First, Fix the Buildings

A recent post on Education Week’s District Dossier highlights a report on the sorry state of our nation’s school infrastructure.

“We’ve spent so much time spinning our wheels over how to fix the who and what of education, we’ve ignored what needs to be done to fix the where,” write [sic] Rick Fedrizzi, the president of the USGBC, and Rachel Gutter, the director of its Center for Green Schools, in the report’s introduction.

As we have been arguing on this blog, the environment in which learning takes place is fundamental, and yet largely ignored. Most school reform initiatives seem to consider it of secondary concern, or even wholly irrelevant.

It would be interesting to find how the state of a building correlates with student performance. Are all of the highest-performing schools in certain districts located in the nicest or greenest buildings? Would that help make the case for more green schools?

Indeed. I believe that research will demonstrate this correlation.

For some reason, discussions of infrastructure don’t seem to tantalize the imaginations of most would-be school reformers. But for those of us who adopt a design mindset, and for those teachers who slog through their work days and evenings in decaying school buildings, and most especially for the students condemned to sit and struggle within such schools, there is perhaps nothing more exciting than the idea of a well-designed space for learning, flush with natural light, invigorated with fresh air, draped in lush greenery, and engaged in varied spaces replete with comfortable seating.

These are the schools that you would want to send your child to. So why are most of our nation’s children doomed to sit at bolted down desks in decrepit dungeons?

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