Creature Comforts

By Anthony Rebora — November 04, 2005 1 min read

In a recent entry on her blog, a science teacher going by the Web name Ms. Fizzle vented her frustrations about the heating system in her school:

“In four years of teaching at this school, I have NEVER ONCE taught in a classroom that was a comfortable temperature during winter months. Never. I have thermometers posted on the walls—for science—and I have seen classrooms hit 98 degrees and classrooms in the low 60s. ... How can anyone expect excellence of teachers and students when we work under conditions like these?”

Ms. Fizzle’s comments point to a perhaps undervalued factor in teachers’ job satisfaction: the condition of school facilities.

A 2004 research report issued by the National Clearinghouse on Educational Facilities—and funded by the Ford Foundation and the 21st Century School Fund—concludes that the quality of school facilities is an “important predictor” of teachers’ decisions on whether to stay at a school.

Crunching data from a survey of teachers in Washington, D.C., the researchers found that the level of school-facilities quality corresponded with the probability of whether teachers would remain in their jobs for another year. In a comparison of various attrition factors, in addition, they determined that the effect of poor facilities on teacher-retention decisions was greater than that of dissatisfaction with pay.

The report points to a number of aspects of school facilities—including air quality, temperature, and classroom lighting—that have been shown to affect teacher morale and student performance. Making improvements in such areas, it suggests, could be a viable and cost-effective retention strategy over the long term.

By same token, highlighting quality facilities and environmental conditions may be an effective addition to recruitment strategies.