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THE IMPACT OF SCHOOL FACILITIES ON STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT
The No Child Left Behind Act (2001) is the latest federal approach in the improvement and closing of gaps in student academic performance. Traditionally, high schools have received much of the attention in the discussion of school reform. This is possibly due to the sequential proximity that high schools have to the world of higher education or the world of work. Universities and employers are claiming billions of dollars in expenses to remediate high school graduates (Fiske, 1991). In economic terms, the improvement of American schools would seem beneficial to our colleges and companies. However, costs of improvement can grow exponentially for public school systems. The greatest single expense and most enduring transaction made by school officials is that of school facilities. It is estimated that more than $127 billion would be required to meet the national need for new or renovated academic space (Kerr, 2003). The evaluation of these buildings, in light of reform movements, allows planners and educators to align academic initiatives, such as improved test scores, with the tangible factors of the schoolhouse such as lighting and indoor air quality (Blair & Pollard, 1998). This national push for increased student performance continues as our school buildings deteriorate. Students interviewed about the greatest needs of their schools note items such as functional restroom facilities rather than curriculum development or test. This dissertation follows the style and format of the Journal of Educational Research.
scores (Glickman, 2004). Not only do the government-mandated standards rise, but so do the numbers of children in American schools. The average school where these students are in attendance is 42 years old (Rowand, 1999). Hence, the question exists as to how we can expect students to achieve in the absence of an adequate physical environment. With these statistics regarding our school buildings, much research has continued to focus on pedagogical and curriculum trends and not directly on the environment surrounding the learner and the educator (Gregory & Smith, 1987). A new body of academic inquiry is growing with a focus on the physical environment in the educational process. Studies may find specific design functions at
their core. For instance, studies in the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) inOrange County,Californiafound that the students in classrooms with natural lighting, large windows or well-designed skylights performed 19 to 26 percent better than their peers in classrooms without these features (Hale, 2002). Recent concerns with moldrelated health issues are driving schools to focus on the impact that poor indoor air quality has on the attendance and achievement rate of students (De Patta, 2002). Even the impact of furnishings in educational settings has been addressed.Anchorage,Alaskaschools developed a committee dedicated to selecting “equipment in which students can work comfortably, furnishings that create an aesthetically pleasing ambiance, and furniture that stands up to the rugged treatment it receives from daily student use”
More profoundly, studies are increasing their focus on the impact that the environmental design will have on student outcomes. When the learning process is at the core of design priorities, there is a significant likelihood that the facility will positively influence performance (Blair, 1998). The correlation appears to be positive between
facility design and learning. Chan (1996) clarifies that poor learning facilities can foster negative attitudes just as exceptional designs may bolster achievement. The growth of brain-based research has provided a shot in the arm for facility design studies. Caine and Caine (1990) make the point that brain-based research is not an independent movement in education, but an approach from which all learning research will benefit. The brain is a physiological system and can be stimulated, both positively and negatively, by its physical surroundings (Chan & Petrie, 1998). From the common concerns of mischievous children to the horrid fears of Columbine-like violence, the topic of student behavior is threaded throughout educational research (Kennedy, 2003e). Kennedy (2003e) points out that school officials must not only deal with the students in the prevention of misbehavior and violence, but also on the physical nature of the school building. Along with behavior, attendance and morale play large roles in school success.Killeen, Evans and Danko (2003) go as far as to promote the inclusion of students in facility design in attempts to increase ownership and attendance. The impact of the physical environment on educators in not ignored in current research. It has been determined that the surroundings in which people function can greatly impact moods, satisfaction and self-worth (Ma & MacMillan, 1999). Facility appraisal should be one of the many roles assumed by educational leaders. Maiden and Foreman (1998) claim that school administrators should be “armed with a general understanding of the relationship between various physical features of a facility and the learning climate” (p.41). It stands to reason that facility evaluation would warrant equitable scrutiny and effort to that of ventures into pedagogy and curriculum. A growing body of research contributes to the belief that school facility design impacts student achievement, behavior, attendance and teacher retention (O’Neill, 2000). The financial plight ofTexaspublic schools would also deem it necessary to closely investigate the effectiveness of these expensive building projects (Clark, 2001). This exercise will likely lead to a physical surrounding that supports growth and learning.
Statement of the Problem