Most Read: Local

Answer Sheet
Posted at 09:53 PM ET, 09/08/2011

Is Obama’s call to modernize schools really necessary?

Is President Obama’s plan to modernize at least 35,000 public schools across the country as part of his proposed American Jobs Act really necessary?

Consider:

*Research over decades shows that the condition of school facilities affects student achievement. According to a 2011 report by the 21st Century School Fund, there are clear correlations between the quality of school facilities and student and teacher attendance, teacher retention and recruitment, child and teacher health, and the quality of curriculum.

In a set of 20 studies analyzed by the fund, all but one study showed a positive correlation between the achievement of students and the condition of the school facility once student demographic factors were controlled for.

*The American Society of Civil Engineers, in its 2009 infrastructure report, gave the country’s school buildings a grade of ‘D.’

*About one-fourth (28 percent) of all public schools were built before 1950, and 45 percent of all public schools were built between 1950 and 1969, according to the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities. The average age of public schools is 40 years old, according to the 21st Century School Fund.


*Though there is no current comprehensive nationwide data on the condition of the country’s school buildings, estimates to bring schools into good repair range from a low of at least $270 billion to more than $500 billion.

Until now, Obama’s education priorities have not included school climate or how students who attend class in buildings that are literally crumbling around them are expected to learn. Instead, his school reforms have focused on so-called “accountability” for students, schools and teachers that is based on standardized test scores.

But here’s what Obama said about modernizing schools in his speech Thursday night outlining the proposed Jobs Act:

“There are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovating. How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart? This is America. Every child deserves a great school – and we can give it to them, if we act now.

“The American Jobs Act will repair and modernize at least 35,000 schools. It will put people to work right now fixing roofs and windows; installing science labs and high-speed internet in classrooms all across this country.”

Well, yes, every American child does deserve a great school, yet, because of deferred maintenance and repair, there are still many with unsafe drinking water, moldy classrooms, bad air quality, faulty fire alarms, poor security, broken toilets and windows and more. Imagine going to work in such conditions.

In these difficult financial times, state and local governments as well as school districts have had to slash budgets and school repair is rarely seen as much of a priority. So it’s heartening to hear the issue raised in a national debate, even if it is in the context of a jobs bill.

Mr. President, better late than never.

-0-

Follow The Answer Sheet every day by bookmarking http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet. And for admissions advice, college news and links to campus papers, please check out our Higher Education page. Bookmark it!

By  |  09:53 PM ET, 09/08/2011

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company