The American Federation of Teachers published a new study, Building Minds, Building Buildings: Turning Crumbling Schools into Environments for Learning. The AFT researchers claim that, “The research is unequivocal: Poor building conditions are a serious threat to the health and academic performance of students.” As I have pointed out elsewhere, their claim is hyperbole based on an imagined consensus.

The AFT report cites few studies (so much for “unequivocal”), but it does mention Glen Earthman’s report, “School Facility Conditions and Student Academic Achievement,” published by UCLA?s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access. Earthman’s report suffers from a major methodological flaw, namely it uses school age as a proxy for problems with thermal and acoustic quality. Dr. Earthman fails to produce any research (correlating age with structural defects) that justifies such a move.

Intuitively, I cannot dismiss the idea that temperature and noise are related to student performance in some small way, but the research has yet to convince me that my hunch is correct. Surely, I do not agree with the AFT that the federal government should increase its involvement in funding and regulating school facilities.