White Paper Discusses the Future of Educational Facilities

May 23, 2006
Author pinpoints trends in education and their impact on America’s schools

In a white paper released by the Washington, D.C.-based National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, author Kenneth R. Stevenson of the University of South Carolina unveils trends in education that will have dramatic impact on educational facilities in the future. Educational Facilities within the Context of a Changing 21st Century America can be downloaded from the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities’ website (www.edfacilities.org).

Stevenson pinpoints the following eight trends in the paper:

  1. The “Baby Boomers” vs. the “new majority.”
  2. The struggle for control of American education.
  3. Defining what schools will teach.
  4. Instructional delivery - people vs. machines.
  5. Smaller, neighborhood schools.
  6. Smaller class sizes vs. technology.
  7. Grade-span reconfiguration.
  8. The physical environment in schools and optimizing learning.

The effects these trends will have on schools include:

  • Aging Boomers may be less likely to support bond referenda to build or remodel schools. If school buildings become community facilities that provide health services, recreation, and meals for retirees, support may be easier to secure.
  • If more parents have the option to send their children where they choose, schools will become more competitive and buildings will be designed to accommodate strong curriculum in areas like the fine arts or sciences. According to Stevenson, “As schools develop different ‘personalities,’ they will necessarily ... be physically different.”
  • More complex and varied curriculums will result in more costly school construction projects. “In effect, school facilities must be a reflection of what Americans expect to be taught in school, not what has been taught/offered in the past,” he explains.
  • How students are taught in the future will change the traditional classroom environment. Electronic instruction may result in telecommunication cubicles while a medical model of teaching will provide consultation and diagnostic rooms.
  • The return to small schools will increase capital costs. As an alternative, schools within schools are gaining popularity.
  • Reduced teacher/pupil ratios (i.e. smaller class sizes) will increase the cost of providing adequate schools.
  • While it is unknown the impact of changing grade span patterns in schools, what is known are the significant cost implications.
  • Facilities should be adequate enough to provide students in all communities the opportunity to learn to their fullest potential. Schools that are in need of repair should be revitalized and policymakers should encourage further study of the impact of the physical environment on learning.

To read Educational Facilities with the Context of a Changing 21st Century America, visit (www.edfacilities.org/pubs/Ed_Facilities_in_21st_Century.pdf).

Created in 1997 by the U.S. Department of Education, the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (NCEF) provides information on planning, designing, funding, building, improving, and maintaining safe, healthy, high-performance schools. To find out more, visit (www.edfacilities.org).

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