Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Assessment/Performance

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How can we create and monitor high performance schools?

High performance schools are schools that utilized advanced designs to be environmentally friendly while producing better studying conditions for students. The idea is to create a relaxing, healthy, and clean environment that will not only optimize resource use and lower energy cost, but also make the school a healthier place to be in. The term “High Performance Schools” refers to the physical school structure and the grounds in which the school resides. (EPA) The whole building is included into the design of a high performance school, and each and every portion of the structure affects the high efficiency and the environmental benefits.

Building Environment[edit]

A reach and aim of high performance schools is to improve the environment of the school, community, and the world in general. By taking a conservative approach to maintaining the school, its functions, and its construction, a high performance school can be environmentally beneficial and improve living conditions in the community its self.

Building and Construction[edit]

The schools that are built are constructed out of materials that are non-toxic and environmentally friendly. This acts to protect the builders while fitting the building and the students and teachers during occupation of the structure. (NEEP) Many of the materials required are used from recycled parts as one of the aims of high efficiency schools is protecting the environment as a whole. Over 20% of the schools materials can come from post-consumer recycled content. (CIWMB) This also includes materials used in classrooms and tools used by students. Most of the materials are durable and easy to clean keeping with the idea of providing a healthier environment than at a traditional school.


Water efficiency can be increased by 30% with a few simple technological adjustments.

Another aim of high performance schools is the ability to reduce water usage. Water efficiency can be increased by 30% with a few simple technological adjustments. (NEEP) By utilizing waterless urinals and low-flow fixtures along with automatic shut-off control, water usage is cut back drastically simply by not using extensive amounts of water. Grey water or rain water for flushing toilets can also cut back on the over all use of water in a school. On site waste water treatments by utilizing ‘solar aquatics’ can reduce the cost of sewage treatment and provide improved conditions for the surrounding community as well.

Along with water, high performance schools focus on reducing energy cost of maintaining the school indoor temperature. “Heating, Ventilation, and Cooling (HVAC) systems are one of the largest consumers of energy in a school and modest improvements in system efficiency can yield relatively large savings in a school operational budget.” (NEEP) Increased savings can be achieved by utilizing better insulation, better building shell, and high efficiency motors and equipment for optimal HVAC performance.

Electricity conservation is another one of the goals of maintaining a high performance schools. Electric lighting can account for 30-50% of the of a schools power consumption. (NEEP) By boosting efficiency, schools can reduce their power usage vastly. Having high efficiency lights, dimming and occupancy sensors, and well placed outdoor lighting can help maintain lower energy cost and use less electricity for lighting. Also optimizing the number of light fixtures for each of the school applications would improve over all quality of teacher and student performance while conserving energy.

Natural Environment[edit]

The natural environment is also used in the construction of the school. The grounds are maintained with the natural vegetation in the area, while keeping naturally occurring land formations intact. This helps keep a natural feel about the school and lowers the environmental impact of building a new school. (EPA)

Student Environment[edit]

Good design also produces more comfortable environments with proper lighting, air temperature, humidity, and noise levels.


A better facility with better lighting, acoustics, and air quality will aid in delivering better student outcomes. (Better Bricks) Not only are the utilities and the construction more efficient, but the aura of the entire school gets a boost when running on a high performance level.


A unique characteristic of high performance schools is the lighting hat is provided. Not only are more energy efficient lights used, but light is optimized in each class room for whatever purpose it might serve. The electronic lighting also acts with natural day lighting to help improve student performance. By providing this visual comfort, class room tasks such as reading or following presentations can become easier and more comfortable for students. (EPA) Glare is also minimized by utilizing the natural lighting in combination with the electrical lighting.


Another focus of the high performance school is noise pollution. The structure of the buildings is designed to be acoustically sound. Teachers do not need to yell for their students to hear them while the structure minimizes noises coming from outside the room and noise leaving the room. (Better Bricks) The way the ventilation systems are set up effect the noise output in a room as well. Instead of having to hear ventilation systems come on and off, the noise is drastically reduced to increase focus and more attention in the class room. (EPA)

Air Quality[edit]

For the amount of time that students and teachers spend inside of a class room, keeping the air clean and contaminant free is key to helping better air quality. Contamination is controlled and filtration systems are highly effective and keep moisture accumulation controlled as well. (Better Bricks) Since children are more susceptible to indoor pollutants, air quality control is important inside of any school.


It is no doubt beneficial that a school can be highly conservative, energy efficient, and environmentally friendly, but how does this effect the students and how they learn? The purpose of many of these changes is due to the better results that are yielded because of all the improvements in buildings.

Student Effects[edit]

The students are directly affected by many of these changes. Student performance improvement in high performance schools can be attributed to the better air quality, lighting, and noise control. Since the atmosphere inside the school would be a pleasant one to be in, it’s understandable that students would be better able to focus in a high performance school. The atmosphere has lead to an increase in test scores in students who attend high performance schools. (CHPS) These pleasantries can also attribute to an increase in average daily attendance. (Energy) This can help get the school more funds to operate on because of increased government aid due to high attendance rates.

Administrative Benefits[edit]

The students are not the only ones who benefit because of the high performance schools. Teachers and faculty both benefit from the use of the building as well. Since the atmosphere is such a pleasant one to work in, teachers are more satisfied in the work place and there is a high retention rate because of this as well. (CHPS) Teachers aren’t the only ones who are happy. Since there is a reduction in operation cost, due to the lack of resources being used, there is more money available for the program rather than maintaining facilities. (CHPS) Liability for poor health conditions in a facility is also eliminated since a facility is in top condition and does not have any hazardous materials involved in its construction. (Energy)

Maintaining a Facility[edit]

The biggest cost in a school is not the building cost or the program costs, but it’s the long term cost of up keeping the facility and the area around it. (EPA) Since the high performance schools are designed to be efficient and low cost, it is no more difficult to maintain a high performance school than it is a traditional school. While there might be initial higher cost for some portions of the school, over time more money will be saved because of the high efficiency and optimal conditions of the facilities. (NEEP) If a school is going to upgrade something to better its standings, it is cheaper to change it immediately rather then delaying. More money might be spent immediately, but over time savings can easily be more beneficial.

Monitoring Facilities[edit]

High performance schools are relatively new and there are few ways to rate them as of right now. One organization, The Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS), has come up with a means of rating and monitoring the available high performance schools. They have developed guidelines in a six volume best practice manual that can help guide researchers and developers in creating and maintaining high performance schools. (CHPS)


The over all purpose of these high performance schools is to improve the quality of education by establishing a healthy and non-hazardous environment. By reducing energy use, the amount of non-recycled materials used, and costs of operation, not only are there more resources available to the schools, but the environment and people in it benefit from the unused materials and resources that would have been allocated in the building of a school. Ultimately, the students benefit from a better learning experience in a more secure learning environment.

Multiple Choice Questions[edit]

Click to reveal the answer.

A community is going to build a new schooling facility. They have the option of building in an open field, near a small lake, next to a wooded area, or to remove an older building and replace it. Which choice would be ideal for a high performance school?
A. Open field; it has limited impact on the surrounding area.
B. Small lake; the lake water can be used as a water source.
C. Wooded area; the trees cut down can be used for construction.
D. Replace an older school; better facilities yield better results.

A. Open field; it has limited impact on the surrounding area.

A city that is in a low humidity area and has year round high temperatures has decided to build a high performance school. When selecting a HVAC system, what should they focus on to optimize the systems performance?
A. Getting a system that will keep the school as cool as possible year round.
B. Getting a system that is able to keep the school at a reasonable temperature for any time of year, whether it is a warm or cool season.
C. Getting a system that will cool reasonably well, but is not capable of heating.
D. Getting a system that is able to cool quickly but uses a lot of energy.

B. Getting a system that is able to keep the school at a reasonable temperature for any time of year, whether it is a warm or cool season.

A school is tying to become more energy efficient to be in line with CHPS's criteria for being a high performance school. What can the school do to better its energy usage?
A. Cut down on the use of lights, computers, and other technology available for students or teachers.
B. Do nothing; there are more important areas to focus on rather than the energy cost.
C. Add motion sensors in the hallways to turn the lights on or off when someone is walking in them.
D. Remove all electrical devices and use the windows and natural lighting for light instead of electricity.

C. Add motion sensors in the hallways to turn the lights on or off when someone is walking in them.

A school board is spending money constantly repairing an older schools HVAC system. What should the school board to better spend the money allocated on this school?
A. Completely remove the HVAC system and install a newer more efficient one.
B. Continuing repairing the HVAC system; it is not a large expense.
C. Hire a specialist to come and inspect the system for possible malfunctions to see if there is a larger problem.
D. Accept that the school is old and that it will be torn down soon enough anyway.

A. Completely remove the HVAC system and install a newer more efficient one.

A school board finds that one school is using surprisingly high amounts of water. What is one possible course of action to help with the water problem?
A. Limit the student’s bathroom use and allow a specific number of trips to the bathroom a day.
B. Stop cleaning the hall ways as often to cut back on water used to clean the floors.
C. Remove water fountains from the hall ways; students can bring water bottles.
D. Add a system that takes rain water and uses it for flushing toilets instead of using city water.

D. Add a system that takes rain water and uses it for flushing toilets instead of using city water.

Essay Question[edit]

Click to reveal a sample response.

High performance schools decrease the cost of maintenance and reduce the environmental impact of building a new facility. Based on the information in this article, do you think it should be required for states to start mandating the production of high performance schools?

State governments should pass legislation to see that more high performance schools are being built. This would not only provide more funding for student programs, but it would allow teachers to be better paid and accommodated for. Natural resources would also be protected and a more conservative lifestyle for people would be provided.

Since there would be decreased operation cost of facilities, more money could be spent on funding educational programs for students. Rather than using the same text books year after year, it would be more feasible to replace old text books and provide the most up to date information for students. With more funds, newer and more advanced technology could be provided for teacher and student use as well.

Also, with more funds unused on operational cost, there might be room for teacher pay raises. Instead of teachers getting paid pennies on the dollar, they would be able to be better accommodated. If a pay raise is not feasible then there would be more money available for teacher benefits and bonus payments. If teachers continue to perform better then they would be eligible for a bonus or more benefits in their contract.

Since there are less resources being used to develop the school its self, the idea of preservation is implanted in people’s minds. Since there are less materials being used, and more recyclable materials being utilized, it would help preserve the environment and benefit more than just the students, but the whole community as well.