Educational Trends Shaping School Planning, Design, Construction, Funding and Operation National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities
Kenneth R. Stevenson September 2010 What does the future hold for educators and facilities professionals when it comes to planning, building, funding, and operating school facilities? No one can absolutely know beforehand. However, there are many, many indicators of where public education in the United States may well be destined. These indicators take the form of already occurring trends that will change education dramatically in the next forty years. While that seems like a long way off, school facilities built today will likely still be in existence in 2050. This raises a critical question. What are the emerging major trends educators and facilities specialists need to be aware of to better insure that future school structures complement the coming evolution, and possibly revolution, in public education? This question serves as the framework for what is presented in the following pages. First, though, why is it important to be aware of trends? As futurist Gary Marx (2006) points out, “Identifying, monitoring, and considering the implications of trends is one of the most basic processes for creating the future (p. 326).” Aldridge and Goldman (2007), authors of a book on issues and trends in education, reinforce the need to carefully study trends when they point out that, “People living in the 21st century will experience more rapid changes than in any other period of human history (p. 94).” And, Gene Glass (2008), writing on the possible fate of public education in America, reminds us that the events of today often reshape the future in dramatic ways not now imagined. He states, for example, “The invention of technologies shapes culture in ways that are often unpredictable at the birth of the invention. Television killed dance bands; the Internet is killing book stores (p. 11).” Will technology, or a yet to be identified phenomenon, “kill” public education as it now exists? If so, what may take its place? If not, what adjustments will be needed to insure that the public education system has a vital and vibrant future? And, what does all of this mean to educators and facilities professionals who are responsible for planning, design, construction, funding, and operation of schools? Not all of these questions can or will be answered here. However, the intent is to provide sufficient information about trends in America to assist educators and facilities professionals to be prepared for an increasingly diverse, conflicted, and constantly evolving world of education. Presented are fifteen trends that are redefining education in the United States -- and how each relates to the field of school facilities. Some trends are broader, such as those dealing with general population changes impacting on education. Others are specific to education, including trend information on changes in the teaching corps, school size, and organizational structure of schools. In the concluding section, the cumulative effects of the trends on the brick and mortar place called school are discussed, as well as ways educators and facilities professionals can work in concert to prepare for and to address the trends as they emerge and become fullblown. Before presenting the updated trends, a note of forewarning is extended to the reader. The first two editions of this NCEF “Trends” work (2002 and 2007) tended to envision a relatively rosy, almost idealistic future for public education. The new version does not. A continuing recession, escalating political polarization, risiing racial/ethnic tensions, a growing national debt, and a widening divide between the haves and the have nots portend a future fraught with unprecedented challenges to and clashes over the form and substance of public education in America. However, while the likely picture that the new “Trends” paints is relatively bleak, the future is not...
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