The manner in which a school building is designed, managed, and maintained sends a message to its occupants and the community beyond, speaking volumes about the value placed on activities transpiring within its walls. The physical properties of a school building are the tangible context within which teaching and learning take place (Willower, 1988). Students, teachers, parents, and community members come to understand the nature and importance of these primary school functions through their physical representations.

When learning takes place in inadequate facilities, occupants fail to perceive a clear focus on academics. The learning environment is less likely to be conceived of as orderly and serious. Teachers are less likely to demonstrate enthusiasm for their jobs and desire to go the extra mile to support student learning. And where school buildings are shabby and poorly maintained, the community is less likely to derive satisfaction from engagement in support of the teaching and learning process (Uline & Tschannen-Moran, 2008).

As we confront the challenges of educational accountability within a 21st Century learning context, assuming responsibility for educating all students to high levels of achievement, we face fundamental issues of equity across schools and school districts. In our efforts to ensure that all students have access to a rigorous curriculum and highly-qualified teachers, we must also face the condition of the physical environment within which teachers teach and students learn. A growing body of research provides evidence of a link between school building quality and student achievement.

School Facility Planning Model  

The National Center for the Twenty-first Century Schoolhouse maintains the School Facility Planning Model as an online support to the planning, designing, and constructing of learner-centered school facilities. The model intends to inform the work of planners, designers, and educators as they seek to create school facilities that are:

  • Learner-centered, thus, meeting the needs of all learners who will occupy the facility,
  • Supportive of the educational plan and reflective of best practices in curriculum and instruction and thus capable of enhancing teaching and learning.
  • Representative of and responsive to the communities where they are located. 

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