language arts test were not as great. While this is an ecologic analysis and there may be other factors that influenced the better performance on the math test, this study suggests that improvements to the physical environment of schools and/or better access to physical activity may result in better school performance.
Lopez, Russ; Campbell, Richard; and Jennings, James, "Schoolyard Improvements and Standardized Test Scores: An Ecological Analysis" (2008). Gastón Institute Publications. 121.