A Study of One Suburban High School's Transformation to Small Learning Communities



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It was once thought that large high schools could offer a range of benefits including student body diversity, more choices for elective courses, greater opportunities for gifted students, and increased competition in the sports arena. Over the last several decades, however, large high schools have been blamed for a host of problems that have kept students, parents, educators, researchers, and policymakers concerned not only for the plight of the public school system in particular, but for the very fabric of American society. This study contributes to the current body of knowledge regarding establishment of more personalized and caring learning environments by examining archived data from one suburban high school over the course of implementation of the small learning communities model. Commonly accepted indicators of successful schools such as student attendance, dropout, discipline, and academic achievement were analyzed to determine if there had been any significant differences in these areas. In addition, the data from this targeted high school were compared to the data from two high schools within the same district that have similar demographics, but were not involved in this reform effort. As a further component to this exploration, parents, students, and teachers were surveyed to determine their beliefs regarding the effectiveness of the model. Results indicate that students at the target school demonstrated improvement on all indicators except attendance, although students at the control schools demonstrated similar gains. Survey results indicated that parents, students, and teachers believe that there had been benefits to the transformation to small learning communities, however, results of this study indicated that this could not be a sole contributing factor impacting student performance at this time.



Small learning communities, Secondary education, High school reform