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Building Educational Success Together (BEST)

Introduction


The 21st Century School Fund launched the Building Educational Success Together initiative to improve the quality of school facilities in urban communities. The BEST initiative is a constituency-building, research and communications collaborative working to improve urban school facilities. The mission of this initiative is to secure the policy changes needed to improve facility conditions for students and teachers and to make schools centers of their communities.

BEST partners include

We will work to build a policy infrastructure that:

  • Integrates community involvement into facility planning;
  • Provides for the design and operation of schools for community use;
  • Requires effective and efficient management and oversight of facility planning, design, construction, modernization, and maintenance; and
  • Ensures that funding for capital improvements and maintenance is available and equitably distributed.

Our efforts are focused on ten cities — Washington, DC; Chicago, IL; Newark, Trenton and Paterson, NJ; New York City, NY; Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, OH; and Los Angeles, CA — as well as the development of research, publications and organizing tools useful across the country.

The BEST initiative is supported by the Ford Foundation as part of its commitment to educational excellence and equity.

For further information, please view these documents:

BEST Brochure
(Download PDF 529 Kb)

BEST Initiative Press Release

BEST Overview and Policy Agenda
(Download PDF 176 Kb)



Research

Do School Facilities Affect Academic Outcomes?

In November 2002, the National Clearinghouse for Education Facilities published a review of current school facilities research commissioned by the 21st Century School Fund. This review concluded that spatial configurations, noise, temperature, daylight, and air quality have an affect on students' and teachers' ability to perform in the classroom. However, it pointed out the need for more empirical research and for standardized data so individual schools can make use of the existing body of research on best practices. PDF: 600KB

Linking School Facility Conditions to Teacher Satisfaction and Success

Improving education performance ranks high on the national agenda conspicuously absent has been an examination of how school conditions affect teaching and learning... This study documents how a large sample of teachers in Chicago and Washington, DC rate the working conditions in their schools and how they perceive these conditions affecting their job performance and teaching effectiveness. School facilities have a direct affect on teaching and learning. Poor school conditions make it more difficult for teachers to deliver an adequate education to their students, adversely affect teachers' health, and increase the likelihood that teachers will leave their school and the teaching profession. Our nation's school facilities are a critical part of the educational process. Their condition and upkeep must be addressed in the ongoing discourse about student achievement, teacher effectiveness, and accountability. PDF: 202KB

The Educational Adequacy of New Jersey Public School Facilities: Results From a Survey of Principals

This study assesses the quality of school facilities from the point of view of principals and examines how well principals feel they can manage their school facility. Based on a survey of principals this study finds significant problems in the quality and adequacy of school facilities in New Jersey. The study also finds that principals may lack the resources to manage their school buildings. These problems are more severe in the poorest districts of the state. PDF: 1,833KB

The Effects of School Facility Quality on Teacher Retention in Urban School Districts

The attrition of both new and experienced teachers is a great challenge for schools and school administrators throughout the United States, particularly in large urban districts. Because of the importance of this issue, there is a large empirical literature that investigates why teachers quit and how they might be better induced to stay. Here we build upon this literature by suggesting another important factor: the quality of school facilities. We investigate the importance of facility quality using data from a survey of K-12 teachers in Washington, D.C. We find in our sample that facility quality is an important predictor of the decision of teachers to leave their current position. HTML

A Decade of Growth and Disparity: Public School Construction 1995–2004

Building Educational Success Together (BEST) completed an investigation of school construction spending in the United States between 1995 & 2004. The findings are both encouraging and cause for great concern. A record $304 billion in school construction hard costs was spent by school districts between 1995 and 2004. While there have been extensive improvements to school facilities throughout the United States, the study found that minority children from low-income communities, particularly in central cities, had less than half the school building investment of children from the most affluent communities. To Be Released on October 26th, 2006

The Effects of School Facility Quality on Teacher Retention
in Urban School Districts

February 2004

Abstract

The attrition of both new and experienced teachers is a great challenge for schools and school administrators throughout the United States, particularly in large urban districts. Because of the importance of this issue, there is a large empirical literature that investigates why teachers quit and how they might be better induced to stay. Here we build upon this literature by suggesting another important factor: the quality of school facilities. We investigate the importance of facility quality using data from a survey of K-12 teachers in Washington, D.C. We find in our sample that facility quality is an important predictor of the decision of teachers to leave their current position.
This research was supported in part by the Ford Foundation and the 21st Century School Fund through its BEST (Building Educational Success Together)

Download complete document
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Press Releases

For Immediate Release
Contact: Marissa Bachman 202-745-3745

July 29, 2002

Building Better Schools from the Community Up

National Collaboration Targets Urban School Districts for Facility Improvements

Washington, DC – On July 31, the 21st Century School Fund will launch the Building Educational Success Together (BEST) initiative with a $1 million grant from the Ford Foundation. This constituency building, research and communications collaboration will focus on improving urban public school facilities.

Across the nation, deteriorating public school buildings are a major obstacle to achieving academic success and neighborhood vitality. Despite higher standards and efforts to improve teacher quality, “a poorly designed, overcrowded, and poorly maintained school limits the effectiveness of education reforms,” says Barbara Diamond, a KnowledgeWorks Foundation program officer.

These same buildings also challenge multi-million dollar efforts to revitalize urban communities. “Schools that are in disrepair and inaccessible to the larger community send a stark message to surrounding neighborhoods: ‘Your kids — your community — doesn’t matter,’” states Neighborhood Capital Budget Group executive director Jacqueline Leavy.

The BEST initiative was launched to make school buildings assets for, instead of barriers to, educational success and community development and preservation. Members of this initiative will work to: involve local communities in facility planning; make schools useable by their surrounding neighborhoods; ensure honest and effective management of facility construction, renovation and maintenance; and secure stable and sufficient funding for new construction and modernization.

This initiative will also work to preserve and modernize historic schools which are often important civic landmarks and neighborhood anchors. “The system should make it easier for communities to preserve these institutions when they can be renovated to meet 21st century educational standards,” says Constance Beaumont of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“Children in poor urban communities have a right to attend excellent schools that are safe and educationally adequate,” says David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center. In its first year, BEST will focus its efforts in eight cities: Washington, DC; Chicago, IL; Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, OH; and Newark, Paterson, and Trenton, NJ.

“We have brought together a committed team of leaders from the education, historic preservation, neighborhood development, philanthropic, legal, and research communities to build better schools for our children and our neighborhoods,” says 21st Century School Fund executive director Mary Filardo.

The BEST initiative is a collaboration of the 21st Century School Fund (Washington, DC), Education Law Center (Newark, NJ); KnowledgeWorks Foundation (Cincinnati, OH); National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities (Washington, DC); National Trust for Historic Preservation (Washington, DC); Neighborhood Capital Budget Group (Chicago, IL); and Mark Schneider at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

The formal launch of the BEST initiative will take place at the Sumner School and Archives (1201 17th Street in Washington, DC) at 11:30 AM on July 31st. Please join us for lunch and a Q&A session following the announcement. RSVP at 202-745-3745.



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