According to a March 15th Atlantic Cities article, “Public and charter schools in the District of Columbia are now classified into one of five accountability categories, all with equally uplifting names: reward, rising, developing, focus and priority (the “reward” schools are the top performers, although one might want to try to reward improvement from the struggling ones). The index is built on measurable data like test scores, enrollment growth, attendance and graduation rates, and it offers the simplest shorthand parents can use to make the weighty decision about where to send their kids to school…”
Citing a study which compared the school accountability data to Walk Score, the top-performing schools tend to be located in the most walkable areas, while the “priority” schools are located in the least walkable ones.
Of course, there’s no doubt that, given that accessibility to transit is known to boost property values, families who can afford to live in such communities populate the schools there, and family income and educational attainment are highly correlated. But in addition to that, researchers have also found that children who bike and walk to school are better able to concentrate when they get there.
Not only does walking and biking to school help improve kids’ concentration, there are environmental and physical benefits as well:
- Walking to school doesn’t just make kids happy — it eases the morning commute for drivers. Parents dropping their kids off at school account for a full 25% of morning traffic. When students and their families walking or biking to school instead of driving, streets see less traffic. Less traffic means fewer costly repaving and maintenance projects, too.
- As levels of walking and biking to school have fallen, childhood obesity has skyrocketed. In 1969, nearly 50% of all kids walked or rode bikes to school. Today, only 13% of children get to school on foot or by bike. Meanwhile, the percent of obese children rose 276% between 1966 and 2009. Kids who walk or bike to school are more physically active and less likely to be obese than their peers who are driven or bused to school.
Here at the Greater Mercer TMA, where we act as the local Safe Routes to School coordinators for Mercer and Ocean counties in New Jersey, we want to help create a walking and biking culture at every school in our region. At no cost, GMTMA can help your school and community implement a SRTS program by helping you with the following SRTS elements:
- Document existing conditions
- Identify assets, barriers, goals and actions
- Outline responsibilities and funding sources
Bike/Walk Events & Education Assistance
- Walking School Buses
- Bike Rodeos
- Safety education and “how to” teaching materials
Evaluation and Monitoring
- Establish baseline of existing conditions
- Student arrival/departure counts
- Parent/caregiver surveys
- Measure progress and adjust program as needed