distribution of laboratory facilities, equipment, and supplies. In the final section we discuss laboratory safety, including attention to liability, standards of care for student safety, and current patterns of safety enforcement.


In response to growing enrollments and the deterioration of an older generation of buildings, school districts across the nation are involved in a wave of construction and renovation. A comprehensive survey conducted by the General Accounting Office in 1996 revealed that many existing school buildings were in need of reconstruction or renovation. At that time, one-third of schools across the nation needed either extensive renovation or reconstruction, while another third had at least one major structural flaw, such as a leaky roof, an outdated electrical system, or dysfunctional plumbing (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1996).

On average, public elementary and secondary schools across the nation are devoting an increasing share of their budgets—from 10 percent in 1989-1990 to 14 percent in 2002-2002—to capital investments (National Center for Education Statistics, 2004b). Trend data from an annual mail and telephone survey of school district chief business officers indicate that planned and completed school construction spending nearly doubled over the past decade, increasing from $10.7 billion in 1994 to $28.6 billion in 2003 (Agron, 2003). About 61 percent of these expenditures was for new construction, and 39 percent was for additions or renovations to existing buildings. Another recent survey found that spending on school construction projects to be completed in 2003 totaled $19.7 billion, with 64 percent of the total dedicated to new construction, 21 percent for additions to existing buildings, and 14 percent for renovations of existing structures (Abramson, 2004). Respondents to the second survey indicated that 41 percent of expenditures for projects to be completed in 2003 were for high schools.1 They indicated that 100 percent of new high schools and 92 percent of new middle schools would include science laboratories (Abramson, 2004). Laboratory facilities were included as part of additions to existing schools much less frequently (in about 18 percent of high school projects and 8 percent of middle school projects).

Laboratory Design and Student Learning

Specialized space for carrying out laboratory experiences can be incorporated into the initial design of a school or added or enhanced through


Neither survey provides information on sampling design or response rate.

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