Report: Study Warns That Bricks May Hinder Learning

Learning, PreK-12

“We want to harness all the benefits of bricks to really propel student learning … but at the same time we find the lack of really good information about results and accountability really troubling,” said Dr. W.V. Lernen, a co-author of the report and the director of the Center for Study of The Apocryphal Cannon.

About one third of all students in brick and mortar schools leave unprepared for college and work. Dr. Lernen finds that disturbing.  “It’s hard to imagine that sitting in brick classrooms for 180 days works well for students, but that appears to be the primary approach,” said Dr. Lernen.

Enrollment in U.S. schools using bricks remains steady at more than 50 million students. However, the research on how successful those schools are is mixed, with the majority of research finding higher dropout rates and lower test scores for full-time students than their counterparts in schools where students spend at least a portion of the day online.

The study also looked at the confusing way that brick schools are funded. “The absence of accounting for the true cost of bricks leads to a lack of accountability for many brick and mortar schools,” said the report.

In addition, keeping track of how many students are in brick schools, and where the funding for those students is going, is difficult to determine. Dr. Lernen suggests that this inability to track students is why we still don’t know who graduated from brick schools two years ago.

Overall, the report offered three recommendations for educators when using bricks. Those leaders should demand more information about brick learning before doing more of it. Secondly, brick schools should put systems in place to closely and frequently monitor student progress. And lastly, educators should demand better research and information about how much money it takes to provide a brick education, how brick schools are funded, and where that money is going.

“What we’re trying to do as a center is to send out a note of caution because bricks appears to have disastrous effects on education in most locations,” said Dr. Lernen.

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I just couldn’t help myself.  EdWeeks’ Katie Ash wrote a thoughtful piece about a disingenuous ‘let’s keep the money’ report from the school board association. Seriously, if results weren’t so disastrously bad for low income and minority kids we could keep doing the same stuff and try to make it a little better, but we’re way beyond that point. The only way to dramatically boost achievement for the least well served students in America is to increase access to options and leverage talent with technology. The shift is on…

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is founder and CEO of Getting Smart. He is also a partner in Learn Capital and a director of iNACOL, Digital Learning Institute, Imagination Foundation, Charter Board Partners, Strive for College, and Bloomboard.

5 Comments

Eric /

My kids used on line learning as an addition to regular schools.

In Florida we use concrete blocks. So Florida doesn’t have a brick problem.

Maybe schools could use wood instead of bricks…

Florida does have another problem though because 83 percent failed the new and improved FCAT (florida comprehensive assessment test) this year while last year 80 percent passed it.

So the same educators have brilliantly decided to lower the passing grades.

A better idea would be to get rid of the Dept of Education. We got to the moon without the Dept of Ed. Now with the Dept of Ed we can’t get to the moon and, according to high tech companies, have to import educated aliens from countries where they do not have our D of Ed.

Tom Vander Ark /

As states implement real college ready standards, we’ll see proficiency levels drop in many states.

Grant Llichtman /

Clearly these studies leave out the critical contributions of mortar, grout, and rebar. If those elements are taken into account one might expect a substantial improvement in overall student results. Never discount the role of mortar in sticking stuff together.

Thanks for this post; it really cracked me up!

Sarah Cargill /

Haha, I agree! Great suggestion!

Tom Vander Ark /

Thanks Grant.
A system that is serving less than 1/3 of the students well should be open to alternatives. States should take the same steps to boost quality from brick schools and virtual schools–rigorous authorization, diligent review, and closure/non-renewal of non performers.