A Better School Building May Mean Better Test Scores [Study Results]

A new study finds that the school building and environment play a surprisingly significant role in students’ academic success. Researchers studied the effects of school facilities on academic performance and attendance rates and discovered that newly renovated learning environments seem to improve student performance.

This examination has led policymakers and local and state officials to more carefully consider the conditions of schools throughout the country.

What the research says

In a 2018 study conducted by the California Policy Lab at UCLA and UC Berkley, researchers studied more than five million students across the Los Angeles Unified School District whose school environment changed, and they concluded that when it comes to school spending, productivity, and student outcomes, school facilities matter.

After following these students between 2002 and 2012, before and after they moved from run-down, overcrowded school buildings to new, clean facilities, the report determined that investing $10 billion into facility construction had a positive effect on student’s test scores. Overall, they discovered that when school facilities improved:

  • Student test scores gradually and modestly improved
  • School attendance immediately and significantly improved
  • Student effort significantly improved

More specifically, researchers discovered that spending four years in a new school environment increases test scores by an average of 10 percent in math as well as 5 percent in English-language arts. In terms of attendance rates, students attended four additional days of school per year.

These results were not based on variables such as teacher–peer composition or class size. However, a reduction in overcrowding did play a role. These new school facilities also impacted the real estate market, as average house prices increased by six percent in neighborhoods that received new school facility funding.

A newer school building results in improved student performance

The construction program discussed above resulted in significant changes
—both in terms of environmental and educational variables. These changes impacted students in numerous ways. Not only were children less distracted within a clean learning environment but access to such facilities can also lead to improved health.

Going to a more modern, more comfortable school is also believed to increase motivation levels and overall effort, which indirectly supports improved student learning. Teacher health and motivation levels may also improve while working within such facilities, offering higher-quality education.

Successfully managing a quality school environment, prior research suggests, leads to greater environmental quality and impacts the attitudes of students and staff, affects overall learning behavior, and results in improved performance—all of which ultimately impacts future society- and student-outcomes.

Concerning the facility itself, a school or affiliated learning environment should be inviting to students, offering adequate lighting, a clean space, and student-friendly conditions. It is also essential that students are taught within an environment that is productive and comfortable, reducing feelings of stress. The risk of any potential adverse health effects should also be considered, particularly in terms of air quality, climate control, and overall sanitation.

Funding is still lacking

Education Week reports that although the United States spends over $49 billion per year on new schools, as well as $46 billion on maintenance needs, it’s not enough. More than $925 billion would be required to ensure that every school is in “overall good condition” across the next two decades.

At this time, the majority of school funding comes from the local community via tax dollars. This means the overall condition of local school facilities is heavily related to the district’s poverty and income level.

In summary, this was the largest American school construction project in history, offering new insight into the importance of a student’s learning environment. There appears to be a clear connection between newer, cleaner school facilities (or similar homeschooled environments) and student achievement levels.

Moving forward, both local and statewide officials, as well as parents, should consider the conditions of school buildings when aiming to improve academic performance and achievements. Parents, take a look at your child’s school building. Is it clean and comfortable with modern technologies? Does your student like the setting where he or she is learning? If not, your child may benefit from a change in learning environment. Consider enrolling your student in an online school that brings public school home.

At a K12-powered school, classes take place in the comfort and convenience of home, or anywhere there is an internet connection. So parents and students can be sure they are learning in an environment that works best for them. Find out if there’s a tuition-free virtual school in your area and discover more at K12.com.

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