January 16 2012

The Relationship Between School Design and Achievement in New York City, New York’s Low-Income Public Schools

Graffiti School in NY BooksSchool building design and quality, and its relationship to student achievement is a growing area of interest for architects, urban planners, and designers. However, in New York City, when educational performance is assessed by administrators, building quality and design are rarely taken into consideration as detrimental factors.  In addition, schools located in low-income neighborhoods tend to be older, more crowded, and more uncomfortable than those located in higher-income areas.  In these areas, features of the physical environment often interact with socioeconomic factors to negatively effect school performance.

Researchers at Cornell University studied the connection between school building quality and student stability, socioeconomic background, and scores on standardized achievement tests in 511 public elementary schools in the New York City school system. We found that students attending schools with lower building quality and those attending schools with high student mobility had lower test scores,” says Gary Evans — a professor of design and environmental analysis. The researchers also discovered that when these risk factors are combined, they have a particularly negative impact on academic achievement.

The research findings provide insight into the potential of school building design to mitigate the negative effects of socioeconomic factors on school achievement and may shape the future of urban design, urban planning, and school architecture in low-income neighborhoods in New York City and beyond. It may be crucial that the modern design plans of school buildings in low-income neighborhoods ensure that school facilities are maintained or improved.

Is the argument for the link between school building quality and achievement convincing? What other physical or socioeconomic factors may be at work in negatively effecting academic achievement?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Christine Camilleri

Christine Devon Camilleri blogged for the GRID from October 2011 to May 2012. She is a Graduate student studying City and Regional Planning at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. She also holds a B.S. in Human Development from Cornell University. She has lived in New York City for the majority of her life, and currently resides in Brooklyn, N.Y. Prior to joining Global Site Plans she worked as a grassroots political organizer. She is especially interested in New York City’s post-industrial waterfronts and the implications of participatory planning processes for community development initiatives.

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This entry was posted on Monday, January 16th, 2012 at 1:03 pm and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Education and Careers, Infrastructure, Social/Demographics, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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