Education Update: 2/4/2015

Hudtloff School Middle School Washington State Integrus Architecture

Education Update is a weekly blog post highlighting recent developments in the world of education. The linked articles and summaries are not endorsements, rather frame points of view to begin conversations about the state of education, trends, and how we as designers can play an active role in shaping schools.

Helping the Poor in Education: The Power of a Simple Nudge

The socioeconomic achievement gap is massive. While middle and high-income students are increasingly likely to earn college degrees, only one in ten low-income students will earn a degree. The New York Times Upshot takes a look at simple and effective nudges to help students stay on track in college and engage parents at younger grades. These programs are not big, expensive education overhauls, in fact, most of these measures revolve around increased communication through text messaging.

This article raises the question as to what designers can do to help nudge students through architecture. Could it be providing small laundry facilities so students who don’t have clean clothes can wear a freshly washed outfit? Is it providing a study space for students who may not have access to internet at home? More than half of U.S. students now qualify for free and reduced lunches. Architects are in a position to ask the tough questions AND provide some of the answers.


Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Improving U.S. Educational Outcomes

The Washington Center for Equitable Growth—a center-left think tank focusing on inequality—has published a report outlining the long term economic impact of closing the achievement gap between low and middle-income students. The report outlines scenarios, all of which focus on the lower three quartiles of students from families with economic hardships. The scenarios incrementally increase Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores, and predict increases in gross domestic product and federal revenue from increased wages. With all economic forecasting models, these scenarios outline an idealized world looking at only a handful of variables. The bottom line here is there is massive economic potential in helping students from poor families, both at the individual and national levels.


Progressive Labels for Regressive Practices: How Key Terms in Education have been Co-opted.

A recent article from the Washington Post highlights education guru Alfie Kohn’s assessment of education reform through the lens of transitioning language. Many of the terms that are used today to describe learning models are twisted versions of their original selves. Mr. Kohn offers his insight into the potential of these ideas and how they have not lived up to their potential. The full text can be found here at

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