Maintenance & Operations

Building Condition and the Influence on Student Learning

The national School Plant Management Association (NSPMA) and SchoolDude are partnering for a comprehensive research study that will examine student academic performance of mean scaled math and language arts standardized test scores, while taking into account the condition of school buildings around the United States. There is a need for further study of the correlation between students and their learning environment. There have only been fragments of studies performed and there is a need for a comprehensive study across the country. Several research studies have been conducted in Virginia, through Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, which have revealed clear evidence that school building condition does have an impact, with other controlled variables, on student learning.

Building Condition

Facilities matter. There has been research that concludes that physical environment plays an important part in how well children learn. There has been much discussion about how to truly identify the best method to measure the school building condition. Dr. Carol Cash, professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, developed a very concrete tool that allows the school building administrator or principal to conduct the physical assessment of the school building. There is also building maintenance software that can assist operations departments in tracking key building performance maintenance indicators.

There has been much discussion about how to truly identify the best method to measure the school building condition. Dr. Carol Cash, professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, developed a very concrete tool that allows the school building administrator or principal to conduct the physical assessment of the school building. This assessment has been used in many research studies in Virginia. There is also building maintenance software that can assist operations departments in tracking key building performance maintenance indicators.

SchoolDude has served public schools for over 13 years through their software programs supporting maintenance operations and the tracking of key performance indicators such as reactive and preventative maintenance, deferred maintenance backlogs, energy consumption and conservation an safety as a few examples. Their software is used in operations management in school districts in more than 35 percent of the United States. Schools in several states including Arkansas and New Mexico use their facility management software statewide. This type of software can provide an unique opportunity to track how well school buildings are maintained through general and preventative maintenance. This may provide the needed tool to standardize a true measurement that defines whether a school building is deemed standard or substandard.

There have been seven states identified where SchoolDude’s software is predominant as the program used for schools operations maintenance. These states include Arkansas, Michigan, New Jersey, California, Virginia, New Mexico, Texas and the state of Washington. A random sample will be taken in each state and the building condition will be evaluated through preventative maintenance statistics, completion rates of work orders and deferred maintenance. Once the building condition is defined by measurable performance building indicators, the mean scaled scores in language arts and math will be evaluated for the randomly selected schools in each of these states. Several controls will need to be in place to make the research findings valid. Socioeconomic status and other variables will be controlled to make the research as robust as possible.

The physical environment in which children learn is still of compelling interest, especially in correlation to the influence of student learning. Funding must continue to be appropriated to maintain and enhance our school buildings so our students and teachers have a suitable environment for optimal academic achievement.

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of School Planning & Management.

About the Author

John A. Bailey, Ph.D. is the director of School Plants for Chesapeake Public Schools and a National School Plant Managers Association board member, representing Virginia, and a Virginia School Plant Managers Association board member, representing Region II, in Virginia.

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