Small Learning Communities A PROVEN MODEL IN HIGH SCHOOL REDESIGN Sources of information U.S. Department of Education Education Northwest University of California at Berkeley Career Academy Support Network National Academy Foundation (NY) National Career Academy Coalition Southern Regional Education Board Center for Social Organization of Schools, JHU Characteristics of Small Learning Communities Student centered: a core group of teachers knows a small group of students well Success oriented: academic and other supports to meet the needs of the whole child Typically, teachers work in teams Curriculum is revised to show connections between content standards and student interests or goals Choice Elimination of tracking Possible variations One grade level (such as 9th grade Academy) Themes, possibly a career orientation Involves employers or higher education Possible cross-curricular or project-based learning format Rationales from research Reduce alienation by creating connections and community common in large schools Reduce boredom by creating relevance (interestdriven and authentic work) Connections with teachers and other students Connections between subjects and between school and “outside” world Who needs to “buy-in” Boards of Education, district superintendent and administrators High school administrators, teachers, and counselors Parents and students In a career academy, representatives of local employers and higher education Source: UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education “To-do” list Identifying teachers across two or three subjects who want to work as a team Developing a selection process for students Modifying the curriculum to allow cross-subject integration Adapting classroom space, acquiring needed equipment and materials In an academy, forming an advisory board with employer and higher education representatives, along with district and school staff members Source: UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education, USDOE Start up costs Any facility modifications and Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment (FFE) if needed Professional developed on working as a team, interdisciplinary teaching, project-based instruction, possibly on teaching in a block schedule Curriculum review, revision, modifications Potential obstacles: staff Administrators, counselors, and teachers have to adapt, often modifying long-established habits. Teacher turnover requires orienting new teachers and adjusting SLC teams. Typical contracts may limit flexibility of work day Potential obstacles: program Curriculum needs to be integrated, something with which most teachers have little training or experience. They rarely affect standardized test scores. They can improve motivation and the indicators that reflect it, such as attendance, retention, and grades, but there is little evidence they improve test scores. Potential obstacles: logistics Classroom locations often change to allow teams of teachers to be closer. Master scheduling is more difficult, as students need schedules that link their SLC classes and teachers need common planning time. Other issues “Outsiders” such as employers, higher education institutions, and parents are more involved, perhaps increasing “external” criticisms of high schools. They may inadvertently contribute to racial/ethnic, gender, or ability clustering. They need to be integrated with other school initiatives already underway. Possible partnership resources Advisory boards Mentorships Job shadowing and internships Calculating the “risk” Is the BOE/district willing to absorb associated costs of a program conversion? (curriculum, PD, facilities) Are staff willing to embrace a new school culture that has implications for relationships with students (mentoring, advisory), curriculum (connections with other content, student interests), possible scheduling differences (flexible or block schedules)? Can the school accept a new transparency working with community partners, perhaps a less top-down hierarchy in decision-making? Rewards If the answer is yes to all of the “risks”, SLC have great potential for transforming schools. Planning has to be transparent about the new “rules” and “paradigms”. Lots of resources already exist to inform planning and decision-making. This model is consistent with CAPSS Educational Transformation Project, CT Secondary School Reform Initiative, federal “signaling” in Race to the Top Legislation, ESEA/NCLB renewal.