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Small is Good… Maybe

Following the recent announcement of a similar plan in Chicago, the administrators of the Los Angeles City Schools are also planning on breaking up their secondary schools into smaller "units" of 350 to 500 students each. Also as in Chicago, many of these new "learning communities" will have a specific focus or theme.

The creation of smaller middle and high schools, which is spreading beyond large school systems, is basically a good concept. However, it remains to be seen whether such a radical plan can save huge and largely failing school systems like those in LA and Chicago. There is much more that needs to be done beyond just changing the size of their secondary schools.

Both districts must also bring about fundamental changes in the administration of the new schools, classroom management, and especially in teaching and learning. The reforms will fail if all they do is create miniature versions of what they have now. Both are considering the concept of "theme" high schools but I’m not sure this is necessarily the best way to go. Very often this structure attempts to track students into specific career choices long before they’re ready to make a choice.

It will be interesting to watch these "small school" experiments as they unfold, although it will probably take years to see the total effect. There is one advantage of a high school with less than 500 students, however. They won’t be able to field much of a football team and that will remove a major distraction.

1 Comment

  1. Chris Lehmann

    You know… there are three things we need to do first if we want to see schools work:
    1) No classes over 25 in high school, no classes over 20 in middle and elementary.
    2) Small schools.
    3) Living wage for teachers.

    There are lots of other things we can do… but even small schools aren’t the answer if the classes still have 34 kids in them.

    And we need to understand that these things take time… small high schools are good, but if kids have had a terrible education in elementary and middle school, it’s only going to do so much.

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