ACLU Releases Expert's Report on Maryland's Inadequate School Facilities

Affiliate: ACLU of Maryland
January 13, 2004 12:00 am

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ACLU of Maryland
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BALTIMORE — The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland today released a report documenting a 5 to 10 percent differential on achievement tests between students in adequate school buildings and those in older buildings. At a minimum, the cost of remedying the school facility issues that most immediately impact student achievement is estimated at $2.5 billion.

“”This report confirms what common sense tells us: it’s hard to learn when you’re surrounded by physical distractions and deficiencies,”” said Bebe Verdery, Director of the ACLU’s Education Reform Project. “”Yet for decades, cash-poor school systems have been ignoring school facilities just to get teachers in the classroom. That’s robbing Peter to pay Paul and it explains why the ticket for the fix is large.””

The ACLU issued the report in response to the work of the State Task Force to Study Public School Facilities, which released minimum adequacy guidelines for Maryland’s public schools in February 2003 and then required each of the state’s 24 school jurisdictions to survey their schools and identify deficiencies by school according to 31 criteria.

In an effort to determine which of the Task Force’s 31 criteria for minimum adequacy were most related to student achievement, the ACLU of Maryland commissioned an analysis by Dr. Glen Earthman, a national facilities expert. Earthman’s report quantifies the extent to which student performance in poor and older buildings consistently falls short, compared to that of students attending school in functional or acceptable buildings. His research demonstrates that students score between 5 to 10 percentile points lower on achievement tests than students in functional buildings, after controlling for socioeconomic status.

Dr. Earthman recommended that the Task Force place a priority on fixing health and safety issues first and then, in order of importance; replacing outdated HVAC systems, remedying air quality issues, providing adequate lighting, resolving acoustic issues, updating science labs and resolving overcrowding.

The ACLU, which represents parents of at-risk children in Baltimore public schools, also called on the State Task Force to recommend a short-term remedy to bring all school buildings in Maryland up to minimum adequacy.

“”Students cannot be expected to meet state standards if their schools lack proper heating and ventilation, lighting and science labs, nor should teachers be expected to teach in these conditions,”” said Susan Goering, Executive Director of the ACLU of Maryland.

To view the full report, go to http://www.aclu-md.org/facilities_report.pdf

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