existing buildings, which explains the disparity with earlier estimates. For the state of Massachusetts, the cost to improve all existing buildings is estimated to range from $8.9 billion to $9.9 billion.

Implicit in these reports is the underlying assumption that school condition and functionality can influence student learning, either positively or negatively. Although most school buildings start out meeting current codes, standards, and functional design, over time physical conditions deteriorate if building components and systems are not properly operated and maintained or repaired in a timely manner.


The committee identified seven studies that investigated the relationship between the condition of school buildings and at least two student variables. The one consistent variable was student achievement as measured by some form of standardized or normed test or examination administered to all students in the schools. Four of the seven studies focused on high school students, one focused on third and fifth graders, and two included students at elementary, middle, and high school levels. A description of each of the studies, the methodology used, the reported findings, and the committee’s conclusions follow.

Edwards (1992) investigated the relationship between parental involvement, school building condition, and student achievement in the schools of Washington, D.C. She hypothesized that the condition of public school buildings is affected by parental involvement and that the condition of the school building further affects student achievement. She analyzed these relationships by evaluating the condition of school buildings, determining the extent of parental involvement and the amount of funds parents raised for the local school, and compared the results with student achievement scores, as measured using average test scores on the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS).

Edwards found that building condition did have an effect on student achievement scores. The analysis indicated that as a school moves up from one condition category to another (e.g., from poor to fair), the achievement scores can be expected to increase by 5 percent. If the school moves up two categories, such as from poor to excellent, the average achievement scores can be expected to increase by 11 percent.

In a similar study, Cash (1993) investigated the relationship between certain school building conditions, student achievement, and student behavior in rural high schools in Virginia. Basically, the same hypothesis that Edwards employed was used in conducting this study. The condition of the building in this study, however, was the independent variable, and student achievement and behavior served as dependent variables.

The condition of the school building was determined through evaluation by local school system personnel. Cash developed a building evaluation instrument, the Commonwealth Assessment of Physical Environment (CAPE), to be used by local school personnel to determine the classification of the building. The CAPE was derived from previous studies that showed a positive relationship between a particular building condition and student achievement and behavior, including air-conditioning, classroom illumination, temperature control, classroom color, graffiti, science equipment and utilities, paint schedules, roof adequacy, classroom windows, floor type, building age, supporting facilities, condition of school grounds, and furniture condition. The presence or absence of these

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement