Report Discusses Deteriorating Schools and Their Impact on Students’ Ability to Learn

Jan. 24, 2007
The school environment cannot be separated from the academic agenda, says AFT

In the 2006 report, Building Minds, Minding Buildings: Turning Crumbling Schools into Environments for Learning, the Washington, D.C.-based American Federation of Teachers (AFT) highlights the conditions of schools nationwide and the consequences and impact on students and faculty. According to the report: “Mold, leaking ceilings, extreme temperatures, raw sewage seeping into hallways, mice droppings, severely overcrowded classrooms - these unhealthy and/or unsafe conditions plague tens of thousands of old and new school buildings where millions of Americans age 5 and older must study and work.”

The AFT report focuses on the following:

  • The problems of inadequate, unhealthy, and unsafe public school-building conditions.
  • The consequences of poor conditions on learning, health, and staff retention.
  • The elements of well-designed, well-built, well-maintained schools.
  • Recommendations for action at all levels to improve school buildings.

The report notes that most problems are due to lack of attention to maintenance/operations and inadequate funding and are exacerbated by increased enrollment and decreased school capacity.

The report recommends the following considerations be taken and key elements examined when schools are built, modernized, and maintained:

  • Proper siting, taking into account the environmental impact.
  • Building and classroom sizes that are conducive to learning.
  • Design appropriate to climate and region.
  • Adequate ventilation, heating, and air-conditioning systems.
  • Extensive use of natural daylight.
  • Acoustic materials that reduce noise levels that interfere with learning.
  • Safety and security concerns effectively addressed.
  • Technology that is integrated into academic and building design.
  • An infrastructure that supports special needs students and adults.
  • Adequate staffing to keep schools clean and well-maintained.

To review the complete report, visit ( The American Federation of Teachers was founded in 1916 to represent the economic, social, and professional interests of classroom teachers. It is an affiliated international union of the AFL-CIO. For more information, visit (

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