Editor's Note (The View From Here)

What’s Goin' On

Positive news in the education world brings own set of challenges.

There is nothing I like better than talking with the architects and administrators who are charged with designing, equipping and operating educational facilities. This past month has been a busy one, with our staff attending ASIS (focusing on safety and security), CEFPI (focusing on planning and design), GreenBuild (focusing on sustainability) and EdSpaces (focusing on furniture and equipment). It is events like these where we have the opportunity to hear about trends in the industry and find ideas for articles.

Perhaps the best news I have is that the economy “has” improved in the last year and that money is once again being spent to improve the learning environment. This news was a long time coming!

When it comes to resources and staff, everyone has been forced to downsize. The only thing that continues to grow is enrollment. Two reasons… the first is growth in the school-age population; second is the need for an educated workforce.

The National Center for Education Statistic reports that between fall 2012 and fall 2021, we can expect an increase of seven percent in the number of students attending public schools. Plus, it has been reported that there will be 55 million job openings in the economy through 2020.

More people and the need for more education can only mean one thing… a need for more facilities, better facilities and making the best use of the facilities we have. New facility design IS sustainable design.

From a planning and design standpoint the talk is about safety & security, collaborative learning and flexible space. In the next few years, we will continue to see less focus on formal spaces and more of a focus on flexibility and informal group spaces. New furniture designs and advances in technology have made concepts like the Flipped Classroom and TEAL (Technology Enhanced Active Learning) become a reality. Results for TEAL classrooms show twice the average normalized learning gains for low-, intermediate- and high-scoring students when compared to traditional instruction. Results like those will be hard to ignore.

My only reservation… all of this sounds good, and it works well in new and modernized facilities. The challenge will be to this work for not just for the few who will attend new state-of-the-art facilities, but for all students.

This article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of School Planning & Management.

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