Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction


First Advisor

Lily Wang

Date of this Version


Document Type



Wong, D., Lee, J., and Wang, L., How Acoustics in California High Performance Schools Relate to Student Achievement, Master of Science Dissertation, Graduate Program in Architectural Engineering, University of Nebraska, (2016).


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Architectural Engineering, Under the Supervision of Professor Lily M. Wang. Lincoln, Nebraska: November, 2016

Copyright 2016 Devin K. Wong


This research project seeks to determine if students attending K-12 schools meeting a minimum standard of high performance classroom conditions in the state of California do evidence higher scholastic achievement, based on publically available results on state-wide standardized tests. In three phases, a subset of 200+ schools applying for grants dedicated to building high performance schools over the past decade was correlated with an existing database of achievement scores for all public schools in California. The criteria utilized to specify high performance classrooms was provided by the California High Performance Initiative (HPI) Grant program. Academic achievement was evaluated on a school-level by the Academic Performance Index (API) score, which aggregates individual student scores on California standardized tests.

In the first phase, API scores for schools meeting the HPI construction criteria were compared with scores for normal schools that did not meet such a standard, on a yearly interval from 2008 to 2013. Results show no significant difference between normal and high performance schools, however a general trend may be seen indicating greater improvements in API scores for high performance schools over normal ones.

In the second phase, API scores for a subset of high performance schools undergoing HPI modifications were compared across time, before and after completion of construction. A significant relationship was found, p<0.05 between API performance and construction conditions; schools within the post-modernization condition exhibited lower API performance than they did within the pre-modernization condition.

In the third and final phase, API results for the 2012-2013 academic year were analyzed across classroom acoustic conditions. Schools were categorized has exhibiting none, minimum, and improved levels of acoustic criteria for their classrooms. No significant relationship was found in relation to API performance. A general negative trend in performance was observed as acoustic conditions improved.

While significant relationships were found between varying types of as-built conditions and standardized test performance, many of these findings are just as inconsistent as previous research. However, a general overall trend indicating that schools that meet high performance criteria exhibit improved academic performance on standardized tests was found. It is likely that academic performance in this study is due to a multitude of factors beyond the built environment and the level of performance must be described in greater detail in order to exhibit any further meaningful trends, despite the added statistical power of a larger data set. More developed statistical methods to account for these variables is suggested for future work.

Advisor: Lily M. Wang