Research confirms that school facilities impact student learning. As school districts nationwide are projected to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on K-12 construction in the next decade, leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to use the facilities planning process to leverage educational reform. If we are truly committed to success for all learners, we must incorporate well-designed facilities into our reform agenda.

Recognizing the success of grouping students in smaller numbers, districts around the country are endeavoring to create personalized learning environments within their systems. Philanthropic organizations have collectively pledged billions toward the development of schools focused on improved teaching and learning.

Nationwide STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) initiatives seek to prepare students for the changing needs of the 21st century American and global economy. Federal and state agencies, foundations, and districts have made STEM an urgent priority for facilities investment.

Whether building new small schools, developing STEM programs, or enacting other educational reform, planners can create the conditions for improved academic achievement by designing schools more agile and responsive to meeting student needs. The building is not the change, but the building can support and even encourage the change when coupled with a program that supports the attributes of high achievement schools.