PRINTED headline in Northwest Arkansas Times accurate:
Study: Construction costs, student success separate
Morning News HEADLINE missed the point, however:
Construction No Problem For Student Performance
By Rose Ann Pearce
THE MORNING NEWS
FAYETTEVILLE — A Pennsylvania State University professor said Friday other factors impact student achievement more than the cost of the schools they're in.
Starting with a certain level of quality among students and buildings, the impact between student achievement and construction costs is lower, said Steven A. Peterson, a professor of politics and public affairs.
Prior students' achievement and percentage of minority students both have solid associations with student performance, Peterson said.
More school choices — such as charter schools, vouchers, and magnet schools; teacher salaries or other resources and administrative decentralization — have more to do with impacting student performance, he said.
There is an indirect benefit: Students and staff feel better when the building is newer.
Peterson's comments give credence to a resident's comment made Thursday night at the Fayetteville School Board that there is no research to show school construction impacts student performance. Michael Wolf's statement was intended to support his position Fayetteville is spending too much for a proposed new high school at $113 million.
Peterson's report doesn't differentiate between schools under construction or new schools which are finished.
The topic is timely for Fayetteville residents who go to the polls in three weeks to cast their votes for increasing property taxes by 4.9 mills to finance construction of a new high school on the existing site.
Some members of a group that supported putting the school at a different location said they didn't want their children going to school in a construction zone.
The attendance Friday for Peterson's talk outpaced the number of seats available in the classroom where the speakers usually meet with University of Arkansas graduate students. The program was part of the education reform lecture series.
Reed Greenwood, former dean of the College of Education and Health Professions and a former Fayetteville School Board member, said early research shows content knowledge of teachers is an important part of student achievement.
"We need to have careful alignment of what students need to be taught and the content knowledge of teachers," Greenwood said. "We have not identified what teachers need to do to be the best. It's an area that needs more research."
Principals need to be empowered to run their schools and make more autonomous decisions affecting their own school rather than working under an micromanaging centralized supervisor, he said.
At A Glance
Summary of Peterson's Findings
• None of the analysis indicators show building construction expenditures have anything to do with students' performance, contrary to what some previous research has suggested
• Prior students' achievement and percentage of minority students have a solid association with student performance.
• Other major theoretical perspectives on what might enhance students' performance seem to be supported, such as school choice, administrative decentralization, and resources.
Source: Building Construction Expenditures and Student Performance