November 02, 2005
School construction is no longer about bricks, mortar, and a couple of workers with lunch pails. Today, aesthetics matter. At least, that's the opinion of a pair of school architects from Illinois who contend that their newly developed list of eight design strategies can lead to higher achievement in middle schools. You see, it's not the shoddy curriculum that leads to low scores on tests such as TIMSS and NAEP. No, the middle schools slump is all about bad feng shui. "By addressing each of these eight design strategies," the authors write, "we believe middle schools will transform education." Some of their sophisticated ideas? Support mind, body, and spirit (Strategy 5); develop exploratory areas (Strategy 3); and listen to everyone (Strategy 7). But Gadfly isn't convinced that rearrange-able furniture will end low achievement in middle schools, and "exploratory areas" just sounds downright creepy. Holding students to high academic expectations is the proven way to better middle schools, and until we see some research that shows a correlation between flying buttresses and higher math scores, we're leaving chic design to the professionals on The Learning Channel.
"8 Strategies for School Design," by August Battaglia and Robin Randall, American School Board Journal, October 2005