NCEF Resource List: Impact of School Facilities on Learning
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Information on the relationship between student achievement and the physical environment of school and campus buildings, compiled by the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities.

References to Books and Other Media

New Schools, Overcrowding Relief, and Achievement Gains in Los Angeles – Strong Returns from a $19.5 Billion Investment Adobe PDF
Welsh, William; Coglan, Erin; Fuller, Bruce; Dauter, Luke
(School of Education, Stanford University, Aug 2012)
By tracking thousands of students who moved from overcrowded to new facilities over the 2002-2008 period, Berkeley researchers discovered gains equivalent on average to about 35 additional days of instruction each year for elementary-school pupils. Gains are most robust (65 days) for elementary students who escaped severe overcrowding by moving to a new school. Researchers found inconsistent and weaker gains for high school students. p12

When the Building is the Teacher
Stone, Michael K.; Dale, John; and Sly, Carolie
(Center for Ecoliteracy, Apr 2012)
Essay explores how campus, teaching, and learning complement each other. Discussion is based on the Lodi Unified School District, in California's Central Valley, design of a new STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics] Academy for the district. The campus's sustainable features will include maximizing natural daylighting and indoor environmental quality, incorporating bioswales for management of surface water, and a goal of achieving grid-neutral status through energy conservation and production of electricity through photovoltaics and wind power. The campus is intended to enhance learning, to be a teacher itself, and to support a unique curriculum organized around major themes of green technology.

The Impact of School Buildings on Student Health and Performance: A Call for Research Adobe PDF
Baker, Lindsay; Bernstein, Harvey
(The McGraw-Hill Research Foundation and the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, Feb 27, 2012)
Explores research from two perspectives: from the lens of the child’s experience with their built environment, and from how different stakeholders can play an important role in bringing that research to light. Sheds light on the critical need for research around how the school building—through its design, maintenance and operations—impacts the health and performance of the students in those buildings. 35p

Improved Academic Performance. Student Health and Academic Performance: Using Research to Make the Case for Comprehensive IAQ Management in Schools.
(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, IAQ Tools for Schools. , 2012)
Provides links to research reports that link key environmental factors to health outcomes and students’ ability to perform. Includes the latest scientific data on indoor environmental quality, health and academic performance. Discusses why the physical environment of a school is important; what environmental factors are important and practical to address; and how much improvement can be expectec in academic performance and health.

The Impact of School Facility Construction and Renovation on Academic Achievement in Texas
Holmes, Shannon J
(Dissertation, Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas, 2012)
The purpose of this study was to explore the possible relationship between school facility conditions and student academic achievement. Participating schools designated as having new facilities were determined by the campus earning an Educational Appropriateness Award from the Texas Association of School Boards between 2005 and 2009. Older facilities were determined by the Campus Comparability report issued by the Texas Education Agency. Campuses were compared quantitatively using an independent sample t-test. Six campus principals were also interview to ascertain their perceptions about the impact of school facility conditions on student achievement. The researchers' recommendations based upon this study include the following: further investigations of this topic be from a qualitative approach model. A more robust qualitative study could provide information that is either inaccessible from a quantitative perspective or useful in understanding this type of data. Quantitative studies similar to this research should consider expanding the study population to gather larger study samples. This study did not control for factors such as teacher effectiveness, school leadership, or curriculum equivalence. Future studies could attempt to control For these variables in order to achieve more reliable and significant results. [Author's abstract] 94p

Reimagining the Classroom: Opportunities to Link Recent Advances in Pedagogy to Physical Settings Adobe PDF
De Gregori, Alessandro
(McGraw-Hill Research Foundation , Nov 2011)
Examines how a classroom's physical environment (as defined by its design, layout, furnishings, and space utilization) can be manipulated to enhance its learning environment. Presents three case studies on schools where the physical environment has been purposely designed to facilitate unique pedagogical models with marked success; reflects on why the potential for using a classroom's physical setting to optimize its teaching model has not been studied more rigorously; and considers what can be done to enhance the knowledge base in this unexplored yet vital area of study. 16p

The Effect of School Construction on Test Scores, School Enrollment, and Home Prices. Adobe PDF
Neilson, Christopher and Zimmerman, Seth
(IZA: Institute for the Study of Labor, Nov 2011)
This paper provides new evidence on the effect of school construction projects on home prices, academic achievement, and public school enrollment. Taking advantage of the staggered implementation of a comprehensive school construction project in a poor urban district, the authors find that, by six years after building occupancy, $10,000 of per-student investment in school construction raised reading scores for elementary and middle school students by 0.027 standard deviations. For a student receiving the average treatment intensity this corresponds to a 0.21 standard deviation increase. School construction also raised home prices and public school enrollment in zoned neighborhoods. 47p

Collective Intelligence. Facility's Response to the International Baccalaureate Curriculum.
Lee, Liz
(Perkins Eastman K-12 Group, Oct 2011)
Provides plans for accommodating the ideals of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program within an existing school facility, including Primary Learning Modalities, General Meeting & Collaboration, General Teaching Training, and Diploma College Preparation. Focuses on the library as a dynamic and active place for collaboration and exploration. Includes strategies to minimize costs while providing a first class 21st century educational experience. 16p

Facilities: Fairness and Effects. Evidence and Recommendations Concerning the Impact of School Facilities on Civil Rights and Student Achievement. Adobe PDF
Cheng, Gracye; English, Steve; Filardo, Mary
(21st Century School Fund, Washington, D.C., Jul 27, 2011)
Report to the U.S. Department of Education Excellence & Equity Commission on school facilities impact on educational equity. The report reviews court cases and studies and provides recommendations for the Commission. Acute disparities in the access of public school students to adequate facilities coupled with the compelling evidence of how poor quality school facilities are implicated in lower student achievement, make it imperative that any inquiry into educational inequity include an understanding of the conditions, design, utilization, and location of public school facilities. 13p

The Chicago Schoolhouse: High School Architecture and Educational Reform, 1856-2006.
Gyure, Dale Allen
(Center for American Places , Apr 2011)
Examines the physical structures where formal education happens, drawing connections between school architecture and educational reform. It explains how we arrived at the current state of school architecture, using Chicago’s high school buildings as examples. 240p.

School Facilities and Student Achievement. Adobe PDF
Coalson, Jay et al
(Center for Innovative School Facilities, Portland, Oregon, 2011)
Brief outlines the academic literature and draws real-life case studies from throughout Oregon, focusing on three areas that research shows have considerable impact on student achievement: lighting, air quality, and noise. 8p.

The Impact of School Facilities on the Learning Environment.
Vandiver, Bert
(Dissertation, Capella University, 2011)
The purpose of this mixed methods study was to examine the impact of the quality of facilities on the educational environment in high schools located in northeast Texas. The intent of this research study was to determine the relationship between school facilities and the school-learning environment. This study was a mixed method research that used questionnaires and interviews to identify and appraise school facilities and learning environment. The problem was that school facilities were negatively impacting student learning and faculty, and administrators were not properly supporting stronger facility management. The poor condition of some schools raised serious concerns about teacher and student safety. Educators must understand and find ways to help increase student performance. This study used descriptive statistics to analyze the data. The independent z-test was conducted to determine the difference in student performance before vs. after the new facility. The results of the data analysis findings indicated that quality and educational adequacy of educational facilities were statistically significantly associated with student performance and teacher turnover rate showing a statistical change also. [Author's abstract] 175p.

References to Journal Articles

Inside Stories
Fickes, Michael
School Planning and Management; , p38-46 ; May 2012
A group of design professionals show how a school's interior design can inspire teaching and learning.

Acoustics and Daylighting
Spector, Marc
School Planning and Management; , p50-53 ; May 2012
Clean, quiet, safe, comfortable and healthy environments are an important component of successful teaching and learning.

Re-designing Spaces for Learning
Harris, Stephen
Connected Principals; Apr 2012
Based on case study for education redesign for Northern Beaches Christian School, a co-educational K-12 school of 1300 students in the northern region of Sydney, Australia. NBCS created some new spaces for learning: flowing nooks and crannies; design and production suites; multimodal agile spaces. NBCS renovated existing spaces: The Zone (an open learning environment for 180 students and 6 teachers) and Rhythm & Blues (a shared space for music learning) and the Hub.

School Design and Students’ Relationships with the Natural World
Indira Dutt
Children, Youth and Environments; v22 n1 , p198-226 ; Spring 2012
This qualitative study is an exploration of intermediate students’ experience of the natural world as mediated by indoor/outdoor elements. The fieldwork for this project was conducted in the spring of 2009 at Bowen Island Community School in British Columbia. The research includes data collected from two focus groups, semi- structured interviews, photographs and fieldnotes. Using thematic analysis, the research found that indoor/outdoor interfaces and the presence of both gardens and forest as play environments provided students with a sense of freedom, joy, social cohesiveness and aesthetic pleasure in relation to their physical learning environment. Results are discussed in terms of future school design and other relevant student impacts. [Author's abstract]

The Role of Objective and Perceived School Building Quality in Student Academic Outcomes and Self-Perception
Maxwell, Lorraine E. and Schechtman, Suzanne L
Children, Youth and Environments; v22 n1 , p23-51 ; Spring 2012
This study examines the role of school building quality, both perceived and objective, in the development of self-efficacy and academic success in young adolescents (mean age =14, range 11-17 years old). Previous research related to school building quality used only adult assessment of building quality. The study interviewed public school students in two high schools and three middle schools about their school and their self-perception. Objective school building quality was assessed by a trained researcher. Academic performance was measured by classroom grades (GPA – grade point average) and state-wide standardized test scores. A series of regression equations indicates that objective and perceived school building quality and self-efficacy are significantly related to GPA scores. Neither measure of building quality, however, predicted standardized test scores. Student self-perception of behavioral conduct as measured by the self-perception profile for adolescents (Harter 1988) was marginally related to standardized test scores. Students’ perception of building safety (compared to degree of crowding, noise, privacy and clutter/mess) was the best predictor of perceived school building quality as well as predicting perceived scholastic competence, behavioral conduct and self-worth. [Authors' abstract]

Changing Spaces: Preparing Students and Teachers for a New Learning Environment
Pamela Woolner, Jill Clark, Karen Laing, Ulrike Thomas and Lucy Tiplady
Children, Youth, and Environments; v22 n1 , p52-74 ; Spring 2012
Physical settings in schools have a complex relationship to teaching and learning practices. Uncomfortable tensions can result when the intentions of learners and teachers conflict with each other or with the affordances of the environment. Yet, change may be difficult to achieve and stressful for those involved. This paper considers a case where there has been minimal involvement of staff or students in the design of a new school, but there is a desire to prepare them for the changed environment. Changes will include an integrated curriculum and an “enquiry approach,” which it is hoped will be facilitated by large, shared spaces in the new premises. We discuss an “experimental week” of enquiry learning that took place in the middle of the 2010-11 school year with half of the Year 8 group (12-13 years old) in an existing large space (a school hall). The alteration to the learning environment included changes to both the use of space and the organization of learning time. We concentrate here on the student experience of learning in this new way, rather than the views of the teachers. An enquiry-based approach was enabled by the more fluid, flexible use of school space and time. Overall, students enjoyed the experimental week, but they understood it to be a limited experience. If these changed practices are to be successful they will need to be accepted as more permanent. The challenge for those managing the change process is to remain mindful of the differing needs of students, and continue to develop a shared understanding among staff and students of what learning is or could be. [Authors' abstract]

Community-Oriented Architecture in Schools: How Extroverted Design Can Impact Learning and Change the World
Quirk, Vanessa
Arch Daily; Mar 05, 2012
According to this article, the design of a school cannot just incorporate the necessary physical conditions for students; it must be designed with its cultural value to the community in mind, cognizant of the fact that a young mind’s commitment to learning is affected greatly by his/her family, society and culture’s value of education.

Impact on Learning. Solving Real-World Problems One Piece at a Time.
School Planning and Management; , p31-51 ; Mar 2012
Descriptions and photos of real-life examples of how leading educational institutions solved their toughest problems — meeting sustainability goals, handling maintenance issues, selecting the proper furniture and equipment, ensuring student safety, integrating technology, and more. Includes St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School in Keller, Texas; Farrington Field, Fort Worth, Texas; Douglas County School District, Nevada; Fridley High School, Fridley, Minnesota; Dartmouth College; Lady Bird Johnson Middle School, Irving, Texas; Roadrunner Elementary School, Phoenix, Arizona; Nettlehorst School, Chicago; Revere Local School District, Bath, Ohio; and Dublin High School, Dublin, California.

Citizens Fit for the 21st Century? The Role of School Design in Facilitating Citizenship and Self-Governance in Young People
Brown, Jane
Education, Citizenship and Social Justice; n1 , p19-31 ; Mar 2012
This article explores the relevance of school design in providing an important social-spatial context for promoting citizenship in young people. Drawing on a small-scale study that investigated the perspectives of pupils and teachers, it contrasts the ways in which the social control and monitoring of pupils differed in two secondary schools. Comparing features of everyday life in one new and one old-build school, this study found that school design could either heighten or lessen the need for teacher control of pupils. As a consequence the layout of the schools could enable or restrict young people's opportunities for self-determination, as well as encourage the normalization of the acceptance of control by others. The implications of this for the production of autonomous and self-governing citizens will be addressed. [Author's abstract]

Design of Learning Spaces: Emotional and Cognitive Effects of Learning Environments in Relation to Child Development
Arndt, Petra A.
Mind, Brain, and Education; v6 n1 , p41-48 ; Feb 2012
The design of learning spaces is rightly gaining more and more pedagogical attention, as they influence the learning climate and learning results in multiple ways. General structural characteristics influence the willingness to learn through emotional well-being and a sense of security. Specific structural characteristics influence cognitive processes, from visual and acoustic perceptions, via attention to the model, to processes of comprehension and reflection. Aspects of the design of the learning space also modify the interaction among students and between students and their teacher. Furthermore, the different requirements that have emerged through the development toward a learning society and the explosive increase of available information in our society require changes in the design of learning processes and thus of learning environments. Taking biological needs and neurobiological processes into account when designing learning spaces can provide a beneficial learning environment with regard to mental resources. This article will highlight relevant (neuro)biological fundamentals and try to describe resulting conclusions for the design of learning spaces.

Well-Being at School: Does Infrastructure Matter?
Cuyvers, Katrien; De Weerd, Gio; Dupont, Sanne; Mols, Sophie; Nuytten, Chantal
CELE Exchange; , 7p ; Dec 2011
Study investigates the impact of educational spaces on their users and identifies empirical evidence supporting the importance of school infrastructure on the well-being of Flemish secondary students

The Future of the Physical Learning Environment; School Facilities That Support the User
Kuuskorpi, Marko; Gonzalez, Nuria Cabellos
CELE Exchange; , 8p ; Dec 2011
This paper presents the conclusions of a study, carried out in collaboration with schools in six European countries, which focused on tomorrow's physical learning environments. It resulted in the creation of a learning space model that is flexible, modifiable, and sustainable while supporting the teaching and learning processes.

Transcendent Schools for the 21st Century. Adobe PDF
Monberg, Greg; Kacan, George and Bannourah, Riyad
Educational Facility Planner; v45 n4 , p12-15 ; Dec 2011
Amidst the debate over funding cuts, an increased focus on teacher effectiveness, and the move toward e-learning, many question the importance of quality educational facilities. But an examination of developmental and psychological theory suggests that exceptional schools have an exciting and crucial role to play in 21st century education. Describes a transcendent school as creating connectivity among students and their surroundings.

A Brave New Campus--Marysville Getchell High School Campus 2011 MacConnell Award Winner. Adobe PDF
Yurko, Amy and Mason, Craig
Educational Facility Planner; v45 n4 , p5-8 ; Dec 2011
Extensive case study of award winning high school outside Seattle, Washington that redefines high school education. Discusses communities of learners, taking chances, starting with the learner, being brave, scenario planning, environments for teaching and learning, and a shell-and-core approach.

21st-Century Learning Q&A
American School and University; Nov 2011
Twenty-five architects comment on the latest innovations in designing for future learning, as well as how design can support these trends. Questions answered include: What are the latest ideas/innovations in designing to support 21st-century learning?; How can the built environment support emerging trends in education?' What are some design trends in specialized classrooms or programs to support future learning styles/methods? and How is technology for today’s learning affecting school design?

When Money Matters: School Infrastructure Funding and School Achievement.
Crampton, Faith and Thompson, David
School Business Affairs; , p14-18 ; Nov 2011
Discusses a new paradigm for analyzing the effect of investment in physical capital on student achievement. Includes a comprehensive definition of school infrastructure as including deferred maintenance, new construction, renovation, retrofitting, additions to existing facilities, and major improvements to grounds. Pointing to the limitations of previous research, describes a new paradigm that reinforces the importance of investing not only in human and social capital but also physical capital to insure student success.

Classroom Acoustics Affect Student Achievement.
Ronsse, Lauren M. and Wang, Lily M.;
Consulting-Specifying Engineer; Sep 19, 2011
Findings from a study comparing unoccupied classroom noise levels and reverberation times to the age of the school buildings and the elementary student achievement scores attained by students using those classrooms. Recommends that classroom mechanical systems should be designed with lower noise levels to optimize student reading comprehension.

Does High School Facility Quality Affect Student Achievement? A 2-Level Hierarchical Linear Model.
Bowers, Alex J., Urick, Angela
Journal of Education Finance; v37 n1 , p72-94 ; Summer 2011
The purpose of this study is to isolate the independent effects of high school facility quality on student achievement using a large, nationally representative U.S. database of student achievement and school facility quality. Prior research on linking school facility quality to student achievement has been mixed. Studies that relate overall independently rated structural and engineering aspects of schools have been shown to not be related to achievement. However, more recent research has suggested that facility maintenance and disrepair, rather than structural issues, may be more directly related to student achievement. If there is a relationship, addressing facility disrepair from the school, district, or state level could provide a potential avenue for policymakers for school improvement. We analyzed the public school component and the facilities checklist of the ELS:2002 survey (8,110 students in 520 schools) using a two-level hierarchical linear model to estimate the independent effect of facility disrepair on student growth in mathematics during the final two years of high school controlling for multiple covariates at the student and school level. We found no evidence of a direct effect of facility disrepair on student mathematics achievement and instead propose a mediated effects model. [Authors' abstract]

Impacting Learning.
Harris, Bill; Lambert, Chip
School Planning and Management; v50 n5 , p44-46 ; May 2011
Discusses the negative effect of classroom noise on teaching and learning, standards for classroom acoustics, and HVAC design that minimizes noise while using less energy.

The Future of Evidence-Based Design.
Whitemyer, David
College Planning and Management; v14 n5 , p48-50 ; May 2011
Discusses how the pairing of data on building performance and on occupant behavior has gained traction in the school building industry.

Engineering Sustainable Schools. Linking Design Quality and Education
Leiringer, Roiner; Cardellino, Paula; Clements-Croome, Derek
CIBSE Magazine; , 5p ; Apr 10, 2011
Reports on how design quality can be fostered to achieve educational transformation. The majority of the reports target the architectural aspects of the building design and prescribe an architectural approach towards the assessment of design quality.

Classroom Learning Environments and the Mental Health of First Grade Children.
Milkie, Melissa A.; Warner, Catherine H.
Journal of Health and Social Behavior ; v52 n1 , p14-22 ; Feb 28, 2011
Study finds that between inadequate supplies, rundown school buildings, and disrespected teachers buried in paperwork, school can be stressful for 1st graders, who are in a fragile place in their educational lives. The study is based on interviews with more than 10,700 1st-grade parents and teachers in spring 2000.

Public School Desegregation and Education Facilities.
Hunter, Richard
School Business Affairs; v77 n2 , p24-26 ; Feb 2011
Reviews 1968-1995 school desegregation court cases that have impacted school facilities, noting how the perceived impact of school facility condition on education has carried weight in the courts. 12 references are included.

Effect of Education Buildings' Spatial Quality on Child's Academic Achievement.
Selda AL, Hatice Odaci, Ayse Sagsöz
American Journal of Scientific Research; , p100-109 ; 2011
Education buildings are the most important factor after the home in development of children. Teaching resources, teachers' skill and curriculum play a vital role in a child's education. In addition, there is another important factor that the physical condition and design of the actual school facility have an important effect on the child’s academic achievement. There are numerous studies positive or negative effects of spatial quality of building groups on people. However, there is no comprehensive study about how spatial quality of education buildings effects child’s educational performance, whether it is enough for child’s social, psychological and biological needs, how much it supplies child’s demands. This investigates the effect of spatial quality of schools in Trabzon and their physical conditions on a child’s academic achievement.



Due to lack of funding, the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities is currently available only as an archived site. As of September 1, 2012 no new content will be added or updates made. We regret the need to take such steps, but should funding become available, we look forward to reinvigorating NCEF and providing this valuable resource to the educational facilities community.

If you have questions or are an organization or company wishing to support the continued operation of this industry recognized resource please contact Institute President Henry Green (, 202-289-7800).