As the lobbyists in Washington and state houses across the country continue their drive to privatize education, poor families who can’t afford the costs of private schools are forced to send their children to aging and increasingly run-down public schools.
Meanwhile, Republican politicians and corporate Democrats are further cutting the budgets of school districts, blocking construction of new schools and reducing funds to maintain existing buildings.
And if you thing the privateers are inflicting terrible damage on the students of these cost-starved schools, you’d be right.
From Cornell University:
Social scientists have known for several years that kids enrolled in run-down schools miss more classes and have lower test scores than students at well-maintained schools. But they haven’t been able to pin down why.
A Cornell University environmental psychologist has an answer.
Lorraine Maxwell, an associate professor of design and environmental analysis in the College of Human Ecology, studied more than 230 New York City public middle schools and found a chain reaction at work: leaking toilets, smelly cafeterias, broken furniture, and run-down classrooms made students feel negatively which lead to high absenteeism and in turn, contributed to low test scores and poor academic achievement.
“School buildings that are in good condition and attractive may signal to students that someone cares and there’s a positive social climate, which in turn may encourage better attendance,” Maxwell said. “Students cannot learn if they do not come to school.”
Maxwell found that poor building conditions, and the resulting negative perception of the school’s social climate, accounted for 70 percent of the poor academic performance. She controlled for students’ socioeconomic status and ethnic background, and found that while these student attributes are related to test scores, they do not tell the whole story. School building condition is also a major contributing factor, Maxwell said.
“Those other factors are contributing to poor academic performance, but building condition is significantly contributing also. It’s worth it for society to make sure that school buildings are up to par,” she said.
Her study [$39.95 to read, thanks to the academic publishing bandits at Elsevier] “School Building Condition, Social Climate, Student Attendance and Academic Achievement: A Mediation Model,” appears in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.
In an earlier, related study, Maxwell asked a handful of middle-school students what difference they thought a school building makes.
“I will never forget one boy,” Maxwell said. “He said, ‘Well, maybe if the school looked better, kids would want to come to school.’ And that sparked me to think, ‘OK, they notice.’”
There’s more, after the jump. Continue reading