Better School Infrastructure Boosts Student Learning | Infographic
Often times parents walk through their children’s school and think, “Elementary school (or high school) hasn’t changed much since I was young!” And honestly, they’re probably more accurate than they think.
Consider this number: 44 years. That’s the average number of years since construction of the main instructional building at most schools. Even at schools that have undergone major renovations or additions, the average time since construction is 12-16 years. Add to that, news of growing school enrollment and shrinking school budgets, and you’ll find more students filling up facilities that may not be equipped to handle them.
How are we affecting the performance and achievement we demand of today’s students by adding obstacles of overpopulated classrooms, teachers stretched too thin, and sub-par school infrastructure? And how can our nation’s schools address these issues when funding and budgets are continually tightening?
Class Size Affects Student Learning
There is sentiment among education policymakers that class size doesn’t matter and there is little advantage that comes from learning in a smaller classroom setting. Research presented by the National Education Policy Center, aimed at disproving this overreaching and incorrect generalization, showed that in fact, students benefit from smaller class sizes.
- Students in early grades perform better in small classes.
- Students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds experience larger performance gains than average students when enrolled in smaller classes.
- Small class sizes enable teachers to be more effective.
- Children who attend small classes in the early grades continue to benefit over their entire lifetime.
Additionally, NEPC research found that when class sizes are smaller, under 20 has been identified as an optimum number of students per class, students are able to spend more time on tasks while teachers spend more time on instruction and less time on classroom management.
For the 2007-2008 school year, 21 states adopted class-size reduction efforts, and by 2010, 35 states had laws in place restricting the number of students per classroom. However, economic turn down caused efforts to be sidelined and class reduction policies were relaxed or eliminated in 19 states since then.
School Infrastructure Affects Student Learning
Over half of U.S. schools have inadequate structural facilities, and lower income students are more likely to attend schools with inadequate structural facilities. Trouble with air conditioning, leaking roofs, lack of high-speed internet, and poor air quality are all infrastructure issues that face schools across the nation.
As stated earlier, the average age of our nation’s schools is 44 years. While schools of this age should be facing retirement, capital investment is not available in many school districts and so they remain in service. But schools of this age and condition present many limitations to learning, including limited tech capability, poor security, inflexible design, and accessibility issues.
An educational report titled Designing Classrooms to Maximize Student Achievement stresses the importance of a student’s physical environment on their academic performance through:
- The facility’s structural features—inadequate lighting, noise, poor air quality, and deficient heating—can undermine learning.
- The classroom’s symbols, such as objects and décor, also influence student achievement.
- Evidence-based classroom design can maximize education outcomes for all students.
Two Ways Modular Building Can Improve School Infrastructure
1. Permanent Classrooms to Address Growing Populations
When schools are faced with growing enrollment, there are two ways they can proceed: add more students into each classroom or add one or more classes to each grade. A school with 81 second-graders can continue to operate with three classrooms, each with 27 students, or they can create a new second-grade class, so each now has 20-21 students.
Because school funding remains tight in most areas, adding teachers and constructing expansion space to accommodate fluctuating class numbers tends to be difficult. Many schools struggle with the schedule length and cost of traditional construction, keeping them from moving forward with building expansion projects. This struggle has been an ongoing problem, until schools began learning about and understanding how permanent modular classrooms can solve their expansion needs. Modular construction gives schools the opportunity to break down larger class sizes and create modern learning spaces in a shorter time frame and often at a fraction of the cost.
You might be shaking your head at the idea already, remembering stories of schools that tried, and failed, to successfully use modular classrooms in their district. But we’ve previously broken down the myths associated with using modulars and outlined how they’ve improved tremendously over a short period of time.
2. Temporary Classrooms During Expansion/Renovation
When your school has capital funds available to renovate or expand its existing buildings, the question arises, where do you put several classrooms of students who need to escape the noise and dangers of a construction crew? Even if parts of the school building can remain open during construction, there may be areas that need to be closed off.
For this situation, temporary modular classrooms can be leased for short-term swing space use, giving your students and teachers access to quiet and safe classrooms. Modular classroom buildings can be outfitted to hold a single class or multiple classrooms, from a couple thousand square feet to over 10 thousand square feet for significant capacity.