SMALL LEARNING COMMUNITIES Alicia K. Scelso Widener University – ED 845
INTRODUCTION • A Nation At Risk – 1983 • “We report to the American people that while we can take justifiable pride in what our schools and colleges have historically accomplished and contributed to the United States and the well-being of its people, the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.” • Upon completion of high school student should be prepared to “secure gainful employment, and to manage their own lives, thereby serving not only their own interests but also the progress of society itself”.
INTRODUCTION • Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind • Purpose of the reforms is to foster an educational environment in which all students are held to a high level of proficiency. • Reform Strategies • Small Learning Communities (SLC) • Redesign of large comprehensive high schools into smaller more privatized units of study
INTRODUCTION • Large comprehensive high schools • US Department of Education (1990s) • Schools with 1,000 or more students experience 825% more violent crime, 270% more vandalism, and 1,000% more weapons incidents, compared with those with fewer than 300 students (Sammon, 2008). • As a nation we now only graduate 50% of African Americans, 5% of American Indians, 53% Latino and Hispanic students, 75% of white students, and 77% of Asian students (Sammon, 2008).
INTRODUCTION • Prepare students for all postsecondary outcomes • SLC has help foster productive learning both by removing developmentally hazardous conditions that may be present in the school context and by providing the opportunities-to-learn, opportunities to teach, and learning supports that enable a school to become positive, developmentally enhancing context. (Felner et al, 2007)
HISTORY • School-to-Work Act (1994) • Raised academic standards to provide all children with the opportunity to succeed in both the workplace and postsecondary educational opportunities (Sammon, 2008). • Increase young people’s awareness of what they should know and be able to do in preparation for their future (Sammon, 2008). • Also develop a community of support (Sammon, 2008). • Perkins Act (2006) • Strengthen the connection between secondary and postsecondary education (Sammon, 2008). • Include academic and career and technical content in courses that could lead to credentials, certificate, Associate’s Degree or a Bachelor’s Degree (Sammon, 2008). • Goal = high wage, high skilled, high demand careers (Sammon, 2008)
HISTORY/TYPES OF SLC’S • 1960’s • Campus Model • Houses • School-within-schools • 1970’s • Magnet Programs • Career Academies • Minischools • 1980’s/1990’s • Charters • Today • Small Learning Communities (Oxley, 2005)
TYPES OF SMALL LEARNING COMMUNITIES • The federal government identifies four main structures and six principal strategies of a SLC. • Structure • Academy • House Plan • School-within-a-school • Magnet Program • Strategies • Academic teaming • Adult advocate systems • Teacher advisory systems • Alternating scheduling • Freshman transition activities • Multiyear groups (Lee & Friedrich, 2007)
CHARACTERISTICS • Debra Heath • Defines 5 components that are crucial to the success of a small learning community. • Student and teacher teams • Teacher collaboration and integrated curricula • Separate space • Distinctive thematic or curricular focus • Autonomy and flexibility • Small school • 400-500 students • 120 per team • Minimum of 4 teachers
RESEARCH • Dr. Sharif Shakrani (2008) • Students who stand to benefit the most from small school environments are those in need, namely low-income students in low-achieving high schools in large urban areas, where graduation rates and low attendance are major problems. • New York University’s Institute for Education and Social Policy (2007) • Provide a positive social as well as academic environment • More effective interaction between students, teachers, and administrative staff • Leads to higher attendance and graduation rates
RESEARCH • Debra Heath (2005) • Albuquerque Public Schools (2005) • Achieved notable improvements in school climate, student attitudes, and academic persistence • SLC students feel more visible, more safe, and more supported. • SLC students experience higher academic expectations, feel more engaged in their schoolwork, and better understand connections between school and careers. • SLC students are more likely to attend classes, earn enough credits to pass to the next grade level and stay in school.
RESEARCH • Jane L. David (2008) • Researchers Lee and Smith in 1997 cautioned that schools can be too small which can limit curricular options for students. • Rumberger and Palardy (2005) found that achievement gains were slightly higher in large schools. However, those school had higher dropout and transfer rates.
RESEARCH • Jane L. David (2008) • ASCD (2008) • Gates Foundation • 50 schools including both new schools and redesigned schools • More positive climates in the new smaller schools • More personalized relationships for students • Collegiality among teachers
RESEARCH • Jane L. David (2008) • Study Team • New high schools have more rigorous curriculum in English but not in mathematics • Successful small learning communities rarely result from breaking up large schools. • Dr. Shakrani (2008) • Very little research to show students in newly converted urban small high schools outperform their peers in larger, traditional schools.
RESEARCH • Jane L. David (continued) • ASCD (2008) • Chicago High School Reform Initiative (2001) • Conversion of five large high schools into small autonomous schools • More personal and supportive climate • No evidence to support changes in instruction or in student achievement test scores. • Reduction in dropout rates • Conclusion: Although such reforms may improve school climate, the change in climate is not reflected in achievement gains.
RESEARCH • Jonathan A. Supovitz and Jolley Bruce Christman (1990s) • Conducted a study between two urban school districts • Purpose was to determine if there was an increase in student achievement • Both schools reported a positive educational environment • No evidence to suggest that there were any academic improvements • Suggest long-term data analysis and professional development to sustain learning communities
CONCLUSION • High school students must be fully prepared for all post-secondary outcomes and a productive life after graduation. • High quality education • Curriculum is both rigorous and relevant • Increase students’ academic success while closing the achievement gap by utilizing smaller more privatized units of study.
CONCLUSION • While there is a saturation of information regarding the definition and implementation of small learning communities, there is a lack of longitudinal studies to prove their effectiveness on academics. • However, no current studies suggest that implementing the initiative has any adverse affects on the educational system. • One can hypothesize then that an increase in student attendance and an overall positive educational environment will yield academic success. • Data analysis and professional development
CLOSING REMARKS • Alan Richard • The United States could recoup nearly $200 billion a year in economic losses and secure its place as the world’s future economic and educational leader by raising the quality of schooling, investing more money and other resources in education, and lowering dropout rates (Sammon, 2008).
REFERENCES • A Nation At Risk (1983). Retrieved December 2, 2009, from http://www.ed.gov/pubs/NatAtRisk/risk.html. • David, J. (2008). Small Learning Communities. Educational Leadership, 65(8). Retrieved December 2, 2009, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/may08/vol65/num08/Small_Learning_Communities. • Felner, R., Seitsinger, A., Brand S., Burns, A., Bolton, N. (2007). Creating Small Learning Communities: Lessons from the Project on High-Performing Learning Communities About “What Works” in Creating Productive, Developmentally Enhancing, Learning Contexts. Educational Psychologist, 42(4), 209-221. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ80900). Retrieved November 8, 2009, from ERIC database. • Health, D. (2005). Small Learning Communities 2000-2003. Online Submission. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED492541). Retrieved November 8, 2009, from ERIC database. • Hyslop, A. (2009). A Closer Look at Programs of Study. Techniques: Connecting Education to Careers, 84(3), 40-41. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ836345). Retrieved November 8, 2009, from ERIC database. • Lee, M. & Friedrich, T. (2007). The ‘smaller’ the school, the better? The Small Learning Communities (SLC) program in US high schools. Improving Schools, 10(3), 261-282.Retrieved December 1, 2009, from http://imp.sagepub.com. • Oxley, D. (2005) Small Learning Communities: Extending and Improving Practice. Personalized Learning. Retrieved November 8, 2009, from www.eric.ed.gov. • Quint, J. (2008). Lessons from Leading Models. Educational Leadership, 65(8), 64-68. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. EJ796367). Retrieved November 8, 2009, from Eric database.
REFERENCES • Sammon, G. (2008). Creating and Sustaining Small Learning Communities: Strategies and Tools for Transforming High Schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. • Shakrani, S. (2008). A Big Idea: Smaller High Schools. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED502129). Retrieved November 8, 2009, from ERIC database. • Small Learning Communities. (2009). Retrieved on September 22, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_Learning_Community. • Smith, T. (2008). Striking the Balance: Career Academies Combine Academic Rigor and Workplace Relevance. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED502597). Retrieved November 8, 2009, from ERIC database. • Supovitz, J. & Christman, A. (2005). Small Learning Communities that Actually Learn: Lessons for School Leaders. Phi Delta Kappa,n 86(9), 649. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No.EJ712928). Retrieved November 8, 2009, from ERIC database.