3 Aspects of School that Seem Unrelated to Learning, but Have a Significant Impact on Student Success.

When parents think of thriving and successful schools they probably think of great instruction and teachers, and they should; great teachers and instruction are probably the most important factors in a child’s education, but there are other factors that determine a school’s ability to make a positive impact on their students. Below are a few factors not related to instruction or teacher performance that have a considerable impact on learning.

Class size

A now famous study conducted in the late 1980s found that reducing class size by 32 percent increased student achievement by an amount equivalent to about 3 additional months of schooling. With budgets being reduced and funding for programs being cut it is probably not realistic for any school to reduce class size by 32 percent; however, the learning gains made by students in this study are significant enough to make class size a reasonable factor in choosing a school.

Child Nutrition

The National Education Association (NEA) has a Facts About Nutrition page that breaks down the various issues surrounding child nutrition and performance. Some of the more salient points they posted are: (1) Hungry children have lower math scores and are more likely to repeat a grade, come to school late, or miss entirely; (2) academic achievement among students who eat school breakfast tend to rise, especially in math; (3) students who eat breakfast at school tend to have better attendance, exhibit less behavior and psychological problems.

Climate (Vision and Adaptability)

In any workplace, it is a given that happy employees are more productive. In education, there is a substantial body of research that supports the idea that teachers who work for a school that has a clearly defined goal/purpose, open lines of communication, utilize resources well, and empower teachers to make decision makers tend to have students that outperform the majority of schools. A 2009 study in the International Journal of Leadership in Education studied 29 Texas schools on 10 different aspects of school culture and found that the aspects that had the greatest impact on student achievement was the school’s ability to tolerate stress and maintain stability while being responsive to the demands of the external environment and the ability of persons, groups, or organizations to have clarity, acceptance, and support of goals and objectives.

We hope this list helps you choose the right educational setting for your student. Obviously, a school that has great teachers, strong instruction, small class sizes, a nutrition program, and a positive work climate (especially in the area of vision/mission and adaptability) would be one worth looking into.

Amy Fredrickson