Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Learning Environments and Academic Success

The average public school building in America is forty-two years old and was not designed to meet the demands of current and future technology.

Yesterday voters in Portland, Oregon rejected a bond to upgrade Portland’s World War II-era school buildings. Historically, Portland voters have given overwhelming approval to school money measures. (Follow this link for an excellent column that encouraged a “Yes” vote.)

Over the past two decades numerous studies have explored the relationship between the quality of school facilities and student achievement. Positive correlations were found as early as 1992. Experts in the field of brain research are convinced that a learner's surroundings greatly impact his or her ability to learn.

I am troubled by the fact that we are failing our children by failing to provide adequate learning environments. To me this seems dangerously shortsighted, as children are our future.

How can our children feel valued when they must spend their school days in facilities that are outdated and ill-equipped, facilities where even environmental safety is suspect? As educators we need to do everything in our power to reverse this alarming trend and to fight for adequate learning environments for our children. 

If we are fortunate to work in schools where new and renovated school library facilities are planned, our goal should be to provide libraries that send to our children the messages “this is a place where I can learn,” and “this is a place where I am welcome.”

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