The AFT, my alma mater, has a new initiative on building conditions. New York City has a famously old stock of school buildings, and I've heard of some pretty nasty conditions that are, shall we say, not conducive to student concentration. A new report by the AFT exposes facilities problems around the country and how they affect teaching and learning.
The building in which I am doing my student teaching is one of these big, old buildings, but it is in relatively good condition. Its only real quirk is a large community of rodents. (Like the kind that inhabits most NYC schools.) I haven't actually seen any myself, but I've heard they can be seen scampering through the halls like confused sixth graders, and I have certainly seen ample evidence of their existence. The seventh grade science teacher has taken to catching the mice and keeping them as classroom pets. How does she catch the little dudes? "These mice are slow and dumb," she says.
Other than the mice, the school doesn't have problems like ceilings falling in or mushrooms growing in the corners. An active parent body makes sure things are pretty well kept up, and once a year the parents have a "work day" in which they do things like build benches and bookcases in classrooms. Adequate facilities, however, does not necessarily translate into high student achievement -- at least as measured by state tests. Word on the street is that the school might not make AYP based on last year's scores. Of course, as the AFT will also tell you, and they are right, barely any schools will be making AYP for very long.
AYP aside, I do believe the students at this school are getting a great education, one that is not hampered by distracting facilities problems.